Childhood Trauma affects us as adults

Childhood trauma can manifest in ways we never expect. Traumas can be in any form: physical, emotional, sexual, or being a bystander witnessing a horrific incident, experiencing chronic sickness, witnessing domestic violence, bullying, or catastrophic natural disasters. Traumas can affect us in different ways: nightmares, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem issues, self-blame, maladaptive behavior, cognitive distortion, relationship issues, etc. Understanding the traumas is complex for children, and they have a harder time processing what happened to them or what they witnessed. In some situations, the child tends to blame themselves as they struggle to comprehend.

The long-lasting impact of traumas

Traumas can lessen the child’s ability to self-differentiate, cause boundary issues, and leave lasting scars that can affect them throughout their life if left unresolved. The feeling of anger, shame, guilt, disconnection, and numbness is difficult to manage, and in some cases, it leads to severe mental health disorders. Constant subjection to trauma can make the child feel insecure and unsafe. Their trust in their primary caretaker is thwarted. Later stages of life affect their future relationships, irregularities in managing their emotions, and their sense of identity.

High risk for psychological disorders

Adverse childhood experiences are strongly associated with a higher risk of psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc. Research studies have shown children with traumatic experiences are more likely to develop mental disorders. Perception, cognitions, and emotions are distorted, which becomes a causal factor for mental health issues.

Lack of self-worth

Do you accept compliments fully? Do you feel that you don’t deserve love from others? Children who are abused or neglected by their parents or primary caretakers have these experiences of feeling unlovable and insignificant, which is internalized and affects the way they see themselves. Traumatized children have a core belief that they are insignificant and worthless. They use this belief as a filter to interpret every situation they encounter. The inner wound is unhealed for a long time with overwhelming emotions, and you end up coping unhealthily with things like alcohol consumption, drugs, and self-harm.

Issues in relationships

Stress, fear, confusion, guilt, shame, and anger can cause an inability to form good relationships with others. Forming authentic relationships becomes difficult during adulthood. Some of the issues that are faced in relationships are:

  • Trust issues
  • Attachment issues
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Guarded
  • Fear of rejection & abandonment
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Poor communication
  • Low self-esteem
  • Insecure and seek constant validation for assurance in relationship
  • Difficulty in managing emotions
Distorted cognition

During childhood, the child’s cognition develops ideas about themselves, others, and the world. When a child is subjected to abuse, neglect, and trauma, their ideas and beliefs about themselves, others, and the world are strongly influenced by these experiences. For example, “My dad hits my mom and me; he doesn’t love me or my mom; if he doesn’t love me, then who will ever love me?” “No matter how much I try, my parents are not satisfied with my academic performance; I am useless and fit for nothing.”

These core beliefs are strong and alter the way individuals think and interpret every situation they face. These thinking patterns affect their feelings and their behavior. These thoughts become a habitual psychological pattern.

Therapeutic Approaches that can be used to help individuals heal
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This approach can be used to reframe and restrict the core beliefs and automatic thinking.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Helps the individual heal from emotional distress by recalling the experiences using the sensory.
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: This therapy is used to manage emotions, develop healthier coping mechanisms, interpersonal effectiveness, tolerance for distress, and mindfulness.
  • Psychoeducation: This helps the individual understand the cause and nature of the issues and why they are feeling, thinking, and behaving in a maladaptive way.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques—meditation, prayer, muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, etc.—are used to calm and manage the symptoms that are related to the trauma.



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