Signs of Child Traumatic Stress

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From SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

It’s important to recognize the signs of traumatic stress and its short- and long-term impact.

The signs of traumatic stress are different in each child. Young children react differently than older children.

Preschool Children

Fearing separation from parents or caregivers

Crying and/or screaming a lot

Eating poorly and losing weight

Having nightmares

Elementary School Children

Becoming anxious or fearful

Feeling guilt or shame

Having a hard time concentrating

Having difficulty sleeping

Middle and High School Children

Feeling depressed or alone

Developing eating disorders and self-harming behaviors

Beginning to abuse alcohol or drugs

Becoming sexually active

For some children, these reactions can interfere with daily life and their ability to function and interact with others.

Impact of Child Traumatic Stress

The impact of child traumatic stress can last well beyond childhood. In fact, research shows that child trauma survivors are more likely to have:

Learning problems, including lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions

Increased use of health services, including mental health services

Increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems

Long term health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease

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