PTSD – part 1 – Childhood PTSD – avoidance, shutdowns

There has been very little information available about the childhood presentation of PTSD, where a child under the age of 6 years old has experienced trauma such as sexual abuse. Not many professionals know much about it and diagnosis was missed until my 40s (with suffering for many years).

I am an adult that has mainly the childhood presentation of avoidance and shutdowns. I avoid my own emotions, avoid angering others (anger is a trigger), avoid people, avoid places etc.

For me, shutdowns are a combination of the freeze response combined with dissociation. I am unable to speak and I become immobilised and very still and my mind starts of panicking but then dissociates. In a full dissociation, it feels like going under general anaesthetic or being knocked out with sedatives. Then coming out of it which can take several minutes or even hours is like coming out of anaesthetic. It is very exhausting and I am very vulnerable during these states. Freezing and shutting down is a survival instinct (the predator may go away) and facing death, it is like being under general anaesthetic without being able to hear anything or feel anything, including pain. The problem is that shutting down can become maladaptive as the trauma is not processed but stays stuck and ‘frozen’ in the nervous system. I experience partial and full shutdowns as a reaction to trauma triggers. Partial shutdowns feel for me like being sedated and I have extreme difficulty getting any words out and I can’t take in what someone is saying.

Some people on the autistic spectrum experience shutdowns instead of or as well as meltdowns. There is overlap with PTSD and autism.

Source: Youtube