Ideally, childhood is a time of security – a period in which you safely explore the world around you. That stability is incredibly important for confidence, self-esteem, and good mental health later in life. Unfortunately, the reality may be far different. If you have experienced childhood trauma, you may be wondering whether this is to blame for your current issues. Today, we’ll explore the key symptoms of unresolved trauma in youth and early adolescence.
Examples of Childhood Trauma
Many different experiences can negatively impact one’s mental health early in life. When people hear the phrase “childhood trauma,” their minds may immediately jump to physical or sexual abuse. However, there are other events that traumatize young people.
Commonly cited traumatic events include:
- Being the victim of bullying
- Living through a natural disaster
- Seeing a parent or guardian be abused
- Losing a loved one
- Severe injury or illness requiring hospitalization
- Living in extreme poverty
- Witnessing crime, injury, or death
Even adults struggle to process troubling life events like those described above. Imagine how difficult it would be for a child who lacks the perspective required to work through trauma. It is no surprise that these adverse childhood experiences – ACEs – serve as risk factors for future mental illness and substance misuse.
Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults
Trauma isn’t one size fits all; everyone will experience it differently, and its symptoms will vary from person to person. While there is no fixed list of diagnostic symptoms for childhood trauma, there are a few common emotional, behavioral, and physical indicators that may be observed in trauma victims. Here are a few of the most noticeable.
- Hypervigilance (exaggerated startle response)
- Tension, shakiness, and muscle aches
- Nightmares and sleep problems
- Flashbacks to the event(s)
- Somatic issues (unexplained stomachaches, headaches)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Panic attacks
- Low self-esteem
- Aggression or anger
- Compulsive behaviors
- Impulsive or self-destructive choices
- Isolating from others
- Disordered eating
- Preoccupation with death or safety
- Difficulty trusting others
- Substance abuse
How Childhood Trauma Impacts Adulthood
The primary response to childhood trauma is the formation of protective coping mechanisms. This helps the child – then adult – to function on a daily basis. Victims of abuse, for example, frequently seem to be walking on eggshells. They do their best to stay out of the way, predict the actions of others, withhold their emotions, and brace themselves for others to cause them harm.
Others may begin to lash out themselves, acting out in adolescence, young adulthood, and beyond. Impulsive behavior is a hallmark of childhood trauma victims. These individuals may attempt to cope through the escapism or adrenaline rushes provided by substance use. Regrettably, this coping mechanism creates more problems of its own.
Regardless of how people cope with their childhood trauma, there are a few common factors that are commonly experienced. These include difficulty confiding in others, relationship problems, trouble at work, attachment issues, learning problems, obsessive worry, people-pleasing, and low self-esteem.
Helpful Techniques for Emotional Stability
Seeking professional treatment is the most reliable way to address childhood trauma once and for all. By consulting with a professional, individuals are able to heal through different therapeutic techniques. Clinicians may provide you with a host of at-home methods that are perfect for managing anxiety, depression, and the residual symptoms of trauma in your youth. These include:
- Breathing exercises
- Grounding techniques
- Building trigger awareness
- Understanding your emotions
- Distracting yourself from distressing stimuli
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation
- Establishing a healthy sleep cycle
- Learning to relax when stressed
In addition, there are proven therapeutic modalities tailored to the treatment of PTSD, childhood trauma, and C-PTSD. At Lakeside-Milam, we provide accredited psychotherapy for those who are struggling. Popular approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), rational behavior therapy (RBT), and motivational interviewing (MI). Our clinicians match patients with the treatment method which will be most effective for their needs and situations.
For more information about trauma-informed care, please contact the Lakeside-Milam admissions office. Our mental health treatment services are available in multiple locations throughout Washington State.