Childhood Trauma

Understanding and Treating Childhood Trauma

What is Childhood Trauma?

Trauma experiences are a part of being human. Each of us experiences trauma. However, childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) often have a greater impact than trauma experienced in adulthood. As children, we are still learning about the world and our place in it. 

Childhood trauma can play a significant role in how your personality develops. It is a common contributing factor to substance use disorders and many mental health disorders that continue into adulthood including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. 

As we learn more about childhood trauma and ACEs, we are beginning to discover the myriad of ways that traumatic events in childhood can create lasting effects that reverberate throughout adulthood. Treating childhood trauma is often an important key to improving adult mental health. By drilling down to the root causes and conditions of current mental health disorders, we can free ourselves from the burdens of the past and find much relief in the present.

Types of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can take many forms, but the majority of childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can be placed in one or more of these four categories. 

  • Physical Abuse: Childhood trauma as a result of physical abuse is one of the most common types. This category includes any non-accidental physical injury or physical pain, or extreme discomfort deliberately inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other adult. Corporal punishment was common in schools and homes in the United States until fairly recently and continues in many other countries today. Research has shown a connection between corporal punishment and other forms of child abuse. 
  • Emotional Abuse: The category of emotional abuse includes behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being, such as constant criticism, humiliation, rejection, manipulation, or ‘gaslighting’. Emotional abuse is often inflicted upon children without the perpetrator being aware of it, or the traumatic impact it can have on children. This is, of course, no excuse for emotionally abusing a child or anyone else — but it can help explain why it is so common. 
  • Sexual Abuse: Childhood sexual abuse typically consists of an adult using a child for sexual gratification, though it is also sometimes inflicted by another child. Childhood trauma associated with sexual abuse can occur as a result of unwanted, inappropriate touching or fondling, rape or incest, or even inappropriate comments and pressure or manipulation. It may also include deliberately exposing children to pornography or witnessing adult sexual activity. 
  • Neglect: This occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide the child with basic needs such as food, shelter, medical care, and emotional support. It is the responsibility of the parent or caregiver to see that a child’s emotional needs, safety and security and need for shelter, food, water, and the essentials of life are met. Neglecting these needs is a form of abuse and a common source of childhood trauma.
  • Situational: Situational or event-driven childhood trauma can occur as a result of a single traumatic event, such as a car accident or witnessing a violent death. It can also be the result of living in a disordered family or during a crisis such as war, famine, or pandemic or in extreme poverty.

4 Ways That Childhood Trauma Manifests In Adults

The impact of childhood trauma can be lasting and complex. Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are among the most common causes of mental health disorders and substance abuse that arise during or continue into adulthood

  1. Behavioral Symptoms: These might include substance abuse, self-harm, impulsivity, aggression, or difficulty maintaining relationships.
  2. Emotional Symptoms: These could be feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, or persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  3. Physical Symptoms: Childhood trauma can lead to physical symptoms, such as chronic pain, sleep disturbances, or gastrointestinal problems.
  4. Psychological Symptoms: These might include difficulty concentrating, feelings of detachment or numbness, or even the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How We Treat Childhood Trauma At Cottonwood Tucson

Cottonwood Tucson is a trauma-informed mental health treatment center. This means we appreciate the role that childhood trauma and ACEs can play in adult mental health. We believe that addressing childhood trauma is often the most effective way to produce lasting change and deep healing. 

We treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, that are a direct result of traumatic experiences during childhood with a variety of approaches. We rely on proven, evidence-based mental health treatment methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). 

When safe and appropriate, we may also incorporate exposure therapy where the client is led through the process of dealing with negative emotions caused by the trauma. Each person’s experience is unique, as is the combination of therapeutic modalities that will best meet their needs. Every client we treat here receives a highly individualized treatment plan attuned to their particular set of circumstances.

Residential Mental Health Treatment For Trauma Disorders

Recovery from childhood trauma is a process that often continues for life, but it is possible to make substantial progress during residential treatment for childhood trauma. Even patients who have attended counseling or outpatient therapy for many years often find that residential (inpatient) mental health treatment leads to significant breakthroughs. Even with years of outpatient therapy, it is common to reach a plateau in progress. More intensive treatment is frequently the answer. 

Some of our specialized trauma services include:

  • EMDR
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • HeartMath
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Trauma-focused Equine Therapy
  • Trauma Recovery Groups
  • Traumatic Grief and Loss Therapy
  • Expressive Art Therapy

Recovery from Childhood Trauma at Cottonwood Tucson

It takes time, energy, and courage to heal from the impact of childhood trauma and ACEs. But there is good reason for hope. The state of trauma treatment is more advanced than ever before, with many breakthroughs in treatment occurring within just the past 20-30 years. No one should be sentenced to endure the echoes of past trauma without relief. 

Cottonwood Tucson has been helping people overcome trauma and the mental health conditions and substance use disorders associated with it for over 25 years. If you or someone you love could benefit from treatment for mental health or a substance use disorder, Cottonwood Tucson is ready to help. Contact us anytime, 24 hours a day at (888) 433-1069.  

Begin Your New Life in Recovery Today.

Let Us Help You Get Started.
CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities NATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs NAADAC newsweek