Childhood Trauma: What Is It and How to Get Help
The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
Trigger warning: trauma topics are discussed in this article, with descriptions of types of trauma.
We’ve all been socialized to believe that trauma is something that only affects the smallest percentage of people and that it can only possibly include terrible acts such as witnessing a murder, assault, and extreme neglect. Although those are forms of trauma, childhood trauma comes from much more.
More than two-thirds of children report childhood trauma by the time they’re 16. That’s a massive number of kids, and it’s still growing.
That’s why it’s important to understand childhood trauma as soon as possible, so you can help your future children or current children not have to go through it.
What Constitutes Childhood Trauma?
For those that do not know, childhood trauma can be a mix of many things. Often, it is repeated traumatic or stressful events that cause the body to go into the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Long-term trauma tends to send children more into a freeze response, where they put up with something and stay frozen to not get hurt.
Here are just a few things that can be traumatic for a child:
- Moving homes often
- Losing friendships often
- Emotional neglect
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Seeing a parent with an addiction
- Seeing a parent have relationship issues or go through abuse
- Being homeless
- Not having the chance to leave home
- Not being told what’s happening when big changes happen
- Moving internationally without a transition
- Death of family members or friends
- Health issues/surgery/hospitalization/chronic health conditions
- Being yelled at
- Being pressured
- Not having their gender or sexuality accepted by family
- Caregivers not using the correct pronouns or name for them
- Being sent to residential treatment/long-term care
- Witnessing violent crime
- School troubles
- Being uneducated on their body/mind/health
- Dealing with an untreated mental illness
- Being told that they’re “weird” for their fears
- Being left to “cry it out”
There are so many types of traumatic events for children, and many parents do not realize the effect on their child in this way.
If you relate to any of the above experiences, you have likely gone through childhood trauma.
Childhood trauma can affect us into adulthood. Some symptoms of PTSD and being affected by trauma as an adult include:
- Fear of showing emotions
- Intense emotional reactions
- Chronic pain
- Crying a lot
- Reliving events in your mind or in real life
- Running away from or fighting what scares you
- Freezing up in intense situations
- Relationship issues
There are many more symptoms. If you’re interested in learning more about childhood psychology, check out BetterHelp’s advice page here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/childhood/.
How to Get Help for Childhood Trauma
The critical thing to remember is that help is always available. You can start to heal childhood wounds at any age in your life, even if you feel that you are too old to go back to it.
Trauma therapists are wonderful for healing trauma. There are several different types of trauma therapists, which we’ll outline below.
EMDR is a therapy that focuses on rapid eye movement or lighting up both sides of your brain while speaking through detailed accounts of traumatic events.
It allows you to process the events without getting stuck in an overly emotional or overly logical viewpoint.
It can be challenging to start this therapy, but it has enormous success rates with people with PTSD, including combat veterans. For family and complex PTSD, it may not work for some.
Attachment Style Therapy
Attachment style therapy focuses on the specific attachment styles that you may have developed growing up from your parents and how your childhood trauma changes the way you are in relationships now.
It’s great for those looking to form a secure attachment in their current relationships.
Spiritual Self-Saving Therapy
This type of trauma therapy is more spiritually focused. Your therapist will lead you through “going back in time” to save your child self and validate them for what they went through.
You may go through some spiritual practices and learn new meditation techniques. It’s all about self-help and self-power.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Although behavioral therapy is not very good for those with trauma, cognitive behavioral therapy works for some.
In this therapy, you will talk to your therapist about what you went through and how it affects your current life. They will give you some coping skills and methods to get through your present symptoms.
Family Systems Therapy
Family systems therapy focuses on how your family impacts you and the different parts that you have inside yourself.
It focuses on giving names to these parts, what they go through, and how they all come out in your personality. It’s an excellent therapy for people with dissociative identity disorder.
Overall, childhood trauma can be terrifying. However, you’re not alone. There are so many treatment options available to help you heal.
If you’re just now realizing that you think you experienced trauma, it might be a good idea to journal your thoughts and bring the journal with you to your first session. Trauma healing is a long journey, but it’s one that will most likely help you for the rest of your life.