7 Ways Childhood Trauma Can Affect You as an Adult
Did you know that the trauma you experienced as a child can actually continue to affect you in your adulthood? It’s tempting to think that things that happened long ago can no longer affect us. If only it was that simple! In truth, sometimes it’s the things that happened in childhood that affect us the most. Children have experienced trauma all over the U.S., and all over the world. Depending on where you grew up, trauma might have been more common than the lack thereof. No matter what, you’re not alone if you have trauma that’s still affecting you to this day. Wondering if childhood trauma is affecting you now? Let’s take a look at some of the major ways types of trauma from your early life might still affect you now.
1. Feelings of Powerlessness
When you were a victim as a child, you might feel the same way as an adult – even without realizing it. If you often feel helpless or powerless in situations, it could be stemming from your early life. As children, we can’t control much of what happens to us. When you experience trauma, the inability to change your circumstances can make it that much more devastating. But as an adult, it’s important to remember that you are in control of much more. It’s easier to change or to leave a bad situation, or to improve your response to get better results. A professional therapist can help you take back control – both in the way you feel and the reality of your situation. You might have been powerless once, but you’re not anymore.
2. Loss of Memories
If you don’t remember much from your childhood, or seem to have large pieces of it missing, that’s a strong sign that you had trauma. You might not actually remember the trauma itself. Your mind often works to protect you by hiding certain memories from itself. You might remember certain moments here and there, but not the context behind them. This can make it difficult to create a narrative about your life that you can understand. When you don’t have a coherent narrative of your life, you might feel like you don’t have a true identity as an adult.
3. A Buried Self
Is the self you present to the world really in line with how you feel? Many people who experienced childhood trauma have a false self that they show to the world. This can stem from trying to present a certain image to the adults in your life when you were younger. Children often take on the responsibility for adults who treat them badly. They think that if they can just be a different person, the adults in their life will treat them better. Of course, it doesn’t really work that way. But once you reach adulthood, the false self often lingers. You might hide your true feelings so you can present the self that you think is most likely to be accepted and loved. The buried self will harm your relationships and ability to connect with others. But above all, it harms you, since you won’t be able to be true to yourself. A therapist can help you reveal your authentic self, and gain the confidence to present that self to the world.
4. Social Anxiety
If you feel withdrawn or anxious in social situations, there can be many different causes. However, trauma from childhood often plays a role in causing social anxiety. The fear and anxiety you felt as a child who was mistreated can carry over into adulthoods. In situations where you should feel at ease, you might feel fear that doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s because it’s linked to things that happened long ago. Isolation can help you feel safe from the judgment of others. However, social anxiety can seriously damage your quality of life. No matter what the cause is, you should see a therapist to address these issues.
5. Incomplete Sense of Self
Does it ever feel like a part of you is missing? When children experience trauma, they often dissociate from important parts of themselves in order to cope. They’ll use a persona that’s a simplified version of their true self, cutting out anything that doesn’t fit. As you grow into adulthood, you might feel those missing parts of yourself strongly. The persona you created to cope in childhood no longer is necessary, but it can seem impossible to get your true self back. It’s not impossible! A therapist can help you become reunited with your complete self.
6. Passive Responses
In children who experienced neglect and abandonment, passivity may become the default response in adulthood. When you’re passive, though, you’re not allowing yourself to feel the full range of emotions, or respond completely to different situations. Passive responses will hold you back from living up to your complete potential as an adult.
7. Relationship Avoidance
Do you feel like you’re always better off when you’re not in a relationship? You might see other happy couples, but feel like that life just isn’t for you. This kind of relationship avoidance often stems from childhood trauma. Self-isolation can be a response to the toxic relationships you experienced as a child. To protect yourself, it seems safer to avoid attachment to anyone at all. (The flip side of this is when you seek out destructive relationships because they’re what you’re familiar with.) You don’t have to stay alone forever, though. Healthy adult relationships help you grow as a person and add a new texture to your life. Counseling can help childhood trauma, the problems caused by childhood trauma feel so integral to your life that you might not even realize they’re not normal. But if you address these issues with a professional therapist, you can open yourself up to a life in which you can feel more confident, complete, and fearless.