Symptoms in children and young people and identifying the symptoms
Criminal experiences that children and young people are facing can be hurtful and have a long-lasting impact on their lives. The symptoms can be versatile and hard to identify. Symptoms of a crime can be mistaken for normal age-related changes in the development stages. Sudden and significant changes in children or young people should always be noted. Some people do not show any symptoms at all and others show symptoms after a long time.
“Sudden and significant changes in children or young people should always be noted”
Falling victim to a crime is often a traumatic situation that can cause both psychological and physical reactions.
It is normal to react to abnormal situations. A crime experience can give rise to:
- Feelings of guilt, shame, fear and insecurity
- Vigilance, intimidation or anxiety
- Need to isolation, avoid other people
- Concentration difficulties
- Difficulty remembering details about the experience
- Irritation, anger or hostility
- Despair, restlessness and severe sadness
- Numbness or apathy
- Decreased interest in things that usually are interesting
- Feeling of unreality and detachment
- Repeated anxious memories, observations and thoughts about the experience
- Sleep problems, nightmares, feeling of reliving the experience
- Physiological reactions such as headache, stomach problems, loss of appetite
- Difficulty thinking of the future
- Avoiding thoughts, feelings, discussions, places, actions around the experience
- Depression and self-destructive thoughts
Criminal experiences can even lead to long-term psychological trauma. A traumatic experience may cause unusually strong reactions. Psychologically traumatized children or young people often do not understand their own reactions. It is important to get information about what the victim is going through in psychological trauma. Children or young people should get the opportunity to discuss, receive information about their reactions and confidence in coping. It is good to get, for example, trauma therapy for long-term trauma.
“Children or young people should get the opportunity to discuss, receive information about their reactions and confidence in coping”
Children and young people can actively strive to protect themselves from the agonizing memories by suffocating the emotions. You should always ask children and young people with symptoms about their criminal experiences. If you are worried about a child or a young person you should tell him/her about your concerns according to their age level and development. Do not hesitate to ask if something bad has happened and if he/she wants to tell you something.
The emotional reaction can be so strong that the victim does not even want to think about the experience. Rejecting and denying the experience are normal survival methods that the mind uses to maintain its functional ability.
“You should always ask children and young people with symptoms about their criminal experiences”
It might take a long time to process a criminal experience. It is important that the child or the young person get to tell their experience to a trusted adult. Close relationships and a possibility to get support can help the child and the young person to cope with the criminal experience.