A person’s upbringing can impact the rest of their entire life. For example, learned behaviors and traumatic events determine how one’s future may unfold. This can alter behaviors, moods, and mental health. Early life changes can affect a child’s ability to function or interact with others on a day-to-day basis. Just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day, proper care is critical in early childhood. Taking time to understand childhood trauma can help families understand the effects making it easier to focus on their mental health. Moving forward in recovery with a team of professionals can significantly improve one’s quality of life.
Comprehending Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma can be dangerous, violent, or scary events that can happen to a child early on. Certain traumatic events may affect a child from birth until the ages of 16-18. These life events may even be threatening to one’s mental or physical well-being. The same goes for a child or young adolescent who witnesses certain behaviors that affect other children or adults. A child may see or listen to others being physically or emotionally abused. This can also be referred to as childhood trauma.
A potential traumatic event aside from abuse or neglect may include witnessing or experiencing:
- Community violence
- Domestic violence
- National disasters
- Violent or traumatic loss of a loved one
- Refugee or war
- Family-related military stressors
- Physical or sexual assault
- Commercial sexual exploitation
- Serious accidents
- Childhood maltreatment
- Life-threatening illnesses
Childhood Trauma Statistics
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately one in seven children has been exposed to child abuse or neglect. In 2019, it was estimated that 1,840 children passed away from neglect or abuse in the U.S. Based on recent research, studies have found that thousands of young children who were mistreated are cared for in emergency settings due to physical abuse and or assault.
Childhood trauma not only affects individuals and families but also burdens communities and healthcare facilities. Healthcare costs increase, and listening to children express their feelings and traumatic experiences can be very emotionally weighing on healthcare workers.
Mental Effects of Childhood Trauma
Conforming to the aforementioned SAMHSA study, children may present alarming symptoms that may help caregivers or professionals recognize there are environmental factors that play a role in their behaviors. Childhood trauma may overwhelm the child to the point where it may hinder their ability to cope with what they have experienced. It may be harder for a child to cope with these events, whereas an adult may recognize or manage their symptoms easier due to previous experience.
Children also respond differently to a single event or series of traumatic events. Signs of trauma children may include:
- Frequently screaming or crying
- Attachment issues
- Eating poorly
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Sexual behaviors
Benefits of Trauma-Focused Therapy
Seeking professional care can bring many benefits to one who is or has been exposed to childhood trauma. As stated previously, it may be difficult for a child to recognize the signs and symptoms. Working with a mental health professional can significantly improve one’s ability to function. Intense psychotherapy or trauma-focused therapy can provide great benefits to one who is having difficulty managing the effects of early-onset trauma.
As stated in the journal Psychiatric Services, trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a service that combines both the parent and child’s treatment. This therapy approach uses CBT principles and exposure strategies to prevent further abuse and neglect. TF-CBT also works to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), behavioral issues, and symptoms of depression developed due to trauma in one’s upbringing.
Providers may teach new skills to cope with the effects of childhood trauma. These skills may include relaxation techniques, cognitive coping skills, and affective modulation strategies. Exposure principles and restructuring skills work to overcome traumatic experiences. Gradual exposure works overtime to reduce emotional distress that may be associated with PTSD. TF-CBT works to help one identify their thoughts associated with traumatic events and learn to better adapt by understanding the behaviors and reactions caused by them to learn better ways to cope and move forward.
Moving Forward in Recovery
It is important to stay dedicated to professional treatment. Staying in contact with mental health providers and communicating thoughts, feelings, and concerns may benefit the individual or caregiver’s treatment plan. Following self-help strategies outside of professional treatment may significantly improve one’s ability to overcome the effects of childhood trauma to stay mentally well.
Practicing self-care techniques in addition to intensive psychotherapy can increase positive results. Journaling the progress and newly learned skills can also help the individual stay on top of treatment. For example, Avalon Malibu offers many services to support those who have had a difficult upbringing.
Experiencing or witnessing childhood trauma can impact the rest of an individual’s entire life. Traumatic events may even be life-threatening. Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, customized, licensed mental health treatment and addiction rehab center that is unique to Southern California. Many of the clients we treat here at Avalon Malibu have had little success elsewhere but come to us as the start of their first steps into effective, lasting freedom. Therapy is required to confront feelings to get over the pain and feel safe and well again. If you or a loved one have been exposed to childhood trauma, our mental health team here at Avalon Malibu can help. Call (844) 857-5992 to learn more and get started.