childhood trauma ptsd

Children deserve to feel safe and loved while they are growing up. A stable, supportive, and loving environment allows a child to develop trust bonds with their family members, knowing their loved ones have their back as they navigate childhood. For far too many children, this nurturing family life is not their reality. According to the National Children’s Alliance, almost 700,000 children suffer abuse each year in the U.S., with a large percentage of those experiencing neglect.

Childhood trauma can take many forms. Physical or sexual abuse, sudden death of a loved one, witnessing domestic abuse, experiencing a natural disaster, surviving a serious car accident, and other intense emotional experiences all constitute trauma. When a child is exposed to a traumatic event it leaves an indelible scar on their psyche, especially when it is a repeated trauma as in ongoing physical or sexual assault.

Eventually the child grows up and incorporates the lingering emotional fallout from having been traumatized in their younger years into their adult behaviors and psyche. Childhood trauma PTSD is often the result of unresolved psychological harm. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that results in maladaptive behaviors in order to cope with the residual pain. Getting to the bottom of the childhood trauma and working through the emotional scars provides the roadmap toward resolving adult dysfunctional behaviors.

About Childhood Trauma

When a child experiences a traumatic event, or continuing trauma, their ability to process and cope becomes overwhelmed by the sense of danger and fear of injury. A child has not yet formed the coping mechanisms needed and becomes unable to process the threat or emotional pain psychologically. Instead, many children who have been exposed to trauma develop certain symptoms of PTSD, including:

  • Fear of dying
  • Bad dreams, nightmares, night terrors
  • Wetting the bed although formerly potty trained
  • Expressing emotional reactions when exposed to triggers or reminders
  • Irritability, agitation
  • Angry outbursts, violent behavior
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme emotional reactivity
  • Loss of interests in activities once enjoyed
  • Physical complaints, such as stomach distress and headaches
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Clingy behavior
  • Regressing to younger age

In response to trauma, children adapt certain methods of coping with its after affects.  Depending on the degree of the threat or harm, the developmental state of the child when it happened, the child’s innate ability to cope with adversity, and the child’s support system, PTSD will develop or not.

Childhood Trauma PTSD Connection

If the child does retain the emotional damage caused by a traumatic event(s) in childhood they will likely carry the residual effects into adulthood. This can result in interpersonal problems and general impairment in daily functioning.

Signs of PTSD in Adults

  • Emotional detachment
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Sexual promiscuity, early initiation of sexual activity, STDs
  • Higher incidence of smoking
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Hyper-arousal
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Withdraw socially
  • Irritability, hostility
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Trouble in relationships
  • Trust issues
  • Experience flashbacks
  • Avoids triggering situations, places, people

Adults with childhood trauma-related PTSD may seek out dysfunctional relationships where past childhood experiences are recreated because that is what feels familiar to them. They may have such a low self-esteem as a result of unresolved trauma that they believe they do not deserve happiness. They may develop a serious substance use disorder as a means of self-medicating their emotional pain. Until the adult with childhood-related PTSD works through their emotional pain with a therapist the disorder will continue to infect their quality of life.

Treatment for Childhood Trauma PTSD

When initially seeking help for treating PTSD, the individual may select either outpatient treatment through a private physician or an outpatient mental health program, or a residential treatment program. Often this decision as to where to obtain treatment for PTSD will be determined by the severity of the symptoms, whether there is a co-occurring disorder such as depression or addiction, and personal resources.

In treatment for PTSD the individual will engage in psychotherapy. The type of psychotherapy utilized will depend on the features of the PTSD, so it may be psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exposure therapies, or a combination of these modalities. Therapy will likely involve both individual one-on-one sessions and group therapy sessions where the issues related to the PTSD can be discussed and shared with others.

In addition, some individuals may benefit from medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Holistic activities are helpful as well, assisting with stress-reduction and relaxation.

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Residential Treatment for PTSD

Elevation Behavioral Health is a residential mental health center in Los Angeles, California that offers intensive treatment for adult survivors of childhood PTSD. The comprehensive program allows individuals struggling with trauma maladaptation to examine the pain sources and process the disturbing childhood events under the expert care of our compassionate psychiatric staff. Treatment includes intensive psychotherapy, group therapy, holistic and experiential activities, and medication management if applicable. For more information about our treatment program for childhood trauma PTSD, please connect with Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.

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