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How Therapy Heals Childhood Trauma

Key Takeaways:

  • At least half of American children experience some traumatic incident
  • Adult and adolescent issues manifest when childhood trauma isn’t addressed early
  • Childhood trauma is anything that scares a child and leaves them deeply scarred
  • Adverse childhood experiences cause physical and mental maladies as the years progress

Children are very resilient, but trauma at a young age still has lifelong effects. Early intervention is crucial but doesn’t always happen. 

Almost half of all American children go through some type of trauma in their lives, two-thirds of them before their 16th birthday, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Fortunately, the right therapy can help anyone who’s suffered through childhood trauma heal, no matter how long it’s been. Survivors of childhood trauma often wonder if they should seek therapy for their issues. Therapy helps survivors find ways to heal and cope with the impacts of traumatic experiences, such as:

  • Abuse
  • Community violence 
  • Natural disasters 
  • Neglect 
  • Sudden loss of a loved one

Childhood trauma can trigger many adolescent and adult issues, but the solution is easier than you think. This article discusses childhood trauma, its effects, and how therapy helps.

Defining Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is an event, or several events, that leave a child deeply frightened. These events are typically violent and dangerous. Many scary situations can traumatize a child, such as molestation, car accidents, home invasions, or even natural disasters. 

Some children have no time to heal. Their lives are a constant stream of traumatic events. Bullying, abuse, and living in a dangerous environment can be ongoing and leave devastating blemishes on a child’s psyche. 

Childhood traumas can also stem from witnessing horrible situations. Watching a loved one die from an extended illness, for example, can cause severe trauma.

Not all bad experiences are traumatic, however. Divorce, the passing of elderly relatives, and losing a pet don’t typically cause lasting trauma. 

Trauma of any sort, however, may leave a lasting impact.

Effects of Childhood Trauma 

Traumatic childhood experiences can change the brain’s development, causing significant emotional, psychological, and social problems in adolescence and adulthood. 

Physical Impacts

Traumatic events can impair a child’s physical development, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. When the immune and central nervous systems are underdeveloped, it is almost impossible to reach our full potential. 

Children with extreme trauma don’t typically develop the skills to successfully cope with even the smallest of life’s stressors. They struggle with issues in school that other children can easily deal with and exhibit behavior issues and trouble expressing anger in a healthy manner.

Studies show that children who experience multiple adverse experiences are at a higher risk for disease in later years. They may suffer from weakened immune systems and contract ailments they otherwise wouldn’t. The most common conditions to manifest are:

  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma  
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer

Childhood trauma also puts children at risk of fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases that are difficult to pinpoint. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is another risk for kids who experience shocking events. Roughly 20% of traumatized children will develop this disorder that causes sufferers to relive their traumatic event during repetitive flashbacks.

Children with PTSD exhibit symptoms such as headaches, trouble in school, insomnia, and various psychological issues. 

Psychological Impacts

Adverse childhood experiences have a significant impact on mental health. Sufferers may develop symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger control issues
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Separation anxiety
  • Poor appetite
  • Withdrawing from social activities

Many of the psychological impacts of childhood trauma are also symptoms of PTSD. 

An extensive health examination is warranted when a child exhibits several of these signs. Many types of therapy are successful in treating childhood trauma.

Types of Therapy for Childhood Trauma

The residual effects of childhood trauma can happen immediately or in the years to come. Many modalities of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, prove highly successful in treating related issues, no matter when they happened. 

Some of the most effective include:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

This short-term treatment requires fewer sessions than other talk therapy modalities and focuses on how the brain processes traumatic memories. EMDR helps the brain deal with the trauma that wasn’t naturally processed using repetitive eye movements to re-pattern frightening and traumatic memories.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy is best used when the trauma is fresh as opposed to something that happened several years ago. It focuses on goal setting and productive techniques to obtain them using take-home assignments. It is especially effective in treating symptoms of PTSD.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Children (DBT-C)

This modality of DBT focuses on children who face challenges regulating intense emotions. It aims to reveal the root causes of destructive behaviors, such as lashing out, thinking in absolutes, overreacting, and acting impulsively.

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

This behavior treatment helps patients confront the source of their trauma. Avoidance issues typically evolve after a traumatic experience. PE helps people overcome those avoidances by directly confronting the origins. 

The proper treatment depends on what type of trauma occurred, how long it happened, and how much time has elapsed since. The first step is discussing your concerns with a therapist, who will help you decide which treatment best suits your needs. 

The right therapy can help people heal from trauma experienced as a child, no matter how painful. The future is brighter than ever.

There’s a Solution to Childhood Trauma, and Help Starts Today

The bad things that happen to us as children don’t have to follow us around forever. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is therapy. The Counseling Center Group offers in-depth treatments for anyone who doesn’t feel as connected to life as they’d like. From childhood traumas to eating and sleep disorders to addictions, anxiety, and relationship problems, there is a modality of therapy that can help you feel better in both group and individual sessions. Give us a call today to see how we can help you. 

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