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Childhood Trauma

Traumatic experiences from the past can continue to impact

What Is Childhood Trauma?

The term childhood trauma covers a wide scope of traumatic events a child may experience. These include being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, bullying, medical trauma (such as a major surgery or long-term illness), grief over a loved one, violence in the community, or a natural disaster. Generally, these are events that leave a child feeling intensely threatened, and they may have long-term aftereffects if unaddressed. The greater the intensity of the event, or patterns of trauma, will increase the likelihood of negative effects.

childhood trauma

Negative Effects of Childhood Trauma

Meadows Senior Fellow Bessel van der Kolk and colleagues at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reviewed thousands of cases of childhood trauma and identified what they termed developmental trauma disorder, typified by “a pervasive pattern of [emotional] dysregulation, problems with attention and concentration, and difficulties getting along with themselves and others.”

Other long-term effects include:

  • Increased risk of substance addiction
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Reactive attachment disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Importantly, trauma and addiction often work in tandem and, without treatment, reinforce each other.

“Children’s brains are literally shaped by traumatic experiences, which can lead to problems with anger, addiction, and even criminal activity in adulthood.”

– Bessel van der Kolk

Childhood Trauma by the Numbers

  • A 2018 report on a long-term study found that 60% of subjects had experienced childhood trauma, and 30% had experienced multiple traumatic events.
  • An earlier study reported that 41% of children between one month and 17 years old had experienced an assault in the previous year, and 10% had been injured.
  • Children who experience four or more traumatic events are 11.1 times more likely to become IV drug users, 7.2 times more likely to struggle with alcoholism, 2.4 times more likely to experience ongoing anxiety, and 3.6 times more likely to struggle with depression, according to a Centers for Disease Control study.

Symptoms of Childhood Trauma

Dr. van der Kolk lists a variety of symptoms that can signal childhood trauma, behaviors that can be driven by the body’s trauma response mechanism, which can be thrown off kilter by extreme or repeated trauma. As a result, it reacts with an extreme response to real or imagined threats. These repeated reactions to stimuli can lead a patient to substance use or other behavioral patterns to cope.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained pain
  • Oversensitivity to touch or sound
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Rapid, extreme mood shifts
  • Detachment and dissociation
  • Difficulty regulating emotional responses

Childhood Trauma Treatment at The Meadows

At The Meadows, our approach to trauma treatment is informed by the expertise, experience, and foundational work of our Senior Fellows, including Pia Mellody, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Claudia Black, and Dr. Bessel van Der Kolk. Their work has influenced our treatment model as well as the modern behavioral health approach to trauma and addiction recovery. People who felt hopeless and entrenched in the effects of their trauma have experienced a life change and healing through our program.

If you or a loved one is seeking recovery from childhood trauma, addiction, or mental health conditions, please get in touch with our team today. We can tell you more about our program and help you determine the best next steps on your journey to healing.

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Our Admissions team is here to help 24 hours a day and is experienced in assisting others with compassion, dignity, and respect — hallmark values of The Meadows for more than 45 years. The Meadows’ Admissions Specialists are here to help you on your way to a healthier and more productive lifestyle. When you call, they will lead you through a series of questions to determine if The Meadows is a good fit, and how soon your treatment can begin. If you are interested in The Meadows for yourself or a loved one, call or fill out an admissions form today!

If you are interested in The Meadows for yourself or a loved one call or fill out an admissions form today!

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