Childhood Trauma Defined, Symptoms, Causes, Childhood Trauma Treatment
What is Childhood Trauma?
Childhood trauma is often described as serious adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Children may go through a range of experiences that classify as psychological trauma, these might include neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse, physical abuse, witnessing the abuse of a sibling or parent, or having a mentally ill parent. These events have profound psychological, physiological, and sociological impacts and can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being such as unsocial behaviors, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sleep disturbances.
Top 10 Signs and Symptoms
Nightmares and flashbacks can cause disturbing trauma imagery and trigger our body sensations. This can become a brutal circle in which the body and mind play off each other causing a negative synergy in which the disturbing imagery triggers disturbing body sensations and vice versa, putting trauma survivors into a black hole where they can have trouble finding their way out of.
The following signs may be ways that the emotional impact of childhood trauma can present.  These symptoms may occur or worsen during stressful times.
- Strong reactions: Strong reactions can often catch you off guard. You might feel unsafe around a person you just met because the person reminds you of someone involved in your childhood trauma.
- Anxiety: Childhood trauma increases the risk of anxiety. Anxiety triggers a reaction where adrenaline courses through the body, telling it to fight or leave a situation. Your heart rate increases, and you may feel sick to your stomach.
- Childish reactions: Childish reactions may look like a tantrum. You speak in a childlike voice, show stubbornness, and have outbursts that are difficult for you to control.
- Inability to cope with change: Stress is normal when you are pushed out of your comfort zone. It becomes concerning when change triggers persistent extreme emotions that interfere with daily life or relationships.
- Intense mood swings: Trauma survivors might either feel numb or have overwhelming emotions. Some find it difficult to identify why they feel irritable, stressed, or angered.
- Certain places make you uncomfortable: Certain smells, noises, environments, sights, or other sensations may cause discomfort. For example, if an ACE occurred in an elevator, other similar small spaces may cause anxiety or panic.
- Low self-esteem: Low self-esteem can be hard to identify but becomes apparent through fears of being judged, people-pleasing, not setting boundaries, or lack of self-worth. Frustration, social anxiety, and distrust can also occur with low self-esteem.
- Chronic pain or illnesses: Some studies show that people with early childhood trauma may be susceptible to developing chronic pain or illnesses later in life.
- Abandonment issues: In many cases, the very people who should be caring for a child hurt them. This can lead to an alteration in the development of trust that leads to an intense fear of abandonment.
- Substance Abuse: More often than not, people with mental health disorders either seek clinical medication or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. People that acquire prescriptions for their condition are less likely to develop abuse disorders, but conversely, often the medications that they get access to have high abuse potential, creating great risk.
Abandonment issues may result in the following behaviors that may affect the quality of your relationships:
- Quickly getting attached
- Lack of commitment or trying not to get attached
- Staying in unhealthy relationships
- Feeling insecure
- Intense suspicion or jealousy
- Separation anxiety
- Hypersensitive to criticism
How Childhood Trauma Affects Adults
1. The False Self
As children, we want our parents to love us and take care of us. When our parents don’t do this, we try to become the kind of child we think they’ll love. Burying feelings that might get in the way of us getting our needs met, we create a false self—the person we present to the world. 
When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we’ll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted.
The best way to uncover the authentic you underneath the false self is by talking to a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma and can help you reconnect with your feelings and express your emotions in a way that makes you feel both safe and whole.
2. Victimhood Thinking
What we think and believe about ourselves drives our self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves can empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel like we have no control over our lives—like victims. We may have been victimized as children, but we don’t have to remain victims as adults.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as victims, we can think of ourselves as survivors. The next time you feel trapped and choice-less, remind yourself that you’re more capable and in control than you think.
When children grow up in households where there are only unhealthy expressions of anger, they grow up believing that anger is unacceptable. If you witnessed anger expressed violently, then as an adult you might think that anger is a violent emotion and therefore must be suppressed. Or, if you grew up in a family that suppressed anger and your parents taught you that anger is on a list of emotions you aren’t supposed to feel, you suppress it, even as an adult who could benefit from anger.
When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be.
Signs Of Trauma
People who have suffered from a traumatic experience or childhood trauma may display various psychological and behavioral symptoms. These individuals often become stuck in a loop of reliving the incident and are unable to heal.
Childhood trauma leads to physical symptoms like anxiety. Continuously experiencing flashbacks or having thoughts about the incident can make it difficult for the person to differentiate between an actual emergency and their remembrance of the event. While they may try to suppress their struggles, specific symptoms of childhood trauma are difficult to conceal.
Some Common Signs And Symptoms Of Trauma
- Mood swings or unpredictable emotions
- Erratic behavior
- Excessive or inappropriate emotional outbursts
- Lack of confidence or severe timidity
- Eating disorders
- Extreme changes in physical appearance (getting a lot of piercings, cutting off all your hair, dying your hair a different color)
- Relationship problems
- Problems relating to others
- Frequent flashbacks of the incident
- Nausea and vomiting
Three Main Types of Traumas
- Acute trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.
- Chronic trauma: This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.
- Complex trauma: This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.
As a matter of fact, childhood trauma can have long-term effects on a person’s well-being. If symptoms persist and do not decrease in severity, it can indicate that the trauma has developed into a mental health disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD develops when the symptoms of trauma persist or get worse in the weeks and months after the stressful event. This mental disorder is distressing and can interfere with your daily life and relationships. Moreover, PTSD symptoms may include severe anxiety, flashbacks, and persistent memories of the event.
The good news is that several treatments can help people with trauma to cope with their symptoms and improve their life. But, you will need to work with a trauma-informed or trauma-focused therapist to attain effective trauma treatment.
See below some of the effective approaches to trauma:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – It will help you change your thought patterns to influence your behaviors and emotions. In fact, it is known to be the most effective approach for PTSD.
- Medication – It can help you manage your symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. However, medication alone cannot cure trauma or PTSD. You should talk to a mental health professional about your medical options. Furthermore, it is especially important to seek help if the trauma symptoms interfere with daily functioning or relationships with others.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR: It is another common trauma therapy. EMDR aims to help people process and integrate traumatic memories. Several trials have demonstrated that EMDR is an effective treatment for PTSD.
Programs, services, and treatments vary. We Level Up mental health facilities do not provide EMDR therapy. Because patient stability should come prior to EMDR treatment. That’s why EMDR therapy to process trauma for patients actively drinking and abusing drugs should await their stability phase of treatment. EMDR phases 3 – 8 therapy is best enacted for patients that sense and undergo a safer, trusting relationship with their treatment team.
We Level Up rehab centers treat the entirety of behavioral health disorders including secondary corresponding illnesses to improve long-term recovery outcomes. Get a free substance abuse and or mental health assessment and find out what treatment options are most suitable for you. Call to learn more.
Where To Find Trauma Treatment
Most people will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Some may experience symptoms of shock and distress, and most will recover within a short period. Meanwhile, a minority will experience more long-term traumatic effects, such as the development of PTSD. That is when therapy and self-care can help those with persistent trauma symptoms. Certainly, that treatment can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 
We Level Up FL Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All working as a team providing different types of mental illness treatments and dual diagnosis, including childhood trauma treatment, for successful recovery.
Contact us today. There’s no obligation. Calls are 100% confidential.
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