What is Trauma?

What is a traumatic event?

Children and adults can experience traumatic stress when exposed to shocking or frightening events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope. More than two thirds of children report experiencing or witnessing at least one traumatic event by age 16. Common traumatic events include:

What is traumatic stress?

Children and adults who have been exposed to one or more traumas can develop reactions that vary and could linger long after the traumatic event has ended. These responses can range from mild to severely disruptive and can include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common signs of traumatic stress by age range include:

  • Young Children: separation anxiety, excessive crying, feeding problems, sleeping problems, developmental delays, anger/aggression
  • School-aged Children: anxiety and fear, feelings of guilt, attention problems, sleeping problems, anger/aggression, withdrawal
  • Adolescents and Adults: depression or anxiety, feelings of guilt, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harming, risky behaviors, anger/aggression, withdrawal

The impact of child traumatic stress can lead to learning, behavioral, and health problems that last a lifetime. But with a strong support system and access to effective and age-appropriate treatments and services, children and families do recover from traumatic stress.