Trauma results from an event or series of events that is intensely frightening and is so distressing that it overwhelms the person’s ability to cope. Examples of experiences that could be traumatic include physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence, natural or manmade disasters and the sudden or unexpected death of a loved one.
Traumatic experiences have short and long-term effects. While the traumatic event is still ongoing or in the immediate aftermath of the event, a person might feel intense emotions such as terror or helplessness. The person might also experience reactions in their body such as heart pounding, nausea, temporary loss of bowel or bladder control, shakiness or sweating. It is common for a person’s mind to go blank, for a person to feel frozen and unable to take action, or for a person to run or hide.
Once a person has moved past the initial shock of trauma, a variety of reactions may occur. Some examples of possible long-term reactions to traumatic experiences include:
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Feeling worthless or believing you are a bad person
- Inability to trust others or feeling betrayed by others
- Re-experiencing (nightmares, intrusive and unwanted thoughts or images of the experience, or feeling like it is happening all over again)
- Avoidance (staying away from people, places or situations that are reminders of what happened, or trying not to think about what happened)
- Feeling detached or estranged from others
- Increased arousal (being hyper-alert, jumpy, or easily startled; difficulty concentrating; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; outbursts of anger or anxiety attacks)
- Headaches, stomachaches, aching muscles
- Worrying that it will happen again
When children have experienced trauma and are having significant behavioral, emotional or thinking problems as a result of the traumatic experience, Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health can help! Our Trauma Program specializes in recognizing and meeting the needs of youth and families who are dealing with the effects of trauma.
Because trauma experiences can vary widely, trauma treatment has to be customized to fit the specific circumstances and needs of each person/family. A team of trained professionals will be assigned to work with the individual and his/her family. The team may include a trauma therapist, a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, a case manager, and a peer mentor. Some goals that are commonly addressed in trauma treatment may include:
- Facing the reality of the experience without getting stuck in it
- Reducing or eliminating trauma symptoms
- Improving daily functioning
- Improving relationships with friends and family
- Reclaiming a sense of personal power and effectiveness
- Building skills to enhance future safety and growth
Ultimately, the end goal of treatment is to help kids through a really difficult time and when they are ready, to live full, healthy lives and be productive members of society.