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Signs & Symptoms Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood

Posted by Kelsey Juntwait on

The signs and symptoms of childhood trauma can display in an alarming amount of ways in adulthood. 

While some people find it easy to define their symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood, some don’t even realize that they’re experiencing symptoms of residual childhood trauma in adulthood in the first place. 

What is childhood trauma?

Childhood trauma can be defined as any event experienced by a child that was emotionally or physically painful or distressful. 

A lot of things can qualify as childhood trauma but research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has measured childhood trauma by the 10 ACEs (Unresolved Adverse Childhood Experiences):

  1. Physical Abuse
  2. Sexual Abuse
  3. Verbal Abuse
  4. Physical Neglect
  5. Emotional Neglect
  6. Family Member With Mental Illness
  7. Family Member With Addiction
  8. Family Member In Prison
  9. Seeing Domestic Abuse In The Home
  10. Losing A Parent (Divorce, Death, Separation, Abandonment, etc.)

And that childhood trauma left lasting psychological, emotional, and physical effects on the child that are now being seen as long-term symptoms.

Why do we see symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood?

Not every single child who experiences the things above will technically experience symptoms of that childhood trauma in their adulthood. 

That’s because it all starts with how the child learns coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma in their childhood.

During a child’s development, one of the things they need to learn, in order to grow both emotionally and physically, is how to cope with the experiences they have — and that includes the traumatic ones. 

Like any developmental process in childhood, each child will carry it differently. Which also means that those developmental processes can be delayed or unsuccessfully implemented. The effects of never developing the skill to cope with that trauma then can then seep into almost every aspect of their adulthood.

And that’s when you start to see symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood.

What are the symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood?

Not sure if you’re experiencing childhood trauma that’s exhibiting itself in your adult life?

Here are the major signs symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood:

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Strong Reactions To Certain People

Has there ever been a time when you meet someone for the first time and sensed something was "off"? Even if you don't know the individual, your body and mind will immediately alert you that they pose a threat. Without explanation you might sense your body shifting into a more defensive manner, so much so you feel motivated to leave the situation completely. This is common when you come across a person that resembles someone who was part of your childhood trauma. 

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Uncomfortable With Certain Places

Surroundings can also make someone with repressed childhood trauma feel stressed, afraid, or anxious. Your brain has the power to record details of traumatic events when they initially happened, even if you do not want it to. Noises, colors, and odors can all trigger something in your subconsciously and send your body into flight or fight mode.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Emotional Shifts That Affect Your Livelihood

Adults with certain childhood trauma can become quickly irritated by other people's behaviorYou easily move from being at rest and relaxed to feeling angry or afraid about something that seems insignificant. This transformation frequently occurs as a result of that seemingly insignificant incident subconsciously reminding you of a part of your repressed childhood trauma.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Attachment Issues

You can develop a strong fear of abandonment as a result of traumatic experiences. These experiences can impair development and lead to attachment problems. It's possible that you develop strong attachments to other individuals and experience deep sadness or emotion when they part ways. It generates extreme worry and fear, even if it's only your partner leaving for an evening out or your friends going to an event without you.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Anxiety

Anxiety levels can be much higher in some people than others if they have suppressed childhood memories. And while talk therapy can help you examine that anxiety on an emotional level, the trauma that leads to adult anxiety is still being stored in your nervous system — creating physical manifestations of the anxiety.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Childish Reactions

If you discover that you act “childishly” more than regularly, you might be trying to cope with traumatic events. This could be in the form of tantrum-throwing behaviors, childlike speech patterns, or stubbornness when it comes to unimportant matters. All of these recurring regressions show that you still have memories that haven’t been dealt with.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Constantly Tired

Repressing painful childhood memories causes you to unconsciously focus a lot of your energy there. The energy you need to create and maintain new connections and connect with others is taken away from you when you're exhaustedly repressing trauma.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Difficulty Handling Stress

People who have unresolved childhood trauma frequently react violently or hide from stressful situations because they are unable to handle normal life experiences. When things don't go your way, you could notice that you act childishly or have tantrums. You are regressing to the initial condition of trauma while attempting to defend yourself.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Passive Aggressiveness

A young person could believe that rage is aggressive or inappropriate and must be controlled. As an adult, that might cause you to suppress your anger. When you don't let your anger out, it stays inside of you. You don't seek help for the trauma or learn about your triggers. Because you are unable to truly control your rage, you choose to act passively aggressively.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Dissociation

Children often psychologically distance or remove themselves from distressing events. They can think they are dreaming or feel removed from their physical selves. You can use dissociation as a coping skill throughout adulthood because it is a learnt one. When you are under a lot of stress, disassociation can and does happen, which has an adverse effect on your adult life.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Attempting To Be Someone We’re Not In Front Of Others

The persona we project to the outside world is the false self. When we’re young, we could invent this false personality to win our parents' love by acting like the child we believe they want us to be. We suppress emotions that keep our caregivers from meeting our needs during this period. Burying our feelings might lead us to lose touch with who we really are because our sentiments are an integral component of who we are. Because the character we have created has brought us love, acceptance, and care, we become reluctant to let it go.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Inability To Confront Feelings

Children who have been neglected or abandoned conceal their rage and anxiety in the hopes that it won't happen again. By doing this, we give up on ourselves. We become inactive, repress our emotions, and keep back. For adults to understand who they are and what they desire, they require feelings.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Reduced Immune System & Constantly Getting Sick

A child's immune system and stress response system do not mature normally if they are raised in fear and stress. Because of this, they may react violently as adults to common stress. Stress also impairs the growth of the nervous system and the brain.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Mental Health Issues

People who have gone through childhood trauma may find it difficult to recognize, express, and control their emotions. They may react emotionally irrationally and with substantial quantities of despair, anxiety, and wrath.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Impulsivity & Inability To Comprehend Consequences 

Childhood trauma can cause issues with impulse control, self-discipline, and considering the repercussions of one's behavior. Additionally, it may make it more likely for adults to engage in high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, risky sex, self-harm, and more.

Symptom Of Childhood Trauma In Adulthood: Higher Likelihood Of Addiction

Substance use is a typical adult coping mechanism for past trauma because dysregulation is the foundation of addiction. A person who has the ability to control their emotions may control their feelings, behaviors, and bodily reactions to emotionally charged situations. These kids are less likely to be exposed to modeling of acceptable emotion expression, labeling, and actions because a lot of childhood trauma occurs in the home context. In adults, highly dysregulated children frequently relive their childhood experiences.

Can I treat the symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood?

There’s a science behind the symptoms of your childhood trauma and why they’re showing up as symptoms in adulthood. 

And to put it simply, your body has been storing that trauma in your body for years. 

The only way to release that storage of trauma and to heal from the symptoms of that trauma is to reach the part of the body it’s being stored in, and start your healing journey there.

How do I heal from the cause of the symptoms of my childhood trauma in adulthood?

As mentioned before, in order to treat the symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood, you’ll have to heal from the root cause of those symptoms.

Which is the stored trauma itself.

And the only way to release the trauma stored in your body is with somatic exercises

Somatic exercises are gentle movements that connect your physical body to your emotional body. When this happens, it allows you to treat and release the physical and psychological manifestations of the trauma by addressing the location of where in the body it’s being stored.

Heal from your childhood trauma today.

It’s often said that a few days after starting a somatic exercise program (like our signature Free Your Hips In 30 Days), you’ll feel an intense and emotional release that, quite literally, can bring people to tears.

Your body deserve to feel better than what it's used to.

Check out our somatic exercise programs to start your healing journey today.

About The Workout Witch
With 14 years of clinical experience, Liz Tenuto is a somatic specialist known as The Workout Witch because she heals the pain you know you have by treating the cause of it you never knew existed. Liz is committed to changing the conversation around past trauma, somatic memory, and how anyone’s psychological pain and stress is manifesting itself physically.

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