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Childhood Trauma - 10 Ways it Might Be Impacting Your Life Today

Updated: Jun 14

Written By: Heather Gibson, LMFT


Childhood trauma can cast a long shadow, significantly influencing a person’s emotional, psychological, and even physical well-being well into adulthood. Many adults may not fully recognize how deeply their past experiences shape their current behaviors, relationships, and mental health. This blog delves into the lasting impact of childhood trauma, exploring the various ways it can manifest in adult life—from chronic anxiety and depression to difficulty regulating emotions and conflict avoidance. At Positive Change Counseling Center, we help our clients understand the roots of these issues so they can take the step towards healing and reclaiming control over one's life. Click here to learn more.


What is Childhood Trauma?

Before we can get into understanding the symptoms of childhood trauma in adults or how to heal from childhood trauma, we first need to fully understand what it is. Childhood trauma refers to a range of adverse experiences and events that occur during a person's formative years, typically before the age of 18. These experiences can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, loss of a loved one, severe illness, or exposure to community violence and other life-threatening events. Childhood trauma can also result from less obvious sources, such as emotional neglect, chronic instability, or witnessing a parent's mental illness or substance abuse. These traumatic experiences can have profound and lasting effects on a child's development, influencing their emotional regulation, cognitive development, and ability to form healthy relationships. Without proper support and intervention, the impact of childhood trauma can extend well into adulthood, affecting overall mental health and quality of life.


Does Everyone Have Childhood Trauma?

With so many different examples of how someone could potentially develop childhood trauma, you might ask, ”Does everyone have childhood trauma?” Studies have shown that childhood trauma affects nearly half of American children and that approximately 61% of adults have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience

Risk and Protective Factors:

Many factors impact how someone will respond to childhood trauma. Based on a combination of risk and protective factors (things about a person and their environment that make them more or less likely to have a negative response to trauma), one person may not be as negatively impacted by a traumatic situation as someone else. An important protective factor is the presence of social support following the traumatic experience (Study).


Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults:


1. Difficult to Control Anger – Having issues with emotional regulation can be a common symptom of childhood trauma. People who have experienced childhood trauma may feel things strongly and not know how best to manage or express their feelings. When feelings are not expressed appropriately, they can build up over time and feel out of control.


2. Anxiety – Anxiety, such as worry, fear, tension, and panic, may increase with childhood trauma, related to having experienced abusive treatment as well as having had emotionally immature parents (see book, “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” by Lindsay Gibson). Childhood trauma can teach a person that the world is a scary place and the people in it can be frightening. People who have experienced childhood trauma can also have difficulty feeling like they can manage their lives, and may question that they have the skills to cope with the difficulties they face, which can exacerbate anxiety.


3. Depression and Dissociation – For people who have experienced childhood trauma, the body and brain sometimes respond by shutting down, becoming dulled. This can manifest as depression, for example feeling down, unmotivated, low energy, and/or bad about oneself. It can also manifest as dissociation, which some people experience as feeling disconnected from oneself or out of body. In the more extreme forms, people with dissociation can lose time or even have multiple identities.


4. Physical Health Issues – Childhood trauma not only impacts a person’s mental or emotional health, but also influences one’s physical health. Studies show that children who were subjected to abuse were more at risk for serious health issues (e.g., diabetes, asthma, stroke, gastrointestinal issues, etc). The stress of trauma in childhood and chronic stress over time take a toll on one’s body, leading to health issues later in life.

  

5. Problems with Trust – Depending on what someone may have gone through in their childhood, a common symptom of childhood trauma is not trusting people, as well as sometimes trusting too easily. A person may have learned from traumatic childhood experiences that people in trusted positions do not act in trustworthy ways, and it may be hard to believe that people can be trusted. People who have experienced childhood trauma may also crave external validation and let people in too easily or move too fast in new relationships.


6. Avoidance – When something traumatic happens, a common response is to avoid anything related to the experience, including places, people, even thoughts. It can also be hard to talk about traumatic experiences that happened in the past. Talking about traumatic experiences, in a safe and caring environment, can lead to healing from the pain of what occurred.


7. Self-Harm/Self Destructive Behavior –  Studies have shown that suicide attempts are considerably higher among adults who have experienced childhood trauma. Non-suicidal self-injury (self-harm) is also more common in people who have experienced childhood trauma. Sometimes life can feel like it’s too much and if you ever feel this way, please be sure to seek help (e.g., National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline; Self-harm text line: Text CONNECT to 741741). You are loved and you are wanted. 


8. Low Confidence – Low confidence is a very common symptom of childhood trauma. This could stem from having been put down, or maybe your parents did not build you up. It could also relate to believing from the way you were treated that you are not enough or are not worthy or not loveable.

 

9. Over Apologizing – Being overly apologetic may not seem like a childhood trauma response but many people learn to apologize to avoid people getting angry with them. Some people with childhood trauma may even believe that something (e.g., someone else’s feelings or responses) is their fault or responsibility; they may try to make it better by apologizing, even when they have not really done anything wrong.


10. Avoid Conflict at All Cost – We’ve all heard of someone - maybe even ourselves - referred to as conflict-avoidant. Many people who experienced childhood trauma try to keep everyone happy, keep the peace, “people please,” in order to stay in others’ good graces, hold onto relationships, not step on anyone’s toes. Ironically, some of these same people who avoid conflict also experience the difficult-to-control anger referenced above. Anger can be like a pressure cooker - without releasing steam (anger) in small amounts, it builds up and explodes. We’ve talked about all these different symptoms and what childhood trauma may look like, but … how does someone heal from childhood trauma?


Childhood Trauma Therapy

While there are a number of different things someone can do to heal from childhood trauma, a proven method for success is participating in trauma therapy. Childhood trauma therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy designed to help individuals address and heal from traumatic experiences that occurred during their formative years. This type of therapy aims to create a safe and supportive environment where clients can explore their past traumas, understand how these experiences have impacted their mental and emotional well-being, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. The goal of trauma therapy is to help individuals process and integrate their traumatic memories, reduce symptoms of trauma, improve emotional regulation, and enhance their overall quality of life by fostering resilience and promoting healing.


How to Heal from Childhood Trauma – Positive Change Counseling Center

Positive Change Counseling Center values our commitment to providing compassionate, individualized care tailored to each client's unique needs. The therapists at Positive Change Counseling Center are highly trained and experienced in dealing with childhood trauma. We prioritize creating a safe and nurturing environment where clients can feel understood and supported as they work through their traumatic experiences. If you’re ready to heal from childhood trauma please click here to get started, today.





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