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What is childhood trauma?

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Testimonials

“I have attended one of your workshops for Health Professionals and found it to be one of the most enlightening and useful trainings I have attended. In particular, I really got an understanding of how to best deal with people in crisis related to past trauma.”

FRANCENE

“The workshop was outstanding - could be used for all practitioners no matter what their discipline. I would hope that you would promote it among psychologists - particularly because the focus was on "abuse" without putting the various types of abuse into boxes.”

ANNE O'BRIEN

“I recommend Blue Knot Foundation's trauma training to every professional, worker of all setting, survivor, and carer. The better trained the earlier the diagnosis and a better chance for survivor recovery.”

PASCALE STENDELL IT Matters

“I would highly recommend Blue Knot Foundation training. The information and research is impressive and relevant; the facilitator knew her stuff, was engaging and provided relevant examples.”

ANONYMOUS

Did I experience childhood trauma? Was I abused as a child?

Some survivors have always remembered their trauma. They know how it affected them. They are troubled by memories. They live with the pain, confusion and loneliness they experienced as a child. They may also be plagued by nightmares and flashbacks (sudden memory from past being re-experienced). Others live with panic attacks, strange body sensations and fears, aches and pains they can’t explain. Their body remembers what happened to them. Many also relive the emotions and feelings associated with their trauma, often continually. Despite this many survivors don't connect these symptoms to their childhood trauma and abuse.

Other survivors don’t recall their abuse or trauma at all. Some only remember some of their experiences. Others may not consider or acknowledge that their experiences were traumatic or abusive. Some deny it or minimise it - 'it only happened once' or 'it wasn't so bad'.

Childhood trauma can seriously affect many areas of a person’s life. This includes their quality of life. This can happen even when the person cannot remember what happened to them. It can make basic day-to-day activities, such as eating, sleeping, working and study difficult. It can affect mental health, physical health, and relationships. The following are some ways childhood trauma can affect people. 

  •  Effects on feelings 

Survivors often struggle to be in touch with their feelings. They are often confused by emotions and reactions they can’t explain. As a child they may have tried to express their distress or discomfort but were punished, dismissed or ignored. As a result many survivors turn their negative emotions e.g. shame and anger, inwards on themselves. As adults, survivors often still experience intense emotions at different times. These include anxiety, grief, sadness, shame, self-blame, guilt, alienation, hopelessness, helplessness and powerlessness.

Many survivors are so used to being in pain and feeling distressed. They may think that it will never get better. Many use alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling to find relief. Some survivors harm themselves. All of these 'coping strategies' make sense if you experienced child abuse and trauma.

Learning more about emotions – what they are, where they come from, and how to respond to them – can help. Over time, survivors can learn new, effective ways of regulating their strong feelings. When they do, they don’t need alcohol or drugs or to cut themselves to express or numb their emotions. 

  • Effects on relationships 

Survivors often find it difficult to trust others. As children they were often betrayed by the adults who were meant to nurture and protect them. Survivors often find relationships difficult. This includes the relationship with themselves. 

Being abused or neglected ‘tells’ children: 'You are worthless' and 'You have no value'. Children take these messages to heart. Many survivors have low self-esteem and poor self-confidence. They blame themselves, and feel bad. Many also feel a strong sense of shame. This can change, with good support and healthy relationships. Change is often gradual. It occurs over time, but it is real. 

  •  Effects on physical health 

Childhood trauma and child abuse affect the body and the mind. Growing up in danger and threat sets off the biological fight-flight-freeze response, time and again.  This causes this stress response to stay turned on. This in turn heightens emotions. It can make it difficult to sleep. It also affects the way the immune system works. Over time, this makes survivors more likely to develop physical illnesses. These include chronic pain and fibromylgia, gynaecological problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, headaches, cardiovascular disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Survivors are also more likely to smoke and drink more, and be less physically active. These coping strategies can become risk factors that can affect health and wellbeing in later life.

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Testimonials

“Blue Knot Foundation has a key role to play in the building of community capacity in care provision to those who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma in any environment.”

NIALL MULLIGAN Manager, Lifeline Northern Rivers

“I think Blue Knot Foundation is a fantastic support organisation for people who have experienced childhood trauma/abuse, for their families/close friends and for professionals who would like to learn how to more effectively work with these people.”

Psychologist Melbourne

“It's such a beautiful thing that you are doing. Helping people to get through this.”

ANONYMOUS

“It was only last September when I discovered the Blue Knot Foundation website and I will never forget the feeling of support and empathy that I received when I finally made the first phone call to Blue Knot Helpline, which was also the first time I had ever spoken about my abuse.”

STEVEN

"At last there is some sound education and empathetic support for individuals and partners impacted by such gross boundary violations.”

TAMARA

Contact Us

Phone: 02 8920 3611
Email: admin@blueknot.org.au
PO Box 597 Milsons Point NSW 1565
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST

Blue Knot Helpline
Phone: 1300 657 380
Email: helpline@blueknot.org.au 
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9am-5pm AEST

For media comment, please contact:
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM
0425 812 197 or ckezelman@blueknot.org.au

For media enquiries, please contact: 
Jo Scard
0457 725 953 or jo@fiftyacres.com