Trauma affects people of all ages, demographics, and lifestyle circumstances. Trauma can range in severity, but trauma, by definition, includes experiencing or witnessing any life-threatening event.
Some common traumas include:
- Physical assault or abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Natural disasters like earthquakes, wildfires, or hurricanes
- Severe neglect
- Medical diagnoses
- The death of a caretaker or close loved one
Single-event traumas refer to a specific event with a defined beginning, middle, and end. For instance, a severe car accident constitutes a single-event trauma. Complex trauma refers to compounded traumatic events, such as chronic childhood neglect or recurrent episodes of violence.
Although the child might not always be able to verbalize their feelings, trauma can affect children profoundly.
Well-known effects of trauma include:2
- Difficulties with attachment to caregivers and other attachment figures.
- Physical symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, nausea, muscle tension).
- Hypersensitivity to touch, sound, or certain sights.
- Apathy and detachment towards usual interests or relationships.
- Problems in school.
- Inability to remember the trauma or feeling like the memories are fuzzy and scattered.
- Sleep problems (night disturbances, flashbacks, nightmares, not wanting to sleep alone).
- Hypervigilance and increased anxiety in social settings.
- Dissociation symptoms (zoning or spacing out often).
- Regressing age-appropriate behavior.
- Excess self-blame and guilt.
- Depression symptoms.
- Substance use.
- Disordered eating.
- Desire to hurt oneself or others.
- Rapid and ongoing mood swings.
Some symptoms are apparent, whereas others are more covert and difficult to understand. For instance, older children may believe they must present as strong and unaffected to protect their families. As a result, they might appear seemingly unaffected by the trauma when they’re struggling immensely. Similarly, Very young children lack the specific language to describe symptoms or emotions.