Symptoms of Trauma
When something traumatic happens to a child, a sense of safety and security can be stripped away. A child may be left with overwhelming feelings of a loss of power. Many of a child’s post-traumatic symptoms are dysfunctional attempts to regain a sense of control or safety within his environment.
Traumatized children can experience a variety of psychosomatic symptoms:
Headaches, stomachaches, dizziness or shortness of breath.
Excessive fatigue or excess energy
Marked change in eating habits
Increased sensitivity to touch
Decreased reactivity to physical injury
Psychosomatic symptoms are the body’s way of complaining about the post-traumatic stress that it is being required to contain. A full medical evaluation should be conducted to rule out any physiological causes.
Behavioral Effects of Trauma
Nightmares and Night Terrors
Nightmares – child usually wakes on their own, remembers details and seeks comfort. The child is easily soothed and falls back to sleep easily.
Night Terrors – occur usually within two hours of falling asleep. It can be difficult to wake a child out of a night terror and waking is not advised.
Traumatized children are always listening, always watching and consequently exhausted by their felt need to remain on alert.
The irritability must be a substantial change from the child’s previous functioning.
Increased Reliance on Caregivers
A child who was previously independent may develop a regressive dependence on the parent that includes whining, clinging behavior and difficulty with separations.
Children who have experienced a traumatic event may avoid all reminders of that event.
Cognitive Effects/Thought Life Issues
Difficulty concentrating, distractibility and a short attention span
Develop distinctive fears of specific worries that did not trouble them before the trauma
Traumatized children may perseverate on a certain aspect of the trauma or develop repetitive maladaptive thoughts in response to their traumatic events.