Trauma is a general term for the emotional stress that occurs from experiencing or witnessing a shocking, frightening, or dangerous event. Trauma can affect children and adults in many different ways, including frightening memories and flashbacks. A child is more likely to experience trauma if he or she grows up in an abusive home; lives with parents who abuse substances; lives in an unsafe neighborhood; or experiences the death of a close family member, such as a parent, sibling, or grandparent.

Key Things to Know About Trauma

  • Early life trauma can be a factor in the risk for problems with social interactions, school performance, and behavior problems such as aggression.
  • Children who experience trauma early in life may have health risks later in life including suicide, substance abuse, physical injury, heart disease, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), unintended pregnancy, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Trauma can occur over time through exposure to life events that repeatedly cause physical, emotional, or psychological harm.

Common Myths About Trauma

  • Myth #1: Trauma can only be experienced by veterans or someone who has undergone abuse, as opposed to someone who has experienced a scary car crash, medical trauma, or a pandemic.
  • Myth #2: If you experience trauma before you can remember it, you won’t be impacted by it. Trauma can be stored or remembered in the body, even if you don’t cognitively remember your body can hold on to those experiences and present as physical symptoms.
  • Myth #3: Life will never be the same now that I have experienced trauma, when in fact with professional help, you can return to normal levels of functioning.
  • Myth #4: People who have traumatic stress symptoms are seen as weak compared to others who may have experienced the same event, but don’t struggle with trauma symptoms. It is important to remember that trauma affects and is perceived differently among all people.

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