How Does Childhood Trauma Affect Adulthood?
Updated October 14, 2019
Reviewer Avia James
For better or for worse, every living adult has lived through their childhood. More often than not, the quality of one's childhood impacts their adult life, relationships, mental health, and how they see the world. Each parent is tasked with the responsibility of doing right for their children, providing them with opportunities, and otherwise setting their offspring up for success. While good parenting, stable environments, and positive exposure can greatly impact a person's adult life, bad parenting, dangerous environments, and negative exposure can adversely impact one's adulthood.
Childhood trauma exists in a variety of forms; generally, it is regarded as physical/sexual abuse, neglect, or other forms of mistreatment. Trauma can be inflicted by parents, siblings, or individuals in positions of power and authority, and can leave physiological, psychological, and emotional scars long after the abuse has subsided. Depending on the longevity and extent of the trauma, some people can overcome it and live successful and fulfilling lives while others don't. According to Wikipedia, individuals who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more susceptible to unhealthy lifestyle, chronic health ailments, re-victimization, violence, and a lower quality of life.
Childhood Trauma Affects Self-Image
According to Psychology Today, one of the most devastating impacts of childhood trauma is on self-image. Adults who experienced significant trauma as children are more likely to develop victimhood thinking. As the name suggests, this state of mind is the belief that one is a victim. Adopting this ideology is incredibly dangerous. The manner in which people perceive themselves impacts their words, choices, careers, opportunities, and relationships. Individuals who genuinely think the world is out to get them will inevitably attract situations and people who support these beliefs, regardless of how incorrect they may be.
Victimhood thinking is not the only malevolent aftereffect of childhood trauma. People who were mistreated as children may also become passive and subservient. This usually manifests itself in different forms, including failing to self-express and self-defend and bottling up of emotions. While some people may view passivity as agreeability with others and being a team player, burying feelings beneath the surface and not speaking up can have devastating impacts. Moreover, subservience often results in attracting parasitic individuals who exploit and take advantage of others.
While passivity and subservience are dangerous for everyone, these traits are particularly hazardous for women. Women who are still struggling with unresolved childhood trauma and adopt the behaviors above are likelier to attract abusive partners or spouses. Abusive relationships, domestic violence, and significant toxic others are nothing to mess around with. People have died as a result of being unable to avoid or escape these dangers.
Childhood Trauma Affects Personal Relationships
Similarly to self-image, personal relationships in adulthood are another frequent casualty of childhood trauma. Additional information from Psychology Today affirms that attracting toxic relationships or even avoiding relationships altogether often happens to people who experienced considerable trauma during their childhoods.
For better or worse, the individuals in one's life reflect who they are, on one level or another. This is why people with high self-esteem, confidence, and a positive self-image tend to attract beneficial relationships and opportunities. Likewise, someone who lacks the traits above generally attracts negative and parasitic people and circumstances. Friendships and romantic relationships often serve as manifestations of one's inner thoughts about themselves. This is why driven and successful individuals frequently attract supportive partners. It's also why people who lack ambition or purpose in life usually attract partners who are narcissistic, abusive, emotionally unavailable, or otherwise unhealthy.
Left unchecked and unresolved, childhood trauma impacts both personal beliefs and personal relationships. Someone who was abused, neglected, or mistreated in their earlier years of life may 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. Self-image and personal relationships are two of the most critical elements of what makes every individual who they are.
Childhood Trauma Increases Likelihood Of Experiencing Depression
According to reports from Psychological Science, adults who were exposed to childhood trauma are considerably more vulnerable to experiencing depression. Unfortunately, depression is not always taken as seriously as it should be. However, it is a very real mental health issue with a litany of devastating impacts. Contrary to certain misconceptions, individuals who suffer from depression cannot simply "get over it" or otherwise "snap out of it." Ordering a depressed person to do these things can, and usually does, wind up causing more harm than good.
MayoClinic truly provides insight into just how much havoc can be wreaked as a result of clinical depression. This adverse state of mind affects the manner in which afflicted individuals view themselves, others, and the world around them. Depression also has the power to engender emotional and even physical problems. This offshoot of childhood trauma should be taken seriously at all times; it is nothing to belittle or make light of.
Some of the most common symptoms and indicators of depression are as follows: insomnia, drained energy, hopelessness, ongoing sadness, anxiety, lack of appetite, poor concentration, suicidal thoughts/actions, and more. In most cases, individuals who are afflicted with the abovementioned symptoms tend to isolate themselves, neglect self-care, slack off work, and alienate others. Attempts to connect with a depressed person may fail; this can be very frustrating and hurtful to friends and relatives who genuinely want the best for the individual for whom they care.
How To Overcome Childhood Trauma
Reading about how childhood trauma can affect adulthood is quite unnerving. However, people who have experienced difficulties as children should not become discouraged or lose hope. No matter what has happened in the past, the sun always rises again. There is always room for self-improvement, growth, and recovery. Individuals who went through tough times as children can have positive self-images, healthy relationships, and live happy, successful lives. Some of the most successful individuals of today have overcome challenges and difficult childhoods.
Engage In Self-Care
Although self-care may seem somewhat trivial in the face of overcoming childhood trauma, it matters more than many people might think. Jordan Grey Consulting explains that individuals who survived traumatic childhoods may subconsciously view themselves as unworthy of healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Therefore, they are likelier to neglect their body, eating habits, etc. This creates a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and eventual self-loathing.
Thankfully, the vicious cycle can be broken by partaking in different healthy habits, such as exercise, a good night's sleep, and healthy eating. 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 worldviews. This is why ending unhealthy relationships and cutting off toxic individuals is paramount, especially for people who are working to heal past wounds.
Pursue Hobbies And Extracurricular Interests
One of the most effective ways of overcoming negative memories is by creating positive memories. Pursuing hobbies and extracurricular interests not only allows adults to evolve as individuals but also find a sense of purpose and have something to look forward to. It is important for survivors of childhood trauma to know that their past experiences do not have to define the rest of their lives. Each has the power to control their fate and quality of life.
Seek Professional Help And Guidance
In many cases, counselors and therapists can serve as the greatest allies for adults who have undergone childhood trauma. This is largely because specialists who help others for a living are equipped to put people on the path to living their lives to the fullest. However, even with professional help and guidance, the journey of overcoming childhood trauma will not happen overnight. It's going to require time, dedication, and commitment.
Moreover, overcoming childhood trauma will possibly require revisiting unpleasant memories. The road to recovery will never be the same for two different people. Yet, it will ultimately be worth it.
Here at BetterHelp, we pride ourselves for providing world-class guidance to everyone who contacts us. Our specialists understand that life presents its unique challenges to everyone. No matter who you are or what you've been through, the existence of a strong and supportive network is paramount. It is important for people to understand that their past does not define them, nor does it have to determine the rest of their lives.
The decision to seek out professional help and guidance is ultimately yours. Nevertheless, BetterHelp will always exist as an available option and resource. You can contact us at any time by clicking here.