Everyone experiences trauma of various degrees during their lifetime and how we cope with them can depend on the severity of the trauma and the support given thereafter. Childhood trauma is often misunderstood or overlooked in a belief that since the child is young, they will either not remember the trauma or not understand what has occurred and so be less affected by this. This can result in trauma related disorders that can affect them in a myriad of ways as they mature.
What Is the Cause of Trauma Related Disorders?
Some of the traumatic events experienced that may lead to trauma related disorders include:
- Being exposed to violence at home, school, or in the community
- Sexual exploitation or abuse
- Physical or psychological abuse
- Natural disasters
- War or refugee experiences
- Violent or sudden death of someone they are close to
- Stress related to concern over a parent
- Assault of a sexual or physical nature
- Coping with a life-threatening illness
- Serious accident
There may be other traumas that can result in a disorder, but these are the ones most commonly encountered.
Signs of Traumatic Stress
Some of the signs of traumatic stress include:
- Lack of appetite
- Separation anxiety
- Excessive crying or screaming
- Show signs of fear and anxiety
- May demonstrate shame or guilt
- Suffer from sleeping disorders or insomnia
- Have problems concentrating
Other signs in older children may manifest as substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, depression, feeling alone, and getting involved in risky behaviors.
What Is the Impact of Trauma Related Disorders on Children?
Childhood stress can actually be carried with the child for a lifetime, especially if they are not given treatment or taught coping mechanisms. Some of them may end up with learning issues, lower grades, being suspended or expelled for behavioral problems, suffer physical illness whether real or imagined, or require mental health treatment.
They may also become involved in illicit and illegal activities and suffer long-term health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. They may also develop disorders such and PTSD, OCD, general anxiety disorder, depression and other mental health concerns. Often the survival mechanisms in the brain become dominant and interfere with neurological development and reduce the capacity to learn and adapt.
What Are the Usual Effects of a Traumatic Event?
After a traumatic event, people may experience feelings of disassociation and numbness, disbelief, shock, fear, guilt, shame, helplessness, isolation, sadness, frustration, anger, elation, and other strong emotions. They may end up reliving the event in their heads over and over or through flashbacks and nightmares. There may be changes in how they relate to other people, some may become clingy while others isolate themselves from those close to them.
Physical and mental effects may include changes in appetite and weight, headaches, rapid heartbeat, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia and disturbed sleep, problems concentrating, sweating and shaking, risky behavior including substance abuse, inability to cope with daily life, extreme alertness, problems with school work, anger management, and withdrawal. These reactions may be temporary or may become long-term problems. It is when their reactions manifest for an extended amount of time that a trauma related disorder may be diagnosed, especially if the behavior interferes with usual functioning.
Children who have developed trauma related disorders may experience changes in hormone regulation and difficulty in responding appropriately to sensory and emotional stimuli. They may have problems with decision making and have memory and attention span problems. They may also experience problems comprehending social clues or behaving appropriately in social situations. They may also have problems articulating themselves and in understanding what others mean as opposed to only what they say. Special attention and care are required when dealing with children who have trauma related disorders to enable them to cope and thrive.
INcompassing Education offers on-site professional development for teachers, off-site PD via workshops and seminars, and online PD for global educators. Our webinar series, Depression and Anxiety Disorders and Supporting Students of Trauma aim to equip educators with knowledge and skills to better support students For any questions you may have, you can send us a message through our contact page.