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Posted on: November 20, 2018 | Dr. Todd Thatcher

Childhood Trauma in Adults

The SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCSTI) reports that by the age of 16, two-thirds of children report experiencing at least one traumatic event. According to the American Psychological Association, “A traumatic event is one that threatens injury, death, or the physical integrity of self or others and also causes horror, terror, or helplessness at the time it occurs.”

This can encompass many different situations and may be different for each person that comes in contact with that event.

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Someone suffering from childhood trauma as an adult

Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults

There are a number of different ways in which childhood trauma symptoms can manifest for adults living with childhood trauma. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut recipe to follow when diagnosing an adult with immediate signs of trauma, however, there may be some common physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of trauma victims. Listed below are just a few common warning signs of childhood trauma in adults:

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anger
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks

Physical Symptoms

  • Poor Concentration
  • Shakiness
  • Night Terrors
  • Lack of Energy
  • Physical Illness
  • Sleep Disturbances

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Compulsion
  • Eating Disorders
  • Impulsiveness
  • Isolation
  • Numbness or Callousness
  • General disorientation

Keep in mind that these are just a few common childhood trauma symptoms of trauma victims, and often times many people can exhibit a number of these symptoms or may even show none at all. If you or someone you know are showing signs of trauma, it is important to seek immediate professional help. Highland Springs Specialty Clinic is a renowned trauma and PTSD treatment center in Utah. Please call us today for more information about our program and recovery methods for childhood trauma in adults.

Potentially traumatic events can include:

  • Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
  • Community or school violence
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sudden or violent death of a loved one
  • Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, disasters or terrorism
  • Refugees or war experiences
  • Neglect
  • Assault
  • Serious accidents
  • Life-threatening illness

If untreated, childhood trauma in adults can have long-lasting effects. Trauma can affect children’s mood and their ability to regulate their emotions, they are 2 times more likely to develop depression and 3 times more likely to develop anxiety. The sooner the childhood trauma symptoms are addressed through therapy, the better the chance for the child to have a full and successful recovery.

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What does childhood trauma in adults look like?

Childhood trauma in adults can impact experiences and relationships with others due to experienced feelings of shame and guilt. Childhood trauma in adults also results in feeling disconnected, and being unable to relate to others. Studies have shown that adults that experience childhood trauma were more likely to struggle with controlling emotions, and had heightened anxiety, depression, and anger.

Common Trauma Misconceptions

Childhood trauma in adults doesn’t necessarily mean they will be unable to have a full life. If, however, trauma starts affecting an individual’s day-to-day life it is important to seek professional help. Many people have misconceptions when it comes to childhood trauma in adults. Here are 3 common misconceptions related to childhood trauma;

  1. An individual who was abused and/or neglected as a child will abuse and/or neglect their own children
  2. Abused and neglected children will become deviant adults, and
  3. The effect of abuse and/or neglect are irreparable, and the adult won’t live a full life of recovery.

This is false! Overcoming childhood trauma in adults is possible through therapy. The first step to healing from trauma is finding a therapist who can help navigate the individual through the childhood trauma symptoms and/or neglect.  Therapy for childhood trauma is typically provided in an outpatient setting through group and/or individual therapy.

Treatments for Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Healing from childhood trauma is a complex but necessary process. Through therapy, adults can overcome childhood trauma. They can raise happy and healthy families, be productive citizens, and have a fulfilling life.

Here are some evidence-based treatments for treating childhood trauma in adults:

Cognitive Processing Trauma Therapy (CPT)

Cognitive processing therapy is a specialized type of cognitive trauma healing therapy used to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A typical 12-session period has been shown to reduce trauma in veterans, sexual assault victims, and children who have experienced abuse or trauma. The main focus of CPT is to recontextualize and help rationalize the traumatic events experienced by the victim.

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Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that provides help for adults healing from childhood trauma. Specifically focused on trauma, that helps patients change destructive patterns such as negative emotional, behavioral, and thought patterns into positive solutions through the use of awareness and cognitive responses. Clinicians have found success using TF-CBT in children, adolescents, and traumatized adults in 8-25 period sessions.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is another form of therapy for childhood trauma in adults. EMDR is a form of psychotherapy in which a subject will recall traumatic memories while moving their eyes from side to side in a rhythmic pattern. This treatment has shown success in decreasing the negative effects associated with PTSD. EMDR typically lasts for 6-12 sessions.

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)

Narrative exposure therapy aims to treat individuals with complex and multiple incident trauma. NET involves chronologically laying a patient’s life out and putting into context the events of their life at both positive and traumatic points. The goal of NET is to help the patient refine and understand traumatic events by putting one’s life events into context. NET is a short-term therapy typically ranging from 4-10 sessions.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure therapy, sometimes referred to as flooding, is a type of behavioral cognitive therapy in which a patient is exposed to traumatic memories to help them understand and rationalize those events. Prolonged exposure therapy has had decades of success with patients suffering from PTSD related depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. Sessions typically last 15 weeks or longer.

Healing childhood trauma in adults is a daunting and difficult task but it is possible through therapy. Luckily, continuing research and developments in the field are revealing more effective ways of treating and healing from childhood trauma. In particular, EMDR therapy is a newly emerging form of therapy that has had substantial success in treating PTSD.

EMDR is unique in that rather than discussing and reliving the trauma, its focus is on the emotions associated with that trauma in conjunction with bilateral sensory input. Every person reacts to childhood trauma symptoms in different ways. For a better understanding of treating trauma, contact a professional therapist for a trauma diagnosis.

Center For Healing From Childhood Trauma

Don’t let trauma dictate your life, there are multiple Highland Springs Specialty Clinic locations in Utah that specialize in diagnosing and treating childhood trauma in adults. Our renowned therapists are committed to helping you and your loved ones!

Learn more about our trauma therapy program here, or call us today to speak with a specialist.

If you have any questions about Healing from Childhood Trauma or any of our other services, contact us today.

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