What is Trauma and PTSD?

There are times in our lives that seem as if everything has been turned upside and are swirling around us like a hurricane or as if the ground as dropped out beneath us. These can include major and traumatic events: losing a job, a natural disaster, divorce, abuse, a pandemic. They can also be more subtle events that are equally as traumatic: a friend moving away, the death of a pet, a new baby, a move to a new home, a change of schools, or a friend no longer talking to us in class.  Trauma is about perception. Did we feel that we were in danger? This danger can be danger to our physical self or danger to our way of living and life as we know it.

Trauma, regardless of the severity, can affect us at a psychological and biological level. It affects our ability to process information rationally and our ability to calm ourselves. Children and adults experience similar a traumatic reaction in a variety of ways:

  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive Thoughts
  • Sleep Problems
  • Physical Complaints (i.e., stomachaches and headaches)
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Self-harm
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Inattention
  • Feeling on edge
  • Impulsivity

Sometimes trauma overwhelms the brain’s usual adaptive response to events, and we become “stuck”.  If the symptoms we experience from a traumatic even persists past three months and becomes disruptive to our functioning in everyday life, PTSD can develop and cause long term disruption in our lives. PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.

If you or your child has any of the above symptoms and they are making it difficult to do the things you could easily do before, reaching out for professional help is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your child. Mental health professionals are trained and have a passion to help others heal from trauma. You do not have to go through these events and these times alone.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network recommends evidence-based practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma assessments, and interventions that develop children’s self-regulation. Cognitive–behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques have been shown to be effective in treating children and adolescents who have persistent trauma reactions and has been demonstrated to reduce serious trauma reactions, such as PTSD, other anxiety and depressive symptoms, and behavioral problems. Most evidence-based, trauma-focused treatments include opportunities for your child to review the trauma in a safe, secure environment under the guidance of a specially trained mental health professional. CBT and other trauma-focused techniques can help children with cognitive distortions related to the trauma, such as self-blame, develop more adaptive understanding and perceptions of the trauma.

Trauma can be a defining moment, but it does not have to define you. Sometimes we need someone to help us find the path back to ourselves and the power we have over our lives. The good news is help is available.  CGC has trained therapists to help your child overcome their trauma and get back to thriving.