5 Ways Your Childhood Trauma can Affect Your Adult Life
Yes. You are an adult.
What happened is in the past. It happened when you were a kid.
It was a long time ago.
But it’s still with you, still hurting you, and still getting in your way.
So, no. You shouldn’t “just get over it,” or “put it behind you, move on and forget about it.”
Now you owe it to yourself, the kid you were, and the person you dream of being, to acknowledge the impact of your trauma and to heal well.
Childhood trauma does real damage. It affects how well you trust people to live life alongside you, in ways you may not even recognize. Consider how your childhood trauma may be affecting your life today:
- Emotional after-effects
Childhood trauma affects the way you process emotion. You may have learned that your emotions were “bad,” uncomfortable, or unacceptable. Perhaps you feel that the emotions connected to your traumatic experience are shameful, or somehow perpetuated the experience. There’s a host of ways your emotions can become mixed up and disorganized, amid the manipulations of an abuser, the tragedy of sudden loss, or the shock of disaster.
You may live with a chronic sort of distress, anxiety, pain, grief, or numbness. You may not even know any other way to feel. Being able to regulate your emotions without some sort of external “helper” like sex, smoking, or drinking may seem foreign to you.
- Identity issues
As a child, you may’ve come to identify with certain negative messages. For example, if your trauma involved abuse, you may have come to believe that you were worthless or disposable. It is likely that today that manifests as low confidence, poor self-esteem or perfectionism.
Trusting others. Trusting new environments. Trusting yourself. All of it may be difficult, if you experienced betrayal by those who should have protected you, or survived a shocking disruption to your secure world as a child. Forming and sustaining lasting connections may be very difficult. You may find that you’ve become a personality chameleon, changing your behavior to fit the people you’re with– fearing new people couldn’t possibly like you the way you are. You may be frustrated by an inability to connect with others emotionally or how to function in a relationship.
- Physical problems
Research shows that childhood trauma affects the body as well as the mind. Trauma created an elevated, ongoing stress response in your body. Over time, your unresolved childhood emotions triggered physical responses, like insomnia and impaired immune function, which put you at increasing risk for illness. Chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and more may be the current physical fallout of trauma.
- Co-morbid consequences
Addictions, psychological disorders, and emotional problems may arise and coexist as a result of childhood trauma too. This is called comorbidity or dual diagnosis. In the years since your experience, your mind and body have found ways to cope. Not all of them healthy or in your best interest. Your thoughts and behaviors may actually be disordered to the point of harmful. Compulsive use of food, alcohol or drugs is not uncommon.
Sometime adult survivors of childhood trauma feel overwhelmed because they deal with one issue, only to find that it’s just one layer of the pain piled on by the traumatic experience.
Work with a professional therapist can be invaluable in helping you peel back the layers to determine what may be worked on separately, and what can be resolved simultaneously, for most effective healing and relief.
Reach out for support soon, to work through early trauma, and learn how to more effectively live beyond the hurts of the past. Call a Crossroads Trauma therapist at 623-680-3486 or visit our trauma counseling page by clicking here.