Effects of Complex Trauma in Childhood

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Trauma is a broad term that is used to describe abuse or neglect that can be physical, emotional, or mental. It results in deep psychological damage that can have permanent implications on the child’s life. Traumatic situations are those in which the child experiences intense negative emotions because of actual or perceived threats to their safety. These negative emotions are so powerful that they become psychologically damaging.

Trauma can be caused intentionally or unintentionally as well. Incidents such as sexual abuse or physical assaults are intentionally done but verbal abuse or neglect becomes indirect causative factors. Both types have grave impacts on the impressionable minds of children. The sense of strength or resilience are yet to be developed in children, so they become decapacitated when such circumstances occur.

Parents, teachers and other caregivers must be aware of the signs of trauma in children. Only when these signs are identified they can be treated. A child who has experienced trauma may not come forward to express what he/she is going through. It is the responsibility of the adults to take quick action in such circumstances.

Some identifiable effects of trauma, in children, are –

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is a psychological disorder that is triggered by traumatic events. It is characterized by intense anxiety coupled with symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, depressed states among others. A child who has faced trauma may experience these symptoms. It takes a significant amount of time for these symptoms to subdue. Extensive clinical intervention is required to help the child in overcoming it.
  • The inability of trust – A child who has witnessed trauma may find it very difficult to trust anyone with themselves again. Trauma might even be caused by family members in many cases. Lots of emotional support must be given to the child, and ample of patience is required to let the child know that the trauma is over. Developing a sense of security again becomes an important consideration.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation – The child might lose interest in peer interaction. They might start preferring to stay alone over any company. This is a clear indication of something being wrong. If this happens parents must try to understand why this is happening, immediately.
  • Sudden changes in personality – The child may act very differently than their usual selves. For example, a usually interactive and cheery child may become dull and silent or a courteous child may become irritable. Any sudden changes must be observed and investigated.
  • Anxiety – Symptoms of anxiety often manifest in children after they undergo trauma, these symptoms include increased heartbeat, sweating, panicking, and general restlessness. It is very important for parents to communicate and ask the child about what is bothering them.
  • Depression – Childhood depression is very common in trauma survivors, it is manifested with low mood and a lack of energy. Depression is also accompanied by a change in sleep patterns and a change in appetite. The child might not eat enough or end up eating too much which influences the weight of the child. One of the biggest indicators of depression is a sudden increase or decrease of weight if a child shows these symptoms immediate actions must be taken to help the child.
  • Decline in academic performance – A child might lose their ability to concentrate and focus on academics. They might tend to “be too much in their heads” or “get lost in thoughts” during classes. They might lose their zeal to study or even do their homework. This impacts their academic performance as well. This is one of the more subtle indicators of something being wrong with the child.
  • Acting out – A child who has dealt with trauma may start acting out or demanding attention in ways that are not socially acceptable. Actions such as getting angry easily breaking objects intentionally are to be noted. In some cases, parents seek treatment for the hyperactive child and on therapeutic intervention, it is found that the child has been a victim of some form of abuse.
  • Developing a tendency to harm others – Children who have undergone trauma may become aggressive unintentionally, this happens because they don’t find any other ways of preserving their safety.
  • Lack of interest in play – The child may develop a tendency to prefer solitude overplay. They may not even interact with their playmates who used to be very dear to them. This is a big indicator of something being wrong.
  • Fear of new experiences
  • A generalized moodiness

The issues of childhood trauma must not be overlooked, it may end up impacting the entire lifetime of the child. If such things come up, they should be dealt with in a very sensitive and careful manner. Children communicate in very subtle ways so keen observation is required and if it gets challenging to help the child,  It is always suggested to consult a child behavior specialist to ensure that the covert symptoms can be managed before they get exaggerated in the child. A specialist will also ensure that the child learns effective coping mechanisms to manage their emotional experiences.

Author Bio:

Sawoni Chowdhury is an aficionado of writing. She is an expert writer and blogger and shares her views and opinions on a range of topics such as Technology, Business, Digital Marketing and lot more. She works with Mom’s Belief, which is one of the best autism school in Delhi.


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