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Identifying and Coping with PTSD from Childhood

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Leaving the past behind can be challenging for survivors of childhood trauma. People who experienced childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect are more likely to have mental health issues as adults. If you want to achieve better mental health, you need to understand the signs, symptoms, and risk factors that lead to PTSD from childhood trauma. Things that happened in the past can have long-lasting consequences. With awareness and treatment, you can heal and move forward with your life.

What is Childhood Trauma and PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing trauma. Trauma can be experiencing a death, near-death experience, or an extreme ongoing stressor. The trauma can happen to you, or you can witness it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. PTSD symptoms are so extreme that people can’t function in their daily lives.

You may have experienced sexual or physical abuse, emotional or verbal abuse, or neglect during childhood. All of these are traumatic experiences. Children who grow up without comfort, food, or a safe living environment also are experiencing trauma. Witnessing violent crimes or disasters such as floods, school shootings, car crashes, suicides, war, or fires, may also cause PTSD. Children can’t emotionally process the traumatic event. So, they may develop responses that continue into adulthood when the traumatic trigger is long gone.

How Common is PTSD in Childhood?

From 14% to 43% of children experience at least one traumatic event during childhood. Of those children, anywhere from 1% to 15% develop PTSD. When a child goes through multiple traumas, the risk of health, social, and emotional issues increases. Childhood trauma impacts people of all races, socioeconomic levels, and educational backgrounds. And it has long-lasting effects.

Risk Factors of PTSD from Childhood Trauma

While many people experience trauma when they are young, not everyone develops PTSD. Trauma or abuse that is repetitive and prolonged or involves harm or abandonment by caregivers increases the risk of PTSD. People who experience traumatic events during critical periods of brain development, such as early childhood or adolescence, are also more likely to have PTSD.

Adverse Childhood Experiences describe the types of traumatic happenings children may experience. The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely they are to develop a mental health disorder. But even one traumatic experience can result in PTSD or another mental health disorder.

Possible PTSD risk factors include:

  • Proximity to the traumatic event
  • Severity of trauma
  • Duration of traumatic experience
  • Repetition of trauma
  • Traumatic experience during developmental milestones
  • High ACEs score

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Signs of PTSD from Childhood Trauma

How do you know if you have PTSD from childhood trauma? Many signs suggest someone has PTSD. People who went through trauma or abuse as children can become emotionally numb and not even realize they have PTSD.

The symptoms of PTSD can be physical or psychological. Some people develop problematic coping strategies. 

People who have PTSD from childhood trauma may experience  any of the following:

  • Flashbacks, intrusive memories, or nightmares about childhood trauma
  • Tendency to avoid thoughts, memories, or triggers related to childhood trauma
  • Difficulty controlling emotions, irritability, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm
  • Trouble remembering things that happened during childhood
  • Physical problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, or fibromyalgia
  • Feelings of being threatened and high-stress responses
  • Sensations of disconnection from their thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity
  • Problems sustaining relationships or feeling close to people
  • Use of drugs, alcohol, sex, or any other excessive activity to cope with negative emotions

Treatment for PTSD from Childhood Trauma

Mental health professionals can identify and treat PTSD from childhood. There are various treatments for this type of PTSD.

Treatments for PTSD related to childhood trauma include:

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. EMDR involves recalling the traumatic event while making rhythmic eye movements to help the brain process the traumatic experiences. It reduces distressing symptoms associated with the traumatic event. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps patients become aware of harmful or inaccurate thinking. It changes the way people process and perceives traumatic events. Through structured sessions, people learn to respond to situations more positively.
  • Medication. Certain medications can improve chemical imbalances within the brain that contribute to PTSD symptoms.

ILC Can Help You Identify and Cope with PTSD from Childhood

The past can have long-lasting consequences. Childhood events and experiences can – and do – lead to serious mental health concerns in adulthood. PTSD is a normal reaction to a traumatic event, but you don’t have to suffer. If you think you may be experiencing PTSD from childhood trauma, now is the time to seek help. Integrative Life Center offers programs that can help you heal from childhood trauma. Leave the past behind you. Contact us today.

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