The ways in which trauma and PTSD may present themselves is dependent on the individual, their life history and personal experiences. Symptoms of trauma are exhibited on a spectrum ranging from subtle to disabling. Some people want to process their traumas while others may choose not to. This post is a very simplified description of the way trauma may look and feel. There are links included to reputable scientific resources for more reading material.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. This post is written to bring awareness to the role trauma has in the lives of the children and families we serve. And, since trauma is so prevalent, it's safe to assume you interact with someone who is experiencing their own trauma.

Part of being trauma-informed is to learn about how trauma affects people. Including how you can respond with care and compassion rather than react in a harmful, re-traumatizing manner to what could be a manifestation of a person's trauma.

Some of the symptoms of trauma in children (and adults) closely mimic depression, including too much or too little sleep, loss of appetite or overeating, unexplained irritability and anger, and problems focusing on projects, school work, and conversation. Sometimes the symptoms appear more like an anxiety disorder—obsessive or pervasive worry, difficulty separating from parents.(1)

Foreshortened future: Trauma can affect one’s beliefs about the future via loss of hope, limited expectations about life, fear that life will end abruptly or early, or anticipation that normal life events won’t occur (e.g., access to education, ability to have a significant and committed relationship, good opportunities for work). (2)


Replaying the memory

Nightmares or flashbacks

Hyperactive Nervous System

Feeling on-guard

Easily startled

Difficulty sleeping


Avoiding anything related to the event

Trying not to think about the event

Emotional Reactions

Fear and anxiety




Feeling numb

Changed World Views

Difficulty trusting people

Believing the world is extremely dangerous

Blaming oneself

Self criticism for reaction to trauma


Children may feel terror, helplessness, or fear, as well as physiological reactions such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control. Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lacked protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses. (4)

Epigenetics Risks of Toxic Stress:

What we experience in life changes our Epigenetics- the expression of our genes. These new expressions of genes are transmissable from parent to offspring. Not only does this affect the individual, the way our bodies respond to stress can be passed from one generation to the next through our genes. (5)


Check out these links for more information:

Click Here to Read More About The Impacts of Trauma

Click Here to Read More About ACES

Click Here to Read More About how Trauma Changes the Brain

Diagnostic Criteria for PTSD

About Child Trauma

ACES 101

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