Trauma In Adults: How Does Childhood Trauma Affect Adulthood?

Updated November 29, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team
For better or worse, every adult lived through their childhood. But some experiences can cause trauma. There are many events that can cause childhood traumas in adults, but it’s generally caused by abuse, neglect, or  mistreatment. Depending on the longevity and the extent of trauma, many people can overcome it, living successful and fulfilling lives. This article will cover common effects of childhood traumas in adults, as well as coping to move forward to a healthy, adult life.

Adults that survived childhood trauma may have trouble regulating their emotions and have difficulty in relationships, as well as have poor memory and low self-esteem. Childhood trauma can also affect an adult’s long term health by manifesting in addiction, mental health disorders, or chronic illness.

Wondering How Childhood Trauma Shows Up In Your Life?

According to Psychology Today, one of the most devastating impacts of childhood trauma on adults is the effect it has on self-image. Trauma from childhood in adults causes people to be more likely to develop a pattern of victimhood thinking. This ideology can be dangerous, as the way people perceive themselves impacts their words, choices, careers, opportunities, and relationships. Individuals who genuinely think the world is out to get them can be impacted by fear and prevented from following their dreams.

“In many cases, counselors and therapists can serve as the greatest allies for adults who have undergone childhood trauma. This is largely because trained mental health professionals are equipped to help people work through and heal these difficult issues.”

Victimhood thinking is not the only way childhood traumas in adults changes adult behavior. People who experienced trauma as children may also become passive and subservient. Childhood trauma can manifest as the inability to self-express or self-defend and the tendency to bottle up emotions in adulthood. While some people view passivity as being agreeable or being a team player, childhood trauma can have devastating impacts. Moreover, subservience often attracts parasitic individuals who exploit and take advantage of others.

How Childhood Trauma Affects Personal Relationships

Like self-image, adult relationships are frequently another casualty of childhood trauma. Psychology Today affirms that childhood trauma can cause people to avoid relationships altogether, or seek not-entirely-healthy relationships in adulthood.
Left unchecked and unresolved, childhood trauma can impact both personal beliefs and personal relationships when you're an adult. Childhood traumas in adults can cause one to genuinely view themselves as undeserving of loving, supportive, and healthy relationships. Moreover, they may view themselves as unworthy of accomplishments, thus leading to a lack of drive and ambition. In other words, child trauma in adults can make survivors can feel alone, unlovable, and directionless in adulthood. However, it doesn’t have to stay like that, therapy or counseling can provide healing techniques from child trauma in adults.

Childhood Trauma Increases Likelihood Of Experiencing Depression

According to reports from Psychological Science, adults who were exposed to childhood trauma are considerably more likely to experience depression. Depression affects the way that individuals view themselves, others, and the world around them. Depression also has the power to engender emotional and even physical problems.

Here are some of the most common symptoms and indicators of depression:

  • Insomnia
  • Drained energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Ongoing sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of appetite
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts/actions

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7, or you can text the word “HOME” to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Reading about the effects of childhood trauma can be quite unnerving as an adult. However, people who have experienced difficulties as children should not become discouraged or lose hope. No matter what happened in the past, the sun always rises again. There is always room for healing, growth, and recovery. Individuals who went through tough times as children can have positive self-images and healthy relationships while living happy, successful lives.

Engage In Self-Care

Although self-care may seem somewhat trivial when you’re overcoming childhood trauma as an adult, it matters more than you might think. Jordan Grey Consulting explains that childhood trauma can cause individuals to subconsciously view themselves as unworthy of healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Therefore, they are more likely to neglect their body, eating habits, etc. 

Healthy habits, such as exercise, a good night’s sleep, and healthy eating, can all be exceptional in developing a healthy sense of self and moving on from trauma. Another important form of self-care involves considering the quality of one’s friends, romantic partners, and other relationships. The people around us impact our perceptions, choices, and world views. 

Pursue Hobbies And Extracurricular Interests

One of the most effective ways to overcome negative memories is by practicing gratitude. Pursuing hobbies and extracurricular interests not only allows adults to evolve as individuals, but they also help adults to find a sense of self and something to look forward to. It’s important for survivors of childhood trauma to know that their past experiences do not have to define the rest of their lives. Everyone has the power to control their fate and quality of life.

Alternative Solutions

Stay Focused On Your Future

Your past does not dictate your future. As children, we are often restricted by the rules and limitations set by our parents and other authority figures. Trauma can also make us feel like we are not in charge of our lives or their direction. But as as an adult, you have the freedom to set your own path toward a future built by your own personal goals, morals, and ambition. 

Don’t Try To Rationalize Your Trauma

It’s not uncommon to try and make sense of the trauma inflicted throughout your childhood. However, there is absolutely nothing that can justify child abuse, so don’t strain yourself trying to rationalize it. Instead, focus on healing.

Learn From Your Past

Now that you’re an adult, you’re capable of recognizing toxic and abusive behavior, so you can use your past as a learning experience; you know what not to do with your children. You don’t have to follow in the footsteps of those who raised you. As weird as it may sound, childhood trauma in adults can be to good use by vowing never to inflict the trauma you endured on others.
Wondering How Childhood Trauma Shows Up In Your Life?

Seek Professional Help And Guidance

In many cases, counselors and therapists can serve as the greatest allies for adults navigating childhood trauma. This is largely because trained mental health professionals are equipped to help people work through and heal from these experiences. Moreover, overcoming childhood trauma as an adult will vary depending on the person, and it can be hard, but it will ultimately be worth it.

Here at BetterHelp, our specialists understand that life presents unique challenges to everyone. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, your past does not define you, nor does it have to determine the rest of your life. We can support you in moving past it. Only you can decide to seek professional help. BetterHelp is a convenient option for online therapy should you want support on your healing journey. Below are some counselor reviews, from people experiencing similar issues.

Final Thoughts

Childhood trauma can negatively impact the rest of your life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can heal. As an adult, you now hold the power to change your life. Take the first step.

Counselor Reviews

“Natasha is a very insightful, kind and compassionate counselor. Her gentle, professional approach to guiding you through a problem shows her empathy and understanding. She helped me see some childhood issues that I hadn’t addressed in years.”

“She’s kind, responsive, caring, validating – everything I could ever hope for in a therapist. I came from a very abusive, traumatic childhood that still influences who I am, and Billie is helping me undo that damage. She answers me every day, responds to everything I write to her, and always answers my questions. When I get stuck, she nudges me forward with gentle suggestions that I can use or not… I feel like I’m making so much progress with her.”

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