Key Takeaways

  • Trauma is a broad term that describes disturbing events or experiences that can negatively impact a person’s functioning and quality of life. While some effects of trauma can fade over time, many people need professional help to manage their symptoms.
  • Everyone can experience trauma. However, we know that childhood trauma impacts brain development in specific ways. This can lead to mental, physical, and social challenges later in life.
  • Trauma-informed care often includes therapy, self-care, or medication. If you’re experiencing the effects of trauma, a therapist can help you find the right course of treatment for your needs.

Trauma is any disturbing experience that causes intense fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings. These feelings typically don’t subside on their own and can impact a person’s ability to function in daily life. For many people, childhood trauma impacts their ability to feel safe in the world. Later in life, it can lead to unwanted behaviors as they try to cope with intense fear and anxiety

Fortunately, we now know that both children and adults can heal from the effects of trauma. Through a combination of therapy, self-care, and (in some cases) medication, people can overcome the effects of childhood trauma and go on to live full, balanced lives.

Six ways to heal from childhood trauma

Trauma affects different people in different ways. Events that leave deep wounds in one person won’t necessarily cause the same reaction in others. But if you’re an adult who’s working through the effects of childhood trauma, know that healing is possible. Researchers have identified a few specific approaches that can help you navigate the symptoms of childhood trauma.

  1. Trauma-informed talk therapy: The most researched, evidence-based types of talk therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). 
  2. Coping strategies: Coping strategies can help you respond to challenging situations in more healthy ways. A therapist can help you uncover the coping strategies you already have and experiment with new ones. Practicing new ways of responding to stress can help you cope with unpleasant feelings and sensations related to trauma.
  3. Support groups: Sometimes, trauma can lead to feelings of isolation. But the truth is that it’s an incredibly common experience. Joining an online or in-person support group for trauma survivors can help you feel less alone.
  4. Mindfulness: Research shows that developing a mindfulness practice can help lessen the effects of trauma. You can start by simply beginning to notice your feelings without judgment and increasing your awareness in the present moment.
  5. Self-care: While not a replacement for professional help, self-care can help you keep your mind and body strong as you heal from the effects of trauma. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. Try to make time for yourself and do activities that make you feel balanced and grounded.
  6. Medication: Sometimes, professionals use medication to treat trauma-related mental health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Your provider can help you decide whether these options are right for you.

What is childhood trauma?

Childhood trauma happens when a young person experiences disturbing events that overwhelm their ability to cope. This can be an acute, one-time experience or an ongoing occurrence. Some of the most common forms of childhood trauma include:

  • Physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.)
  • War and/or being a refugee
  • Serious accidents like car crashes
  • Sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one
  • Violence (being assaulted, surviving a school shooting, etc.)
  • Witnessing domestic violence in the home
  • Sex trafficking
  • Military stressors like parental deployment 

This list is far from complete. But by familiarizing yourself with some of the most common sources of childhood trauma, you’ll be better prepared to help yourself or others cope. 

In some cases, trauma is visible. For example, when a child has a serious injury without a known cause, most caring adults will notice and follow up. But in other instances, the effects of trauma are less visible. This is especially true in cases of psychological or sexual abuse. While the signs of trauma can vary from one child to the next, there are some common signs to be aware of.

Signs of trauma in preschool children

  • Frequent nightmares
  • Intense separation anxiety 
  • Problems with appetite 
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent outbursts of screaming and crying

Signs of trauma in elementary school children

  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulties with focus and concentration
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Feelings of extreme fear or anxiety

Signs of trauma in middle and high school children

  • Early sexual activity
  • Harmful substance use
  • Disordered eating or eating disorders
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Depression or social isolation

What are the effects of childhood trauma in adulthood? 

If a child in your life is showing any of the trauma symptoms above, know that they can overcome their challenges with the right support. However, if left untreated, the effects of childhood trauma can continue into adulthood. Research shows that trauma can impact brain development and affect a person’s mental and physical well-being. Some of the ways that childhood trauma can show up in adulthood include:

  • Difficulty developing stable, healthy relationships
  • Extreme responses to everyday stressors
  • Increased risk for health concerns like heart disease or cancer
  • Hypersensitivity to sensory stimulation (like loud noises or bright lights)
  • Frequent aches and pains without a known cause
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Anxiety and hypervigilance
  • Emotional numbness
  • Depression
  • Dissociation 
  • Problems with anger management or self-regulation
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors 
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty with focus, concentration, and problem solving
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
  • Problems with unhealthy substance use
  • Shorter life expectancy

Find care with Rula

Childhood trauma can affect people from all walks of life. Left untreated, it can leave a lasting impact on your mental health and quality of life. But fortunately, with the right support, you can learn to manage your symptoms and live a more healthy and fulfilling life. 

At Rula, we’re here to make it easier to access the care you deserve. Using our simple therapist matching tool, you can find a therapist who takes your insurance and can meet with you as soon as this week. 

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