I am a female in my 40’s. I think and feel things that I don’t really understand. My childhood was crazy and unstable but I can’t believe that has affected me into adulthood. I take medication but it doesn’t seem to help. Do you have any suggestions?
Exposure to early childhood trauma dramatically affects health over a lifetime. It is not something that our brains automatically shuts off when adulthood arrives.The profound experiences that many adult children have experienced would make some people shudder in disbelief.
What makes this exposure and long term symptomatology worse is the misdiagnosing and lack of appropriate treatment. For example: I met Katie’s grandmother, Linda during a high stress time for the family. (I never met Katie, her mother would not allow her to come to therapy). Linda shared that her daughter had issues with drug abuse and often had undesirable people in her home that Katie was exposed to. Katie’s father was in prison after committing an armed robbery. Katie often missed school because her mother did not wake up to take her.
Linda was concerned because one of Katie’s teachers wanted Ritalin prescribed for her due to disruptive behavior and lack of focus. Linda did not want Katie taking drugs. Linda said a meeting was planned to discuss the medication and Linda’s daughter had invited her to attend. I strongly encouraged Linda to share how Katie’s home environment was causing considerable distress for her. It is a difficult situation since Katie’s mother has created a traumatic environment for her child.and their solution may be medication.
If the trauma is never addressed in childhood it travels with us into adulthood. Where else would it go? PTSD symptoms become the normal. Some people don’t even know they have PTSD symptoms. The adult who dissociates when a childhood stressor hits his/her amygdala and recreates the event doesn’t realize they are no longer in danger. It has become a conditioned response.
Children who have experienced early adversity to trauma are at higher risk for heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety and other medical issues. A direct link to chronic and intense levels of stress hormones, i.e., adrenaline and cortisol caused by repeated stress activation.
Adults of all ages will be affected until “appropriate” treatment is received. There is no pill that will make exposure to early childhood trauma “go away.” We can treat symptoms but that does not treat the problem.
People need to stop saying, “children are resilient.” They are not as resilient as you think. And if you are an untreated adult struggling with the aftermath of trauma seek professional help in the form of individual therapy, day treatment programs or group therapy.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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