It’s no secret that childhood trauma can have lasting effects into adulthood. Breaking free from the debilitating cycle is one thing – but it takes becoming aware of trauma’s lingering effects, which aren’t always easy to see.
Understanding Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma is a term that relates to trauma experienced in a child’s developmental years and often results from the actions (and sometimes inactions) of a caregiver.
However, just as trauma experienced at any age isn’t always the result of a specific event with an identifiable cause and effect, childhood trauma can take many forms and impact everyone differently.
From natural events like earthquakes or floods to bullying from other kids or witnessing domestic violence, not all childhood trauma results from neglect or abuse. While these are two common examples, childhood trauma can be anything that sticks with a child into adulthood and impacts their quality of life and relationships.
What are Some Possible Signs of Childhood Trauma?
Childhood trauma can have a lasting effect on several aspects of a person’s health and well-being. It can increase the risk of developing problems like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a mental health issue that stems from unresolved trauma.
You’ve Developed Unhealthy Attachment Styles and Struggle in Relationships
Attachment, or the emotional bond between a child and their caregiver (or attachment figure), is primarily formed in early childhood. Attachment styles, which help define and explain our sense of security and behaviors in future adult relationships, can be impacted by events and experiences.
Trauma is one such experience that can prevent someone from developing a healthy and secure attachment style in future relationships.
For example, childhood trauma in the form of caregiver abuse or violence can lead a child to learn that the person that cares for or loves them as an adult is also someone to be feared. After all, this person witnessed and experienced the betrayal of safety between them and their attachment figure at a young age.
Childhood trauma can interfere with everything from a person’s ability to share their feelings openly to forming relationships. Because trauma changes how our brains process information and stress, early life trauma can make it difficult to trust other people.
Your Physical Health is at Risk
Experiencing traumatic events can rewire our brains to respond in a way that helps us survive. This includes releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which help us fight or flee from a threat.
But sometimes, these stress hormones can get stuck in “overdrive,” which can lead to long-term effects on our physical health and well-being. For example, trauma can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
You Struggle to Cope with Your Emotions
Unaddressed childhood trauma has a lasting impact on individuals’ ability to regulate their emotions into adulthood.
Those suffering from the lingering effects of trauma may be more likely to experience anxiety, depression, uncontrollable anger, and other mental health problems as adults. An inability to express your emotions or form stable relationships may lead you to withdraw from others, contributing to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
All in all, emotional regulation problems can lead to self-destructive behaviors, risky decision-making, and attempts to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. These behaviors can make emotions even harder to manage, fueling the cycle of trauma and sometimes contributing to other avoidable problems.
Overcoming the Effects of Trauma
Despite experiencing events that may have impaired your emotional regulation, you can learn techniques to handle difficult emotions and regain control. Regardless of how past relationships have affected the quality of your connections, you can develop a healthier attachment style and a fulfilling social life. No matter how the effects of childhood trauma linger around your life, healing is possible.
If you think you may be suffering from the effects of childhood trauma, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapy can help you identify links between current behaviors and past experiences before developing strategies for intervention and change.