Much is now known about how trauma experienced in childhood—whether the loss of a parent, emotional or physical neglect, community violence or some other adverse event—can lead to problems in adulthood including difficulty holding a job, alcoholism, drug use, depression, obesity and homelessness.
How could trauma from childhood affect your life today? At the time you experienced the trauma, your body was simply doing its job: reacting normally to an abnormal, frightening event. It released a host of chemicals to help you survive the adverse experience. Sometimes, though, our minds and bodies have more difficulty processing the aftermath of trauma. The underlying, unresolved trauma that remains can later be triggered by any number of present-day experiences and lead to anxiety and panic. People often turn to behaviors such as overeating or drug use which provide temporary relief from the aftermath of trauma but which can also become problems themselves.
The following questionnaire on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) will help you to quantify the trauma you might have experienced as a child.
ACE Questionnaire - covers ten categories of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.
Following are nine things, along with seeking the help of a therapist, you can do to aid your own recovery.
1) Exercise helps our bodies to release healthy chemicals. So take a walk or ride a bike or go for a swim. Even swinging your arms back and forth can provide release and relief.
2) In the midst of trauma, we often hold our breath without realizing it. Take deep breaths. Doing so will bring more oxygen to your brain, signaling to it that everything is just fine. Even a few deep breaths will be highly beneficial.
3) Eating healthy food will help your body recover from the shock it has endured. Also, curtail your intake of caffeine.
4) Calm your senses in any way that pleases you: by playing soft music, lighting a candle, relaxing in a warm bath, petting a dog or cat, enjoying nature or smelling a flower. Hug a friend who makes you feel safe and cared for. Talk to your body and your mind. Tell them, it’s okay to relax now.
5) Abstain from alcohol or drugs. While they might at first induce sleep, they can disturb the necessary processing of trauma that the brain carries out overnight.
6) Avoid television shows, movies, books and internet browsing that include viewing or reading about trauma. Instead, concentrate on more positive subjects.
7) Keep moving. Do something that you enjoy and that has a positive and immediate outcome like gardening, cooking, cleaning or fixing something.
8) Write down all the things you have to be grateful for. It might be tough at first to come up with a very long list but keep at it. Add to the list whenever something new comes to you.
9) Offer help to someone else. Even the smallest gesture, like letting someone else go first at the grocery store check-out, can help us to realize we are all part of a community and that at times, all of us need help and support.
The following articles and other resources offer insights on topics relating to post-trauma wellness.
Healing Neen- Recovery is possible. People can heal from adverse childhood experiences. Neen's story illustrates the consequences that untreated trauma has on individuals and society at-large, including mental health problems, addiction, homelessness and incarceration. Today, she is a nationally renowned speaker and educator on the devastation of trauma and the hope of recovery.
Childhood abuse victims 'twice as likely' to suffer from lifetime of depression via Science&Tech | Mail Online on 8/15/11 -- They are also less likely to respond to depression treatments, scientists found after examining data from 26 separate studies involving more than 23,000 participants.
First Person: Dr. Nadine Burke- From KQED Public Media for Northern CA: From what she sees at her clinic in San Francisco's Bayview district, Dr. Nadine Burke has come to believe that childhood stress, trauma and poverty can lead to physical changes and illness in adulthood.
Prevent Child Abuse America- has led the way in building awareness, providing education and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation's children. Working with state chapters, the national office provides leadership to promote and implement prevention efforts at both the national and local levels with a focus on valuing children, strengthening families and engaging communities nationwide.
Adverse Childhood Experience Research: Extension, Integration, & Implications- This Prevent Child Abuse New York webinar provides an overview and discussion of ACE implications -- this recorded webinar is synchronized to the powerpoint.
The Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma Institute- is an emerging body-awareness approach to trauma being taught throughout the world.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)- SAMHSA provides many helpful resources and supports, including a treatment locator, a National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, and a guide to websites outlining ESIs.