Childhood Trauma And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Childhood trauma occurs when a child experiences a scary, violent, or life-threatening event in childhood (0-16 years of age). It has the potential to overwhelm a child affect them for life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Childhood Trauma” is termed as “The experience of an event in childhood which is emotionally painful or stressful, often resulting in long-lasting mental and physical effects.”
What Constitutes Childhood Trauma?
Children can experience traumatic events due to physical abuse or sexual abuse, negligence from parents, abuse or violence by another child. While Adults/Parents always work hard for their child’s safety, dangerous situations can still arise. Some examples are: a natural disaster, accidents, community violence or the unexpected death of a loved one. These childhood traumatic events can harm a child’s mental state, with the after effects often lasting for a very long time.
Poor coping mechanisms to these traumatic events affect the daily functioning of the child which includes the child’s mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual health & related activities.
Research on Adverse Childhood Experiences(ACE’s)
Adverse Childhood Experiences is ongoing research which started in 1995 with more than 17000 children. The study aims to explore how childhood traumatic experiences affect long-term health and their social consequences.
Results of the study show that nearly 65% of children experience at least 1 ACE and 40% experience two or more ACEs during their childhood. Also, the higher the number of ACEs that the child experiences, the higher the risk of developing physical and mental health problems throughout their life.
This study was mainly based on the following ten adverse childhood experiences:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical neglect & Emotional neglect
- Mother treating violently
- Household substance abuse
- Mentally ill household members
- Parental separation or divorce
- Imprisoned household member
When Does It Lead To Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Many children are exposed to a traumatic event at some point in their life. Following the event, some experience distress, while others return to a healthy state, in a relatively short period.
Around 3% to 15% of girls and 1% to 6% of boys develop PTSD after a traumatic event. Children suffering from PTSD often think of the trauma and relive it in their mind. They begin to avoid things that remind them of the event. Some children also believe that they might have missed the warning signs of the traumatic event happening to them and feel guilty about it. To prevent it from happening in the future, they become hyper-vigilant and overcautious, often looking out for these warning signs.
Some of the problems that Children with PTSD suffer from are:
- Anxiety & depression
- Anger & aggression
- Self-harming behaviour
- Feeling of isolation
- Poor self-confidence
- Difficulty trusting others
Even in some children who don’t develop a full-fledged PTSD, there might be emotional and behavioural issues after a traumatic experience. Some of the behavioural changes to watch out for are:
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor appetite
- Anger management issues
- Thinking about death and feeling unsafe
- Lack of concentration
- Refusal to go to School
- Severe headaches and stomachaches
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feeling sad
- Development of new fears
How Does It Affect Your Child’s Long-Term Health
Traumatic events can lead to developmental problems of the brain in children and that can result in lifelong consequences. Childhood trauma may increase the risk of developing the following problems:
- Severe depression
- Coronary heart disease
Some studies show that young children who experienced traumatic events such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental domestic violence are more prone to attempt suicides.
Support from family is the key to reduce the impact of trauma on a child. If your child has been exposed to any traumatic incidents and if you notice any behaviour or mood changes in them, talk to a paediatrician immediately. A paediatrician evaluates your child’s health and can suggest appropriate mental health treatment, if necessary.
About Premier Hospital:
Since the inception of Premier Hospital in 1991 till today, we have grown to unprecedented levels, due to our excellence in medical sciences and healthcare. Premier Hospital is the creation of Dr Mahesh Marda and when it was first established, was only a small, 30-bed hospital facility. Back then, we provided only secondary care to patients, but that certainly has changed in the present landscape.
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