Unfortunately, growing past the trauma you lived through as a child may not just disappear once you become an adult. Experiencing complex trauma as a child will not only cause severe consequences for your childhood, but the effects may also follow you well into adulthood.
This knowledge is not meant to scare you. Rather, this article is meant to do the opposite. Sometimes, recognizing the ways childhood trauma affects adulthood can be tricky. Many times, you would not believe an event that happened to you in childhood can still impact your life today. I want to help give you the tools to recognize these side effects within yourself and equip you with the knowledge to break the cycle.
Taking a Closer Look at Trauma
Essentially, trauma is the lasting effect on our mind and body after living through a traumatic event. This event can be almost anything, not a “one size fits all” definition. Witnessing something horrifying, like a car accident, can cause trauma just as easily as growing up in an abusive household.
Although the human body is resilient, sometimes we cannot fully understand the scope of the trauma we have been left with after the event. It may take weeks, months, or even years to completely recognize how trauma has impacted your life. The following are several ways in which experiencing trauma in childhood may affect your day-to-day life as an adult.
1. Distortion of Memories
As a child, your brain is still developing. Experiencing trauma at such a young age may stunt this development, leaving your brain with gaps. Not only will this affect your memories from childhood, but in some cases, it may also prevent you from forming new ones as an adult.
This is actually your brain’s way of protecting you from itself; preventing you from remembering painful, traumatic memories is a defense mechanism known as blocking. It is a way our body copes.
2. A More Complex Relationship With Sex and Romance
Whether you recognize it or not, childhood is where we learn about platonic and romantic relationships. Growing up in a trauma-filled household may have given you the wrong idea of what relationships should look like. Rather than having healthy role models for an adult relationship, you may have been privy to abuse and apathy instead. This may be obvious in your sexual and romantic relationships.
3. Development of Chronic Illnesses
Did you know that your physical body stores trauma as well as your brain? By storing years of pent-up childhood trauma, your body has likely been put under severe stress. Over time, your stress hormones can build up within your body. This can morph into chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes.
4. Substance Abuse Issues
Illicit substances like drugs or alcohol are very commonly turned to as a way to self-medicate. Of course, a young child or even teenager does not have the capacity to cope with their trauma alone, and they may view self-medicating as the only way to make themself feel better. Reliance on these substances can very quickly turn into a problem and perhaps even develop into an addiction in adulthood.
Most importantly, I want you to receive the help you need for your mental health; it is never too late to do so. Some days it may feel like your past trauma is all that defines you, but I assure you that is not true. Receiving help in the form of trauma therapy is a great option to work through your trauma. I encourage you to find a mental health professional who specializes in the field of childhood trauma, like myself. Reach out today to schedule an appointment if you feel we would be a good fit.