Brief Facts and Tips
Trauma is a serious problem. Most children and adults may experience at least one stressful or traumatic event during their lifetime and will overcome the traumatic event with support. Some individuals are at greater risk for more serious traumatic reactions. Risk factors can include:
- Proximity to a traumatic event
- Past exposure to trauma
- Substance abuse or mental illness
- Family stress and parents' traumatic experiences
- Loss of a loved one
- Community stressors (poverty, violence, immigration/asylum, homelessness)
- Bullying and cyberbullying victimization
- Aversive experiences related to cultural, racial, and/or gender discrimination
Trauma can have a lasting impact.Trauma can increase the risk for psychological, behavioral, or emotional problems (e.g., depression or posttraumatic stress disorder), substance abuse, low occupational attainment or academic failure, social maladjustment, and poor medical health outcomes.
Immediate and common reactions to trauma can include: Shock or disbelief, fear, sadness, guilt/shame, grief, confusion, pessimism, avoidance, or anger. In most cases these reactions are temporary and lessen over time.
Be aware of possible warning signs. If any of the following symptoms do not decrease over time, if they severely impact the ability to participate in normal activities, or if significant changes are noted, a referral to a mental health professional may be necessary.
- Withdrawal or social isolation
- General lack of energy or interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Difficulty concentrating and/or poor attention span
- Regulating emotions and behaviors (e.g., crying easily, restlessness, easily startled or quick to anger, agitation, irritability, impatience, aggressiveness)
- Decline in school/work performance, school/work avoidance
- Physical complaints with no apparent cause (e.g., stomachaches, headaches)
- Maladaptive coping (e.g., drug or alcohol use, severe aggression)
- Repeated nightmares and reporting strong fears of death or violence
- Play or talk that is repetitive and re-enacts the traumatic event
- Sleeping (e.g., difficulty falling or staying asleep) and eating disturbances (e.g., eating more or losing appetite)
- Regression in behavior (e.g., thumb sucking, clinginess, fear of dark, assuming fetal position, bedwetting)
- Changes in self-care (e.g., disheveled, poor hygiene)
- Engaging in risky behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, sexually acting out, dangerous situations)
Watch for signs of strong emotional reactions that warrant immediate attention.
- Disoriented to the individual's surroundings and bizarre behaviors
- Hitting and slamming objects, pets, or people
- Desire to do harm to self, including self-injurious behaviors (e.g., cutting on body)
- A sense of losing control over your life, including thoughts of suicide
- Social media posts expressing intolerance and/or anger
- Desire or expression to hurt others, specifically homicidal thoughts
There is help available. If you or your family members are experiencing a crisis, reach out to the following:
- General Help: Mental Health Line Call 211 (Live Assistance)
- Suicide and Crisis: Call 988 (Live Assistance)
- Urgent Situations: Call 911(Emergency Response)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1 (800) 273-8255 (text HELLO to 741741)
- SAMHSA Helpline: Call 1(800) 662-4357- English and Spanish
- Emotional and Psychological Trauma HelpGuide
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study
- National Center for PTSD
© 2023, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 657-0270, Fax (301) 657-0275; www.nasponline.org
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