||National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse
- Feature Article -
|EDITOR'S NOTE: Here are a few recent stories and feature articles from a variety of sources that are related to the kinds of issues we cover on our web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly, bringing you just a few of the featured articles on the web site.
The root of the problem? Childhood trauma.
|| Childhood Trauma and Symptomology
Anastasia Dumont --
Clinical Researcher and NAASCA family member
We were all children once.
How many of us grow up with psycho-somatic, psychological and physical symptoms which somehow sprout one time or another in our lives? A diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, Complex-PTSD, borderline personality disorder, DID, Cluster A, B and C disorders, narcissism, addictions, substance abuse, obsessive disorders, suicidal ideation's and other chronic health conditions often become quantified and diagnosed in the medical and mental health sectors.
The health diagnoses under which physicians and professionals categorize our behavior can anchor us to our syndrome overtime, leading us to identify ourselves with it to a point we become it. A diagnosis can place us on a spiral of shame, failure, confusion, fear and social isolation.
Underneath our identification with a diagnosis, one asks the true reasons why we are feeling the way we are. We focus on the diagnosis and forget to ask ourselves, how much trauma, if any, did we endure during our lifetime? And did this trauma impact how we feel now and how we navigate life?
Many of us haven't even started processing the events, situations, circumstance and people that may have impacted our development from an early age.
I believe that we can get stunned in growth as a result of exposure to traumatic events in our lives. An adult who is 50 years old may feel like a child inside, due to traumatic events in their past. The same kid who turned unsuccessfully to his parents or caregivers as a young child for comfort and for survival feels like he can no longer thrive.
We are in a hostage situation as children. We have little or no power over our lives while we are in the care of caregivers. The issue is that the feeling of powerlessness we felt in the past will frequently have followed us through the years.
What do we do we all these memories, emotions of the past, life altering events? Often, we tuck them away, we shun them from our conscious mind, or we consciously hide our experiences as secrets. We tell ourselves that's the past, its over now, don't re-emerge. And so, they don't. They sink in, and get pushed under the many layers of the psyche. Later these traumas manifest into symptoms, echoing sickness and suffering.
What happens to the kids who grow up without nurturing primary caregivers? What happens to the youth who run away from foster homes, discover they have no place to sleep, and are forced to return to their abusers? What happens when the social system takes a child out of a dangerous situation and hands them over to a so called ‘safe' caregiver who fails the child? Sometimes a foster parent or a disabilities organization looks after disabled nonverbal autistic kids when their families have given up on their care from an early age.
What happens to the child who lives un-nurtured, behind the white picket fence and the perfect family facade? Are these children safe?
When the world fails to see the torture of mental and physical, at times sexual, abuse they endure at home, it is time to take a stand. We must move towards exposure, because closed doors can mask many secrets. What happen to these kids when they grow up and circumstances force them to turn to the social services .. to mental health and health professionals for aid? Are their stories heard? Is their trauma felt? Or are their symptoms simply translated into a diagnosis without looking at the root of their pain and suffering?
Do we ask them, “What happened to you?” instead of “What's wrong with you?”
For many of us the symptoms of a trauma can be felt generations past, not only days or years after the event(s).
The truth is brain development, which occurs all through childhood and into one's mid to late 20s, is a crucial part of the symptoms we experience day to day. The poor brain development and health of the adult who was traumatized as a child can often explain why one feels anxious, depressed, dissociated or out of touch with reality sometimes.
Insight into the root causes of our symptoms can be seen via imaging scans such as an adult MRI. A sensitive, trauma trained physician can often immediately tell the difference between a person who was nurtured as a child (and therefore has ‘normal' looking brain development) and the image of a person who experienced a traumatized youth.
Instead of masking our pain with a focus on the symptoms, let's begin to question whether there was anything wrong with us in the first place.
Many of us allocate ‘the blame', the fault for our problems onto ourselves. We frequently self-sentence ourselves to a life of shame and feelings of inadequacy. Often adult survivors of child abuse will attest that they feel ‘off' .. different, separate or unique in their life. When a person seeks help in the mental and health care sectors, we must ask them not only how they feeling but rather, and more importantly, why.
What was their childhood's trauma tale, and could speaking it, perhaps sharing it for the first time, in itself begin to relieve some of the stress of holding it all inside?
Life's dirty little secrets, the unspoken truth, end up eating us alive over time if we find no way to release them. This is how chronic illness manifests into something irreversible. Let's stop the cycle of shame. Let's avoid specifically and uniquely honing in on symptoms. Let's start to ask our patients, our clients, our society members – why? What happened? And how did they end up here?
Let's ask about, and listen to, their trauma story, because then I promise you many of the symptoms will make sense.