We live in a world and in a time where bad things happen all around us. Unfortunately, we do not sometimes realise the impact such things have on children and into their adulthood. A lot of people’s reactions and responses are influenced by one experience or another. This can impact on social lives and even on decisions made in business.
Childhood trauma is defined in a lot of different ways but I preferred to use the definition from the National Institute of Mental Health. They define it as: “The experience of an event by a child that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”
Bad things happen in life as children grow up. It can be a natural disaster, accident, community violence, substance abuse within a home and even fights between parents. All of these, and much more can be traumatic to children.
Naturally children will learn to understand, process and even deal with such traumas but some will get stuck especially if the experiences are recurring.
Just to name a few, here are some of the most common childhood traumas:
- Death of a loved one
- Emotional/physical/sexual abuse or neglect
- Stress caused by separation/divorce of parents
- Stress caused by poverty
- Sudden/serious medical condition in them or loved ones
Effects of childhood traumas in adults
If unaddressed, such traumas can impact negatively in the long term and also affect the quality of a child’s life. The effects can affect them into adulthood. The impact can be felt across several areas, such as emotional health, physical health, mental health and personal relationships.
Survivors of childhood abuse can often experience feelings of anxiety, worry, shame, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, grief, sadness and anger.
Surviving abuse or trauma as a child has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and self harm, drug and alcohol misuse and relationship difficulties.
Children who are exposed to abuse and trauma may develop what is called ‘a heightened stress response’. This can impact their ability to regulate their emotions, lead to sleep difficulties, lower immune function, and increase the risk of a number of physical illnesses throughout adulthood.
Effects of unresolved traumas
Just because someone who suffered trauma blocks out (consciously or unconsciously) what has happened, it doesn’t mean that he or she won’t feel the effects from it.
Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., who has treated and researched trauma for over 45 years, says,”The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self destructive behaviours.”
Below are some of the most common signs that someone is suffering from unresolved trauma:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Feeling of shame or worthlessness
- Chronic or ongoing depression
- Avoidance of unpleasant emotions
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Addiction and eating disorders
- Sleeping disorders
- Feelings of detachment
- Hyper vigilance
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Uncontrollable anger; acting on it
- Self-harm, cutting, and mutilation
A lot of times we do not realise how intense some experiences have on the larger part of our lives. Businesses can be affected as well. As such I would like to now dwell on the issues that have something to do with sexual abuse. As we have read, such childhood traumas have a major toll in adulthood. The other sad thing is that some survivors can become perpetrators as well especially if they do not receive adequate help during the time of the tragedy.
Sexual abuse is a broad term which covers ordeals such as:
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Coercion
- Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
- Intimate Partner Violence
- Sexual Harassment
I would like to particularly dwell on sexual harassment as we are going to be focusing on some of the effects these unresolved traumas have in the market place. So, just to have an idea, below are some of the forms of sexual harassment although not limited to only this.
Some forms of sexual harassment include:
- Making conditions of employment dependent on sexual favours
- Physical acts of sexual assault
- Requests for sexual favours
- Verbal harassment of a sexual nature
- Unwanted touching or physical contact
- Unwelcome sexual advances
As we wait on the next article, here are some questions to ponder upon:
What influences sexual harassment?
Who is likely to be sexually harassed?
How does one know it is sexual harassment?
Where can one seek help?
How often do such cases occur?