Stirling Behavioral Health Institute

  Mental Health Services Provider

  6931 Van Nuys Blvd. #102 

  Phone (818) 376-0134 
  Fax (818) 376-1437



Trauma

Trauma is the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event. While trauma is a normal reaction to a horrible event, the effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live a normal life.

 

Early Childhood Trauma

Early childhood trauma generally refers to the traumatic experiences that occur to children aged 0-6. Because infants' and young children's reactions may be different from older children's, and because they may not be able to verbalize their reactions to threatening or dangerous events, many people assume that young age protects children from the impact of traumatic experiences. When young children experience or witness a traumatic event, sometimes adults say, "They're too young to understand, so it's probably better if we don't talk to them about it." However, young children are affected by traumatic events, even though they may not understand what happened.


A growing body of research has established that young children – even infants – may be affected by events that threaten their safety or the safety of their parents/caregivers, and their symptoms have been well documented. These traumas can be the result of intentional violence—such as child physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence—or the result of natural disaster, accidents, or war. Young children also may experience traumatic stress in response to painful medical procedures or the sudden loss of a parent/caregiver.


Main Sources of Trauma

Trauma can be caused by an overwhelmingly negative event that causes a lasting impact on the victim’s mental and emotional stability. While many sources of trauma are physically violent in nature, others are psychological. Some common sources of trauma include:

  • Rape
  • Domestic violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe illness or injury to self or others
  • The death of a loved one
  • Witnessing an act of violence

Trauma is often but not always associated with being present at the site of a trauma-inducing event. It is also possible to sustain trauma after witnessing something from a distance. Young children are especially vulnerable to trauma and should be psychologically examined after a traumatic event has occurred to ensure their emotional well-being.


Symptoms of Trauma - General

The behaviors caused by trauma sometimes depend on a child’s age when the symptoms appear. However, some symptoms can affect all children, including:

  • Major changes in eating or sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Anger or rage
  • Unreasonable fear
  • Unusually strong startle reactions

 

Symptoms of Trauma: Ages 6-12

Every child has difficulty concentrating or gets angry sometimes. The following symptoms might indicate the child has experienced a traumatic event if they are excessive or interfere with the child’s or family’s lives.

  • Unusually high level of anger/excessive temper
  • Aggression towards family and others
  • Verbal abuse towards others
  • Overly bossy or controlling
  • School problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Stomachaches, headaches and other physical complaints
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Fear of being separated from caregiver
  • Acting out in social situations
  • Imitating the traumatic event
  • Fear of adults who remind them of the trauma
  • Eating problems such as loss of appetite, low weight or digestion issues
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to trust others or make friends
  • Lack of self confidence
  • Loneliness
  • Confusion
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Clinginess
  • Sexual knowledge beyond the child’s age
  • Overreaction to situations
  • Re-creation of the traumatic event during play
  • Hoarding of food

 

Symptoms of Trauma: Ages 13-18

Every adolescent has problems at school or gets angry sometimes. The following symptoms indicate the child has experienced a traumatic event if they are excessive or interfere with the child's or family's lives.

  • Unusually high level of anger
  • Aggression towards family and others
  • Verbal abuse towards others
  • Overly controlling
  • School problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Associating with negative peers or adults
  • Risky behaviors, including sexual behaviors
  • Unhealthy romantic relationships
  • Self harm
  • Panic attacks
  • Shame
  • Flashbacks
  • Hostility
  • Hoarding of food
  • Overly self-reliant
  • Running away
  • Starting fights
  • Trouble relating to peers
  • Defiant
  • Mistrustful
  • Inability to see a future (expects to die young)
  • Alienated
  • Stomachaches, headaches and other physical complaints
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Acting out in social situations
  • Avoidance of situations that remind the child of the trauma
  • Eating problems
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to trust others or make friends
  • Poor self esteem
  • Loneliness
  • Confusion