Do you experience unexplained signs of emotional and psychological distress that don’t appear to have an obvious cause?
If you have been through some disturbing, highly upsetting, or even terrifying events in the past, your symptoms make a lot of sense. What you may be experiencing is a series of symptoms that are related to a traumatic history. They manifest as difficulties with relationships, self-esteem issues, distress and burnout, or an overall disconnection from yourself and your life.
Fortunately, some mental health interventions can be used to efficiently address trauma. Although the idea of going to a mental health therapist may intimidate some people, this step is necessary, depending on the scale of your trauma effects.
You can start with something milder and try to reduce the symptoms of your childhood trauma on your own. But we still recommend contacting a professional who will guide you through your transformation and provide you with effective techniques based on your problem.
First, let’s dive into this article and find out more about the five childhood traumas, what can happen to you if you don’t address them, how your trauma can affect your life, and efficient healing childhood trauma methods that work. Let’s get started.
What are the 5 childhood traumas?
Before we answer the question of how to deal with the trauma from childhood you should understand the concept of childhood trauma and its different forms.
Child trauma occurs when a child witnesses or experiences an adverse event that makes them feel intimidated, scared, unsafe, or unable to cope (14).
There are five main forms of childhood trauma:
- Witnessing violence
- Physical neglect
- Emotional abuse and emotional neglect
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse (8)
This occurs when a child witnesses any type of violence. This is not limited to the home environment. It could be school violence or even an act of terrorism.
When witnessing any form of violence, the child feels immediate threat and terror and internalizes the belief that the world is a dangerous place. As a result, their nervous system either shuts down or remains in a state of dysregulation as a means of preparing them for future threats.
Neglect is a type of abuse that occurs when a person doesn’t have their basic needs met, such as water, shelter, and food. There are other types of neglect that include emotional neglect (the parents don’t provide love, guidance, and emotional support to the child), educational neglect (this happens when a caregiver doesn’t enroll a child at school or make arrangements to homeschool them), and medical neglect (when a parent doesn’t look after their child’s health and even avoids seeking medical attention) (10).
Emotional abuse is a non-physical behavior that attempts to control, isolate, or frighten someone else. It is also present in romantic relationships where threats, excessive jealousy, insults, constant monitoring, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, and dismissiveness become a “normal” thing in communication (13). Emotional abuse has long-lasting consequences on a person’s ability to develop trust in people or build genuine emotional intimacy with another person.
Physical abuse manifests in aggressive and violent behavior toward another person that results in bodily injury and physical pain.
Physical abuse may involve punching, biting, kicking, beating, choking, burning, or shaking, which can result in permanent harm..
Physical abuse may be present between parents and children or between intimate partners.
Individuals who experience physical abuse often feel helpless, fearful, and isolated. (2).
Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual activity that is initiated by an adult and involves a minor. When any adult engages in sexual activity with a child, this is considered sexual abuse (12). There are two major types of child sexual abuse: touching and non-touching (12).
What happens if you don’t manage your childhood trauma?
Even if you do not report any symptoms, there are times when your functioning becomes reduced, when you become aggressive, sad, or highly distressed for no apparent reason. In addition, you may struggle with interpersonal relationships or building genuine trust with people in general. Any unexplained behavior or symptoms could point to a previous traumatic event that hasn’t been processed and healed.
However, not everyone feels prepared to dive into their past and seek support for the pain they are experiencing, but sooner or later they may find themselves in similar situations and life patterns. When this happens, the best thing they can do is admit that they’re struggling and seek support from a trauma-informed mental health professional.
Without proper mending, your life cannot fully get back on track. Even the smallest, less damaging trauma can manifest in your dating life, career, physical health, or an inability to regulate emotions.
Childhood trauma in adults has versatile effects, meaning that it can impair your emotional, physical, and mental health. Here are some specific consequences of previous trauma:
- A higher risk of mental health issues
- Lack of self-worth
- Problems in relationships
- Issues with physical well-being
- Problems with cognitive abilities (1)
A higher risk of mental health issues
Traumatic events are associated with a high risk of mental health conditions. A 2023 study found that having conscious memories of childhood trauma can hinder mental health issues (3).
If you have PTSD or any other mental health condition, please consult a mental health specialist instead.
Lack of self-worth
If you were abused or neglected during your childhood, you may develop the belief that you don’t deserve to be loved. You may even justify your parent’s attitude toward you by believing that they did it under the influence of their traumatized childhood. Lack of self-worth leads to deep emotional pain and feeds episodes of depression and anxiety. In the long term, this can also lead people to enter and remain in unfulfilling relationships due to their internalized unworthiness (1).
Problems in relationships
If you have an ongoing pattern of difficult relationships – both personal and professional – that are characterized by a lack of trust, it may be that you are still acting as a result of your childhood trauma. When you survive traumatic stress during childhood, this evokes confusion, fear, shame, and an inability to depend on other people.
Therefore, you struggle to trust other people, ask for help, or share your feelings and emotions with others (1).
Issues with physical well-being
Previous trauma doesn’t only impact your mental and emotional health, it also leaves traces on your physical well-being. Studies have shown that children who experience trauma have physical well-being problems in adulthood (15).
If you are experiencing physical health issues, consult with a healthcare professional or physician instead.
Problems with cognitive abilities
A traumatized brain has difficulties with memory, concentration, focus, decision-making, or other cognitive skills. Research has shown that untreated trauma strongly impacts cognitive functioning (16).
This means it may be difficult for you to memorize things, think logically, or solve problems (1).
Does childhood trauma get worse as you get older?
Although there is no straight answer to this question, there are a few possibilities:
1. Yes, childhood trauma may get worse as you get older. (7).
In addition, all of the aforementioned effects of childhood trauma can still be present in their life. Unfortunately, there are adults who don’t connect their present life problems with past traumas. Also, as we get older, we become more overwhelmed and put our past troubles aside, but the problem is that the traumatizing effects will keep having an effect unless we fix them.
2. However, there is a flip side to this situation. You can always heal your trauma by making better choices. One of the best choices is to surround yourself with supportive people and talk to a mental health professional.
Why is childhood trauma so painful?
Whether it’s severe or milder trauma, any distressing event is painful, particularly when it is experienced as a child. You feel stressed, scared, perplexed, and helpless. The world doesn’t seem safe anymore. This feeling is aggravated when you’re exposed to trauma inflicted by a parent or another person you trust.
When you get older, the effects of childhood trauma directly influence every part of your life. Even though you may believe that you’re mature enough to handle it on your own, you will need professional help.
Avoiding the healing process will only make the situation even worse. This may influence your life choices and leave you with one or more possible negative outcomes:
- Living with a terrible partner
- Working a deeply unfulfilling job
- Living in an environment you are not happy with
- Using alcohol and drugs to numb feelings and avoid painful memories
- Allowing people to cross your boundaries
All these situations can become more painful if you convince yourself that you have no control over them. This is even more true if you have been living with your emotional baggage your entire life, if you have no clue where to seek help, or if you’re too scared to talk to somebody about your problem.
However, the good news is that there are efficient steps to reduce the symptoms of childhood trauma and even release them for good. We will explain more in the following section.
What is the best way to manage childhood trauma?
Finally, you have reached this question, which is the main reason why you’re here.
We’ve collected the five key strategies for coping with your childhood trauma. They are essential for your overall well-being and help you feel and look better. You are aware that better choices lead to good habits and good habits lead to the life you truly deserve.
These methods include:
- Admit the problem. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you have an issue that you need to solve. Acknowledge your pain rather than hide it from yourself. Acknowledge that the coping process requires patience and time. Acknowledge that your problem-solving requires people. You can’t deal with everything on your own.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. The right people for you are not those who belittle you or your problems, and certainly not those who mock your trauma. Truly supportive people are ready to listen, understand, and encourage you for bigger changes. Therefore, spending time with friends, relatives, loved ones, or support groups can help you feel less isolated and manage the effects of childhood trauma (14).
- Pick up stress-reduction activities. Somatic Yoga and Somatic Meditation deserve to be on this list. Studies have suggested that both of these practices improve self-confidence, balance, and stability (6). By the way, you might find this article on a 28-day Somatic Exercise for Trauma Relief helpful as there’s a lot of beneficial information there. With enough confidence, you will learn to make the right choices and focus on your needs first. In addition to somatic practices, you should attempt mindfulness techniques (14).
- Stay physically active and eat better meals. Some people assume that physical exercises are meant to shape you up and that’s it. But it goes beyond that. Sport is beneficial for your mental and emotional well-being too and leads to:
- Better mood
- Reduced stress
- Increased self-esteem (9)
When it comes to food, you shouldn’t follow strict diets. Just make sure you’re ingesting enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat (if you eat it), and legumes.
- Cut out drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drugs are undoubtedly damaging and lead to long-term adverse effects on physical and mental well-being (5).
These stages of managing childhood trauma are more effective with a professional therapist. Consider talk therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. This can help change how you understand your thoughts, behaviors, and abilities, and create healthy ways of coping with the lasting effects of traumatic events (14).
Read more: 28-Day Somatic Exercise for Trauma Relief
Do you ever fully heal from trauma?
Although trauma can have long-lasting effects on your well-being, you can fully manage it with time and professional treatment. It’s always beneficial to contact a healthcare provider as they can shed light on effective ways to reduce your childhood trauma outcomes.
If you have any mental health condition, please consult a mental health specialist.
Why does childhood trauma never go away?
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, your brain may block the traumatic memories but they still find ways of affecting your life. Secondly, you may not even realize that your present problems have anything to do with your childhood trauma. The third reason could be your refusal to admit the problem, so you avoid taking action that could potentially eliminate the problem.
The Bottom Line
This article has hopefully shed some light on the concept of childhood trauma. There are five main forms of child trauma: witnessing violence, physical neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.
Adults who don’t heal from childhood traumas may encounter the following negative effects: a higher risk of mental illness, lack of self-worth, problems in relationships, issues with physical health, problems with cognitive abilities, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The mending childhood trauma methods that really work are admitting the problem, surrounding yourself with caring people, leading an active life, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and performing trauma-relief activities.
We also recommend that you talk to a professional therapist who can provide you with efficient ways of combating the effects of your childhood trauma.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Ways Childhood Trauma Impacts Young Adults (newportinstitute.com)
- APA Dictionary of Psychology (2023, apa.org)
- Associations Between Objective and Subjective Experiences of Childhood Maltreatment and the Course of Emotional Disorders in Adulthood (2023, jamanetwork.com)
- Childhood Adversity and Adult Chronic Disease (2010, ajpmonline.org)
- Drugs, alcohol & mental health (rethink.org)
- Effectiveness of Somatic Yoga and Meditation: A Pilot Study in a Multicultural Cancer Survivor Population with Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Experiencing childhood trauma makes body and brain age faster (2020, sciencedaily.com)
- Five Forms of Childhood Trauma: Relationships With Aggressive Behavior in Adulthood (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mental health (sportengland.org)
- Neglect vs. abuse: What is the difference? (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (nimh.nih.gov)
- WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE? (preventchildabusenc.org)
- What Is Emotional Abuse (thehotline.org)
- What ways can childhood trauma affect people? (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)
- The long-term costs of traumatic stress (2010, PubMed Central)
- Childhood trauma associated with poorer cognitive performance (2012, PubMed Central)