HERMITAGE, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – When you hear the word trauma, it can mean different things when it comes to the mind and body.

“Trauma is a term that we use to describe something external causing a person to have an injury,” said Scott Baker of Baker Professional Counseling. “In mental health, we’re talking about something external that causes an internal would or injury.”

Baker says technically a traumatic event is exposure to death, injury, or sexual violence that could happen to you, or someone close to you or it could be something you hear about.

“I think we need to expand our understanding of what a traumatic event is to recognize that it is any event that creates a traumatic response,” said Baker. “It’s an experience that causes someone to have injury to their brain or central nervous system that leads to distorted thinking and to see the world in a very different way.”

Baker says when someone has a traumatic response, they feel unsafe and often question what they know about the world. The four symptoms of trauma include re-experiencing the traumatic event whether it be through a nightmare or flashback, avoidance in which one avoids things that could cause them to feel like they are back in the traumatic event, arousal like constantly being anxious with a fight-or-flight response and negative thoughts or feelings like shame, guilt, sadness or fear.

“Trauma can affect anyone. There are two groups we really worry about: People who have had a traumatic response in the past. If you’ve had one in the past you’re predisposed to having one in the future,” said Baker. “The second group is children. There’s something called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey that helped us to understand that children who are exposed to certain things in childhood may be later predisposed to have a traumatic response.”

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey, or ACEs, is a large survey that’s been studied multiple times. Within the survey, the three adverse childhood experiences were physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction like divorce or interpersonal violence. Baker says 70% of children experience at least one of the ACEs.

“When trauma goes untreated, it grows,” said Baker. “It starts with little symptoms like difficulty with peer relations, home or school. It then grows into patterns of behavior related to the difficulty with peers, school or home. If the trauma remains untreated, it becomes engrained patterns of behavior and can become a serious mental illness or criminal behavior.”

Warning signs in children can vary by age. Baker says someone’s ACE can also be related to their death. He says the most important thing if you or a child is experiencing trauma symptoms is to find help from a professional. He also says there are things you can do right away that are safe and you can do by yourself or with a child such as relaxation skills and recognizing that you do indeed feel bad.

If you or somebody needs help and you don’t know where to go, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 9-8-8. You can also text “4hope” to 741 741 which is the Mental Health Chat Line.

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