Every child deserves comfort, shelter, nourishment and love. Unfortunately, not all children are lucky enough to receive these basic necessities. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System defines neglect as “a type of maltreatment that refers to the failure by the caregiver to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so or offered financial or other means to do so”.
According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children in the U.S. are victims of neglect every year. Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 24.2 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age. About four out of five abusers are the victims’ parents. A parent of the child victim was the neglect offender in 78.1% of substantiated cases of child maltreatment.
Child neglect is a serious problem with equally serious consequences. Specifically, child neglect results in physical, psychological and behavioral consequences.
Physically, malnutrition and other medical issues can result in the brain failing to develop property. Additionally, poor physical health in general can lead to an array of developmental issues later in the child’s life, resulting in having a loss in their own quality of life. Psychologically, problems maintaining healthy relationships, low self-esteem, PTSD, depression, eating disorders, cognitive/learning and social disabilities, as well as other issues are all effects of child neglect. Lastly, behavioral consequences include juvenile delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, and criminal or abusive behavior.
When children are young, they are the most moldable. Without proper care, children are in danger of not developing properly which can completely ruin their future. Severe neglect at the end of the day is a form of trauma. Neglect has the potential to leave a child with a lifetime of suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that can affect them psychologically and emotionally for a long time.
Severe neglect and Trauma
Trauma is defined as an emotional and psychological response to an event or experience that is deeply disturbing or distressing, such as severe neglect. According to the American Psychological Association, the most common symptoms of trauma include:
- Feelings become intense and sometimes unpredictable. Irritability, mood swings, anxiety and depression.
- Flashbacks: repeated and vivid memories of the event that lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating
- Confusion or difficulty making decisions
- Sleeping or eating issues
- Fear that the emotional event will be repeated
- A change in interpersonal relationship skills, such as an increase in conflict or a more withdrawn and avoidant personality
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea and chest pain
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience, such severe neglect. While not everyone who experiences neglect suffers from PTSD, those who do are by no means weak; PTSD is not a sign of weakness.
There are three categories of symptoms associated with PTSD which include:
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma including places, people, thoughts or other activities that can be associated with the event.
- Reliving the event through recurring nightmares or other intrusive images that occur at randomly any time. Typically reliving the event will result in extreme emotional or physical reactions such as chills, heart palpitations or panic when faced with reminders of the event.
- Being on guard or hyper-aroused at times, including feeling sudden anger or irritation, having difficulty sleeping or a lack of concentration and being overly alert and easily startled.
PTSD when left untreated can lead to a variety of serious symptoms, including:
- Loneliness: Because PTSD can potentially make a person very difficult to be around and is often undiagnosed, individuals with the disease may end up isolated and alone.
- Anger management issues: For some people, the moments of recurring stress and anxiety lead to outbursts of anger or rage. This can result in child or spousal abuse or even public violence.
- Severe depression: Serious depression is always a risk with PTSD. Many sufferers may demonstrate suicidal thoughts or actions while in the midst of a PTSD episode.
Generally, survivors of severe neglect are recommended to seek professional guidance if they find themselves unable to gain control of their lives or if they continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms for more than a month.
Early Intervention and Treatment is Important
Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone suffering from severe neglect. Uncharacteristic behavior becomes increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Generally, only five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing an individual from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on anyone suffering from trauma, regardless of the type of trauma experienced. Trauma, at the end of the day, is still trauma.
Regardless of how bad things may be, there is always hope and always someone available to help you through difficult times. Contact ART International to learn more or find a therapist near you.