What Constitutes Childhood Trauma?
Childhood Trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), includes a range of experiences in childhood that causes psychological hurt. The traumatic experiences may threaten death or injury to self and to others and elicit an intense feeling of fear, helplessness, or horror. These experiences are not limited to, but may include; physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect, having a mentally ill parent or witnessing the abuse of a family member. These childhood negative experiences may have a profound impact on your physiological, psychological and social well-being and may even have lasting impacts on your physical health.
What are the Consequences of Childhood Trauma?
✽ Physiological and Physical
High levels of stress when faced with trauma cause changes in hormonal levels. Cortisol and adrenaline, which are “stress hormones” that help you react to perceived danger increases, in order to activate your “survival mode”. Hormonal changes early in life may lead to lifelong consequences due to the impact on brain architecture and function. This may lead to the reduction of neural connections in the thinking area of the brain for reasoning and learning, thus limiting cognitive ability.
Childhood trauma can increase the risk of mental disorders such as substance abuse, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and attachment disorder. Exposure to trauma in the critical and sensitive stages of child development may result in altered neurological functioning, which may be adaptive in the malevolent environment but maladaptive in healthier social contexts. This may present itself in the form of aggression in children and in the form of emotional dysregulation.
The consequences of physiological and psychological impairments due to childhood trauma may lead to social consequences. When a child experiences overwhelming and stressful situations, a child may learn to dissociate as a form of coping mechanism. As such, it may lead to adverse effects on learning and social interactions as the individual may appear as “spacey” and inattentive which may not be well understood by others around. Furthermore, problems with aggression, emotional dysregulation and unhealthy attachment may lead to difficult interpersonal relationships.
Treatment Available for Childhood Trauma:
✽ Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
✽ Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
✽ Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
✽ Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)