The Complex Trauma Spectrum During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Threat for Children and Adolescents’ Physical and Mental Health

Jude Mary Cénat, Rose Darly Dalexis

Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and fear of con- tracting the virus, public health instructions, and measures for con- finement and social and physical distancing may be traumatic events. More importantly, they are also likely to increase the risk of multiple traumatic experiences and complex trauma among children and adolescents.

… Research has shown that complex trauma impacts both physical and mental health of victims … In the short to medium term, these children may experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, dissociation, depersonalization, emotional dysregulation, etc. In the long term, these traumas can cause physical, social and intellectual development problems, violent and risky behaviours (self-harm, unsafe sexual practices, etc.), alcohol and drug use, and altered relationships with others that may put youth at greater risk of experiencing violence in romantic relationships. In terms of physical health, complex trauma is associated with somatization symptoms among youth, with complaints of chronic stomachaches and headaches. In long-term, complex trauma is associated with impacts on the brain and nervous system, a weakened immune system, risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and premature death.

… As COVID-19 is already associated with a range of multiple traumas, acting to reduce the risk of complex trauma among children and adolescents is an important public health issue that needs to be addressed.

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