What you need to know:
- If you had a troublesome childhood or experienced an event that could have traumatised you, it is advisable to get help from a professional as soon as possible.
- A therapist can guide you to not only address the trauma but also to avoid spilling it to those around you.
Your behaviour, habits, and mannerisms in adulthood can be affected by what you went through as a kid. Oftentimes, the effects of childhood trauma linger but remain unnoticeable to those unfamiliar with the long-term effects of trauma.
What is Childhood Trauma?
Not every challenge you face as a child can be classified as childhood trauma. A normal childhood involves both positive and negative events that help us to grow and develop physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
Childhood trauma entails experiences that leave a seriously adverse psychological impact on a child such as
- Any type of bullying
- Sexual assault and harassment
- Involved in, or witnessing, a serious accident
- Physical abuse
- Serious illness
- Natural catastrophes
- Losing a loved one without support thereafter
Children are generally empathetic and witnessing someone else go through such experiences can also traumatise a child.
How does lingering trauma from such events manifest in adulthood?
Adults who experienced trauma related to attachment such as abandonment, parental abuse, and neglect may:
- Become, or try to be extremely independent based on the fear of becoming dependent on someone that could hurt them again
- Avoid relationships especially if they were abandoned or neglected by the adults in their lives
- Become clingy and always seek validation in their friendships and romantic relationships. The clinginess is a sign that the adult seeks to fill the hole that developed in their childhood
Unhealthy emotional responses
Adults who have not addressed their childhood trauma oftentimes find it hard to process and express their emotions. It may be difficult to pinpoint the exact emotional response that points at the trauma because they differ based on the cause of the trauma and the affected person.
Generally, however, adults with childhood trauma may:
- Find it difficult to express their emotions especially if that was not encouraged or was punished in the setting they grew up in
- Be unresponsive to normal emotional stimuli
- Overreact to situations
- Experience panic attacks
- Have sudden inexplicable outbursts
Mental health illnesses
The prevalence of mental health illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and chronic stress is high in adults who experienced trauma as children.
For example, someone who was physically abused may get depression or anxiety from the memory of the experience.
Other times the connection is not so direct. If a child was emotionally abused and not taught how to cope with stress, stressful situations unrelated to the trauma may trigger depression or anxiety. Since the person himself may not be aware of the connection, it may be difficult to identify the root of the problem and help them. Unless you are trained in the field.
Addictions and unhealthy coping mechanisms
Many theories have been put forward to explain the connection between childhood trauma and substance addiction. One such theory is that the trauma may have affected the brain during the development stage making it prone to addiction at a physiological level.
The other theory is that the affected person may try to cope with the memories of the experience using alcohol, drugs, or medications. Once the brain gets used to the initial dose it demands more and more to successfully suppress the memories.
The third possible explanation is that the person may have been exposed to the addictive substance right in the environment they were traumatised.
Such an adult may also adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-harm, and isolation.
Passing on the trauma
One of the most unfortunate things about trauma is that many of the victims don’t recognise or accept that they are living with childhood trauma.
They may end up putting children in their lives through the same kind of trauma. To them, the circumstances made them stronger, smarter, and every good adjective they use to describe themselves.
Unfortunately, rather than mold the child in your image, you end up messing with their social, psychological, and emotional development.
The hurt does not stop at children. Friends, spouses, colleagues, and other people in your life also end up being affected.