Know the Signs

Childhood Trauma Can Last a Lifetime

Childhood trauma can cause harmful changes to the brain and nervous system over time. If left untreated, it can become a lifelong issue.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Children

  • Intense and ongoing emotional upset
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Behavior changes
  • Difficulties with impulse control
  • Problems relating to others or forming attachments
  • Loss of previously acquired skills
  • Attention and academic difficulties
  • Nightmares
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches and difficulty sleeping and eating

Common Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Older children, teens, and adults

  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Behaving in risky ways
  • Engaging in unhealthy sexual activity
  • Acting aggressively
  • Doing too much to please other people
  • Hypervigilance—always being on high alert for danger
  • Feelings of shame
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Having difficulty forming and maintaining relationships
  • Dropping out of school
  • Being unable to hold down a job and manage money
  • Developing long-term health problems such as heart disease and diabetes

Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood trauma. This can happen soon after the traumatic event or much later.

Learn how childhood trauma affects the nervous system—and what people can do about it.