Every grown up person don’t just become what he or she is today without passing through some developmental stages. These stages come with varying experiences ranging from amazing and threatening ones. The same way those old amazing memories we have had as far back as 3 years and above still find their way reoccurring in our memory as if they just happened yesterday, the life threatening and unhappy ones also do the same. As much as we wish that such amazing memories reoccurs in present age and we drive our strength towards its fulfillment, the same way one tries to avoid the ugly ones with all avoidance mechanism he or she can adopt irrespective of the consequences it will bring on him or her or those around.
What is Childhood Trauma?
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders V (DSM V-TR) defines childhood trauma as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence. This includes experiences of direct trauma exposure, witnessing trauma or learning about trauma that happened to a close friend or relative. The situation where childhood trauma becomes a major concern is when a person re-experience the trauma they had been through at one stage or the other in their mind over and over which now affect them socially, emotionally and physically, this is called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Someone suffering from PTSD may avoid any situation that will remind them of the traumatic experience or even re-enact the experience in their daily life. In this sense, they may be hyper-vigilant for such traumatic cues and may believe that something bad may want to happen again, and such person is not being monitored, such can result to avoidance mechanism like committing suicide or fighting back which might be detrimental to others like sudden shooting out if armed (Flight and Fight respons).
Forms of Childhood Trauma
- Physical abuse and neglect
- Sexual abuse
- One-time events like War, car accident, insurgence, banditry, marginalization, financial corruption etc
- Medical trauma like FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), Tribal-Mark incision etc
- Living in a dangerous environment
- Emotional abuse and neglect
- Witnessing domestic violence
- Substance misuse within the household
- Mental illness within the household
- Parental separation or divorce
- Incarceration of a household member; this might include a sudden death in the family, a stressful divorce, or caring for someone with a chronic or debilitating illness.
Fundamentals of Childhood Trauma.
- It can have a lifelong effect if not resolved on time.
- It has psychological, medical and social tolls on victims
- It can be experienced directly or indirectly
- It happens when the brain is vulnerable
- Perpetrators are people who are supposed to be your protector
- Trauma pushes your ability to cope
Effects of Childhood trauma
Suicide Tendency: Scientific researches had confirmed that suicide attempts were significantly higher in adults who experienced trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and parental domestic violence, as a child.
Behavioral changes resulting from trauma: Victims of traumatic memories may try to escape them by participating in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use, or even overeating for comfort. “Those can all be used as a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotional deregulation that occurs when someone has been traumatized which can lead to health problems.
Other effects are;
- Anger and aggression
- Difficulty trusting others
- Feelings of isolation
- Poor or low self-esteem
- Self-destructive behavior
- Coronary heart disease
Impediments to getting help
- Victims of traumatic experience may have difficulties with getting help. As said earlier they tend to adopt avoidance mechanism so by this they believe visiting a therapist, counselor, discussing or visiting some places, even hearing some phrases may trigger the feelings. So they prefer to let it be and by this, it will keep hurting them the more.
- Living in denial by some people about the role past trauma is playing in their life. Some people are not even aware; they always believe that’s the way they are wired. One of the hallmarks of trauma is the fact that people often use defense mechanisms to protect themselves from stress. Denial is one of those, as is trying to normalize past problems.
Why must you get help?
All human actions are being controlled by a singular organ in the body which is the brain which is also the place trauma affects. In Cognitive Neuro-scientific study, its believed that hormones and neurons are basis for brain and body development and growth. For instance oxytocin which is happiness hormones, it’s also responsible for quick recovery, it’s being secreted in the hypothalamus and amygdala, it can be affected by intense unhappy experiences which will cause the hormone to be under-secreted. Under-secretion can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation etc. another one is adrenalin which is an emergency hormone, it’s being secreted during dangerous or emergency, too much of adrenalin in the blood stream can leave to misfiring of neurons and can lead to stroke, cardiac arrest etc. I gave these instances for us to know that seeking help will do our life a great deal of favour. Trauma has biological, mental and social implications.
Azeez Bolarinwa Samson
Mental Health Advocate