28 thoughts on “Childhood Trauma: 8 Misconceptions About Traumatic Experience

  • March 11, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for all this information. Affirms what I feel. I have been diagnosed with anxiety, major depressive disorder, and PTSD due to child, adolescent, and young adult abuse.

    • March 11, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      So glad you found it helpful. Thanks for your comment. 🙂
      You are dealing with quite a bit. You are similar to a lot of my clients struggling with trauma. The trauma often triggers anxiety or depression. It’s very common.

  • March 12, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Substace abuse of parents maybe will not affect the child. What can affect the child is the behavior of parents who live a life of substance abuse. Neglect. Violence.
    Sexual abuse etc. So you lest item should be correctet.

    • March 12, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Hi there,
      I will respectfully disagree. I do believe we are saying the same thing but in different ways. Any kind of substance abuse, that takes the person out of their character, influences behavior, leads to financial or relational problems, or removal from the home due to rehabilitation, can negatively impact the family unit. There is no justification for this. I will add that even prescription drugs can negatively impact the family if the medications are not properly monitored or taken. Drugs alter behavior. Drugs destroy families.

  • March 13, 2015 at 6:12 am

    A child cannot determine whether they are living in a condition, which is ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’! ~ Beth
    My experience was that I was locked inside without knowing it and that I was living in fear, but didn’t know it. A child does not know what the ’normal’ human condition feels like vs an abnormal human condition. As a child, I did not know that I was ‘locked inside’ or that I was ‘fearful of coming out and being harmed again’. I didn’t have any intellectual concept or awareness of what either of these conditions meant. I would have had to have both of these concepts presented to me, in order to have any awareness of them.
    This is like the concept of being ‘abused’ or ‘neglected’. For all a child knows, the condition that they live in is the ‘normal’ condition i.e. as far as I knew, the child across the street lived in the same condition that I lived in. The condition in which I existed was ’normal’ for me. I didn’t know any different!

  • March 13, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Great article! Thank you for addressing many of the questions and myths out there about children, trauma & healing. As someone who has worked therapeutically with children I feel its important to add that there are events we all would agree = traumatic, and in addition, there can be events barely recognized by adults that a child may experience as traumatic with long lasting emotional results. Each child (person) has individual levels of emotionally sensitivity. One child emotional bruise is another’s broken bone.

    • March 13, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you so much Jenn. Truly appreciate your comment. Glad it was helpful.

  • March 13, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Nancy Verrier, adoptive mother and psychologist, has written “The Primal Wound”. It is amazing to me that most adoption agencies refuse to acknowledge that an infant is traumatized by separation from his/her mother. They further disenfranchise adopted individuals by changing the child’s identity and asking them to fulfill a role in a new family they share no genetic markers with. It creates further layers of trauma, rather than acknowledge the child’s losses for the fulfillment of the supply and demand nature of adoption.

    • March 13, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      So very true Samantha. Adoption can be a very traumatizing process for most kids if not all. In fact, there are some families who have threatened to even send their kids either into the foster care system or back into the foster care system if negative behaviors continue in the home, school, and community. Very traumatizing in many ways.

  • March 13, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Very good stuff. It affirms what I’ve known deep down. At 40-something, I don’t think I’ll ever “feel” normal [whatever that means] but at least THAT is normal…I’m not crazy. Forgive my abusers? Yes…but the internal scars will always be there. My greatest accomplishment is that my children have been loved and encouraged and the family legacy of abuse has ended with me. Thank you for this post…I shared it with my sisters.

    • March 13, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Thank you for your kind comment. I am really glad you have ended the cycle of abuse. That can be another challenge of trauma. But you have shown resilience.

      All the best to you. 🙂

  • March 14, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Thank you for writing this article! I went through many years of CSA and even though I had symptoms for over 15 years, I was only diagnosed with Complex PTSD a year ago. What I have found the hardest is hearing those misconceptions from people close to me and feeling very confused. I always thought what I was feeling and experiencing in relation to the trauma was “wrong” or “strange” but now that I am in therapy I am starting to challenge those view points of others and myself. You’re right, we are all so different, and just because someone has the same diagnosis as you doesn’t mean you experience symptoms in the same way. Again, thank you.

  • March 14, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I had many surgeries as a baby and child back in the late 30s, 40s and on for repair of cleft palate and lip. I couldn’t fight the doctor’s or nurses and everyone told me to be a brave little girl. Nor could I flee. With an over protective mother who taught me to be afraid of everything I developed a school phobia and eventually agoraphobia. I am now being helped by EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and it has done more for me than any other therapy.

  • March 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you for this article. Question: could premature birth be considered “trauma”?

    • March 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Allie
      Thank you for your comment. I would say if the premature birth came with a lot of complications, confusion, and the baby needing to stay in the hospital for long periods of time, that the mother could experience some kind of trauma. The child perhaps would not be affected and of course I don’t have a scientifically sound answer for this. But I would say an experience could be traumatizing to both parents and even the extended family if the premature birth entailed multiple medical complications.

      In some cases a premature birth can include a mother witnessing her child frail and unprepared for the world. This can also be traumatizing in some ways. Good question!

  • March 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for the above information. I experienced two major traumas in my life: a death of a very close loved one & a rape. While most would think the rape woul affect me most, it was actually the death that was more traumatic. It was only the loss of the person. I wasn’t present when it happened, nor was it a horrific death (well…it was cancer – so you can decide if that was horrific). However that person was a major support for me. Losing her turned my life upside down. Leading to some poor choices of association & thereby my rape at age 14. The man who committed the crime eventually went to jail & answered for what he did to 3 other girls – though not for mine. My parents had already began to see a therapist & we’re making me go too. During those sessions I came to the conclusion that the best way to get past it in a healthy way was to forgive the man. Not for his sake, for mine. It kept me from being a victim & took any guilt I felt away because I understood that it wasn’t my fault. It took the burden and put it back on him. While I’m choosier in my associates now & are certainly careful where I go, when, & with whom, my life doesn’t center on the rape anymore. It doesn’t create problems in my marriage. I stopped crying about it within a year afterward. I have been able to remember what happened without negative feelings at all. I even hope for the best in regards to the perpetrator.
    I had the same Protections in place for both traumas, but I still cry (over 20 years later) about my dead loved one. While I have a hope that’s vividly real to me, I still have a hard time dealing with her death. I’m still bitter about the circumstances surrounding her death. At the same time, I smile bigger now when I think of her. I remember mostly good things when it comes to her. The emotional issues I had to face back then, however, are still ever present.
    Out of the two traumas, the seemingly easy one to deal with was my hardest & the seemingly worst one was my easiest. The difference? I was able to forgive the rapist while I had no one to forgive for the death.

    • March 16, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Angel,
      I am sorry for your loss. It’s tough losing someone who means the world to you. I have my fair share of losses and many of them include losing people I loved dearly. The good part is that the pain might still be there but as time goes on, we gain more and more strength to cope with our reality and to find new hope for our future. It’s amazing how the heart and mind heals itself. I always tell my clients that crying or hurting or missing someone that you lost does not mean that you are not healing from your trauma. It just means that we are human and that we have very real hurts that hurt. But I’m a firm believer that tears and pain have a great way of building resilience and sometimes the more we cry, the stronger we get. My great grandmother, who was very connected to her Native American heritage, use to say to me “let your tears come because they wipe away those things that blur our vision.”

      I wish you the best

  • March 16, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I have read it with great interest as I have own second hand experience with a now young man and his older sibling who were both adopted due to very serious abuse issues in the family by a friend of mine.

    Unfortunately the adoption agency at the time failed to mention any issues the children might be having or what they had experienced at a very young age and this wasn’t helpful to the parents. The younger sibling was diagnosed with various including severe ADHD and being on the autism spectrum scala. The adoptive parents are still asking themselves where they went wrong (the relationship to both adoptive sons has broken down due to serious threats to the parents life from first the older son, then the younger one) and my believe is that the trauma / abuse the children suffered in their parental home from the age of 0-5 and 0-2 was so bad that it did cause permanent emotional damage.
    The extend of the abuse suffered was eventually revealed and it included things like ice baths in winter in the garden, hands on hot hobs etc.

    My question is, if it is possible for a child’s brain to change during those early years in order to survive and if it is, would the child be able to recover from trauma like this?

    These two boys/ men have seen Therapists, psychiatrists, counsellors and nothing seemed to have worked. I have to add that the adoptive parents tried their best, but really were uneqipt and left to their own devices by social services or adoption agency.

    • March 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Thank you very much Urs for your kind comment. I am glad that you found it useful. We don’t have a lot of information on trauma and how it affects us. Most people try to normalize trauma and never can really explain how it can dominate a life.

      You bring up a really interesting topic and perhaps even a topic that I could write about in the near future. Adoption agencies are quite ill-equipped themselves and often receive abused and neglected children who have long, severe histories of abuse. These two boys that you mention are going to be scarred for life. Unfortunately once a trauma this severe makes an imprint on a child’s brain, it is very difficult to “undo” the damage. Years of therapy, medication, love, support, and other services may help reduce the severity of the “after-affects” of the trauma, but never fully get rid of them. Many people who adopt have so much hope for the adopted child and seek to provide the things the child did not have in the adoption system or abusive home. But reality is that, even with support and a “new life” with another family, the trauma that was endured has resulted in brain changes that are not easy to undo. We can medicate these individuals and challenge inaccurate thoughts and behaviors, but never fully change the person.

      The other part of this that we fail to recognize is that genes and biology play a big role in behavior and trauma as well. Behaviors and attitudes could very well be genetic and the trauma could be impacting the genes so much that you get a big pile of chaos.

      I must be honest, I cannot fully answer your questions without first researching it further. But my experience, in practice, has been that most kids do not “recover” from trauma but rather learn how to cope in the world with what they have. In rare cases, the child and adoptive parents have to separate because the relationship is very volatile and dangerous. It’s as if the child is “re-enacting” the trauma experienced and causing intense stress in the new family.

      I will certainly be discussing re-enactment in the next two weeks. The article will be published here on 3/25. Stay tuned, you might find it helpful.

      All the best

  • March 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks Tamara for your excellent post on childhood trauma. It syncs quite nicely with the findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study [ACES] [Felitti and Anda] that is finally getting much more attention and generating greater visibility and advancement of trauma-informed treatment models and practices in the early childhood development, education, mental health, and other human/social service fields. Also, as someone with an ACES score of 7 or 8, much of your description of how trauma impacts the child and the adult resonates with me.
    Thanks much.

    • March 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Thank you so much Edwin. I appreciate that. I have not heard of this research but certainly hope to look into it. I think more topics of this nature in the future would be helpful. We need more knowledge about this topic shared with the general public. So thank you for sharing this!

  • March 16, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Hi there, thank you for writing such an interesting article. I was particuarly interested in reading about children remembering very early trauma because I have found that discussion very difficult to get out of any doctor. A little back story if that’s ok… I was sexually abused by my father at 3 years old. I secretly discovered this at 18 and kept it completely under wraps until I had a major breakdown at 30 when it all came out in therapy. I still have no conscious memory of it to this day though, although I agree with you that I vividly remember a strong sense of terrible fear at that age. What made things worse for me was that as an older child, my mother completely invalidated the hyper villigiance, anxiety and fear I experienced constantly while growing up. To this day, she agrees I was abused but denies any possibility of trauma and how it’s connected to my ptsd, depression and bpd. Her unwillingness to provide any kind of support or even slightest empathy, sadly, has cost us our relationship. So, thank you again. I hope my story has opened some eyes. Your article confirms many, many things I am still trying to find out for myself. Thank you again

  • June 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you for this article. It is very helpful and explains some of the things I wasn’t even aware of until I recently started therapy myself (not having a clue how my childhood affected me). Makes sense after reading this! The link to the case study does not work, and I cannot find the case study on your site. Can you please provide a working link to the case study you had years ago? I am highly interested. Also, after visiting your website, I think what you are doing is fantastic. So many resources!

    • June 17, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Hi Mel,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found it helpful.
      When I see clients for therapy (children, adolescents, and some adults at times) I find that my therapy with them tends to be “insight building.” I strive to help the client build new awareness and insights. So that was the goal of my article. Sometimes you just need someone to point things out, from another perspective, to see what you have really been going through.

      Here is the link: http://anchoredinknowledge.com/a-case-of-trauma-can-you-identify-the-trauma/

      If you still have trouble, let me know.
      All the best

  • January 7, 2018 at 2:20 am

    Thank you for this article! Confirms all I want to show Teacher Assistants about the children they work with.


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