Blog

Behind the Chaos


Vance Osterhout

By Chad Boehm, LMSW

ADHD, Autism, oppositional defiant disorder, depression and anxiety are some of the most common diagnosable childhood disorders. However, knowing what your child or teen is experiencing may be difficult to decipher as symptoms of these may overlap. Kids, teenagers, parents, guardians and primary care takers are often left with more questions than answers: “What is causing this?” “Will it get better?” “Who can I go to for help?”

At Alliance, our goal is to listen empathetically and to provide a safe environment to build trust and rapport with each of our clients. This is crucial in working with kids or teenagers who have been impacted by a traumatic event(s) in their lives. Trauma can be misunderstood and may result in a misdiagnosis of a mental health condition. For some kids, past traumatic experiences, big and small, may be underlying the behavioral issues their parents, caregivers, and teachers are noticing.

Trauma is an overwhelming event or events that can leave a child or teenager feeling hopeless due to their sense of security being lost. Trust issues, self-blame, guilt, a sense of worthlessness may develop out of trauma. Kids and teenagers may engage in reactive controlling types of behaviors due to a traumatic experience(s). Reactive controlling behaviors may include; physical aggression, property destruction and verbal aggression. A child or teenager may experience “big waves” of emotions such as feelings of hurt, pain and fear associated with the traumatic event(s). They may not have the language or cognitive ability to make sense of the traumatic event(s) that occurred (e.g. “To name it is to tame it.” “To tell the story is to heal”). A child or adolescence perception of themselves and the world around them may become distorted. They may become increasingly “reactive” (sometimes described as being impulsive) due to not feeling safe and being able to trust others. Developmental milestones in younger kids may also be delayed due to a traumatic event(s).

Types of trauma may include sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological maltreatment, witnessing an event(s) within a community, school violence, natural disaster, medical, loss of a loved one or friend, removal from a home or war/political violence.

Trauma symptoms may include; nervousness, jumpiness, increased startle response, rapid shifts in mood, restlessness, difficulty with sleep, loss of appetite, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, intrusive thoughts of the event(s), inability to trust others, negative perceptions or physical (somatic) ailments.

Consequences of trauma may include faulty control methods, over-control, self-blame, avoidance, addictive behavior, self-harm, impaired attachment (in younger kids), warmth by creating friction and interpersonal deficits.

Trauma is complex and can be misunderstood due to some symptoms mimicking those of ADHD, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, depression and anxiety. As a result, kids or teenagers may be misdiagnosed. Parents, primary care takers, kids and teenagers are more times than not left with more
questions than answers. To learn more on the topic of trauma give us a call or email one of our evidenced-based trauma trained therapist. We will welcome the opportunity to hear and learn more about your child or teenagers story.

-The psychological adaptations maltreated children make to survive to stay safe are brilliant, creative and are personally costly.