Childhood Trauma


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What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, it is normal to experience amnesia, emotional numbness or detachment. Repeated reliving of the event or even a feeling of distorted or altered reality may appear, too. For most people, these feelings will fade within a short time. For some people, they become a part of life and interfere with their daily lives. If re-experiencing the trauma, emotional avoidance and increased arousal symptoms like difficulty sleeping appear for a prolonged time, there is high risk of having posttraumatic stress disorder.

What does PTSD look like in children?

Because PTSD symptoms require a verbal description of one's feelings and experiences, Very young children may not present obvious PTSD symptom. Instead, young children may have sleep disturbances, preoccupation with words or symbols related to the trauma, or avoidance of situations that may related to the trauma. They may also have more generalized fears such as stranger or separation anxiety. In addition, children may lose an acquired developmental skill (such as toilet training) as a result of experiencing a traumatic event.

Elementary school-aged children may experience "time skew" and "omen formation” after trauma event. Time skew refers to a child mis-sequencing trauma related events when recalling the memory. Omen formation is a belief that there were warning signs that predicted the trauma. They would believe that they have to remain alert at any time to avoid future traumas. School-aged children also exhibit posttraumatic play or reenactment of the trauma in play, drawings, or verbalizations.

How does Psychotherapy help children with trauma?

Therapy often includes the child directly discussing the traumatic event, anxiety management techniques such as relaxation and assertiveness training, and correction of inaccurate or distorted trauma related thoughts. If the children are not able to deal with the trauma more directly, therapists apply games, drawings, and other techniques to help the children process their traumatic memories.


Child Trauma Academy

Child Survivor of Traumatic Stress

Child Trauma Institute

Traumatic Stress Studies