Trauma is a tricky animal, and it rears its ugly head in many different ways. More often than not, individuals who’ve dealt with trauma in their past, commonly get misdiagnosed with other mental health disorders or illnesses. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) about 8 million Americans are effected with trauma, and go on to develop PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder).
Children are often more commonly diagnosed with such disorders as: ADHD, oppositional Defiant disorder, or adjustment disorders. Common “broad category symptoms,” according to NAMI can include: re-experiencing type symptoms (intrusive thoughts, distressing memories, bad dreams or flashbacks), avoidance (staying away from people places or things that may remind someone of the traumatic incident), cognitive and mood symptoms (negative self talk, negative thoughts, feelings of numbness or guilt, anxiousness, or depressive symptoms), and arousal symptoms (extremely startled by something that represents trauma – can lead to anger or outbursts).
So you can start to see how some of the common threads between diagnoses often lead to a mis-diagnosis (often in order to appease the masses). Things like “not paying attention in class” could really mean that children are having intrusive thoughts about traumatic event (or big life stressors at home), or acts of defiance could be the result of something triggering the child or adult and reminding them of said traumatic event as well. “Clinical Depression” can also look a lot like not having dealt with the root issue at work in your life.
It can be really easy to place blame, or label, or diagnosis on someone simply because of a few “bad behaviors” or “depressive moods” rather than looking deeper into what may be causing all the heartache to begin with.
I pray that us as clinicians, or you as individuals, may be able to look at others through a lens of grace and compassion when we see that Trauma can take shape in many different forms throughout an individuals life. Let’s not chalk up our children’s “bad behavior” to “bad behavior” or “opposition” simply because they cannot verbalize the trauma they’ve experienced. Let us instead extend generosity of the spirit, kindness in our speech, and slowness in the way we handle people to better embrace one another and to aid in speeding up the healing process.
Would love to know any questions, thoughts, or concerns you may have on this topic (it’s a pretty broad one, and short blogs are not going to give all the details a 50 page thesis might, BUT I want to get the conversation going) – I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, below are some helpful resources you can feel free to get in order to help understand more deeply trauma, and ways to begin to overcome this trauma: