Childhood Trauma: Vital Signs And Symptoms You Must Not Ignore!

Childhood trauma refers to any negative experience that a child may go through, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. It could be any event that causes significant emotional harm to a child. These experiences can have a profound and lasting impact on a child’s development and lead to a wide range of emotional, behavioural, and physical problems.

According to the CDC, four main types of childhood trauma are physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect. The four main signs of childhood trauma are Re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal and negative changes in mood or cognition.

Traumatic events can include sexual or physical abuse, neglect, witnessing violence or death and being separated from caregivers.

While the effects of childhood trauma are not always immediately apparent, they often manifest themselves in adulthood in the form of mental health issues such as depression or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Physical trauma refers to any physical harm that happens to a child. It could include being hit or beaten by an adult or another child; being kicked or punched; having things thrown at them; choking; suffocating (for example, with plastic bags); burning their skin with cigarettes or firecrackers; using weapons such as knives or guns against them.

Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual advances by an adult toward a child as well as forcing kids into sexual acts with other children (or adults). It also includes exposing them to pornography while they’re young enough that they don’t understand what it means yet – this can lead to confusion later on in life when they figure out what’s happening in those videos.

Emotional abuse happens when parents treat their kids poorly by yelling at them constantly (“You never pick up after yourself!”), ignoring their needs (“Go play outside until dinner is ready”), forcing them into silence about something important like gender identity issues so that nobody knows there might be something wrong.

The signs and symptoms of childhood trauma vary by age and developmental stage of the child.

Behaviour problems in school or home life, increased feelings of depression or anxiety, and increased aggression or hostility are all signs of childhood trauma in children.

Young children may exhibit a return to more immature behaviours, such as bedwetting or sucking their thumbs. Younger children have an emotional response to trauma similar in many ways to how they would react if they were experiencing extreme pain. To cope with the pain, young children often return to their bodies and try to escape reality by engaging in more primitive behaviours like sucking on something or crying excessively.

In middle school-aged children, signs of childhood trauma may include a drop in GPA and frequent thoughts about death or suicide. Children who have been abused experience shame, guilt, and self-blame, which can lead to depression. Depression can also be caused by the stress of being bullied or harassed by peers at school.

It would be beneficial if you also looked out for red flags such as:

  • Frequent mood swings (such as irritability)
  • Changes in eating habits (eating too much or not enough)

Adolescents with a history of trauma may experience substance use disorder, mental health issues and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Behaviour problems in school or home life increased feelings of depression or anxiety, and increased aggression or hostility are all signs of childhood trauma in children. Children who have been abused may exhibit anger and aggression towards others to cope with their pain. They may also develop unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking alcohol at a young age to deal with their emotions.

Paying attention to the signs to help them get treatment is vital.

While childhood trauma can be challenging to spot, it’s important to pay attention to the signs so you can help them get treatment. Not only will this help your child recover from the trauma they’ve experienced, but it may also help prevent further mental health issues later in life.

If your child or teen has experienced trauma and shows one or more of these signs:

  • They avoid talking about their past (or even certain aspects of their present) by changing the subject when asked about it.
  • They have trouble concentrating on schoolwork or other activities.
  • They have frequent mood swings that are difficult for others around them to understand


Trauma can profoundly impact a child’s development, and it can take time for them to heal. They may experience difficulties in school, relationships and other areas of life. Children with a history of trauma can lead happier and healthier lives with the therapy and support of their loved ones. Responsible caregivers and parents can start by paying attention to the signs of childhood trauma and getting treatment as soon as possible.

As a parent, you can help your child heal from trauma by providing a safe and stable environment and emotional support, seeking professional help and being patient and understanding.

If you suspect your child has been exposed to trauma, they must receive help from a qualified therapist as soon as possible so they can begin healing from the negative effects of this experience.

Take that first step, and our team at NOVA Psychology promises to be there for you! 

If you’re looking for help in managing anxiety, stress, or issues related to your personal or professional life, working with a psychologist may be helpful for you. At NOVA Psychology, we offer counselling services in Edmonton. We specialize in individual counselling for grief & loss, stress and burnout, complex/developmental trauma, parenting issues, self-esteem and body image-related issues. We also provide counselling on LGBTQ+ Issues, gender and sexuality/gender identity, life transitions and personal growth & development-related issues. Contact us to learn more about our services or to book an appointment.