How Childhood Trauma Affects Adulthood
As we age from childhood to adulthood, some things just stick with us.
Things that could stick with us could be our sense of humor, our hair texture, or even our dislike for certain vegetables. These are all things that don't really bug us, or stop us from living a life we want to live.
Sometimes the things that follow us aren't the most pleasant; sometimes they can make us feel down, stressed, lonely, or even angry. Traumatic memories, even from an early age, can still pop up in our brains and make us feel as we did in that moment. They can make us feel doubt about the present, or a lack of confidence towards the future. They can make us feel trapped in the past.
You may wonder, "That happened years ago, why is it still stressing me out today?"
The Nervous System and our brains are the main culprits in this situation. Multiple parts of the brain are activated when a trauma first occurs. Many of those same parts of the brain are again reactivated when even a small trigger appears in our adult lives. This can cause a heightened stress response years after a trauma. Our brains may even recall memories that have been long forgotten, which can cause further stress in adulthood.
How does all this stress from traumatic events blend into our adult lives?
You may think, "Well I get scared/confused/hurt when I remember that traumatic time, but that is just in my head, it doesn't affect much else does it?"
The answer is both yes and no as everyone has different trauma responses to traumatic experiences. Some people may feel just a small annoyance when they think about the bullying they received in high school, while other people feel intense shame. Feeling shame could impact how we trust, or reach out to, other adults. Therefore, influencing how we develop our adult relationships.
Our emotional response and thinking response to trauma is similar to our personal behavioral response. We all respond to triggers physically differently. Some of us may just get red in the face when triggered, while some of may feel the need to hide or hit something. We all have different physical limits and experience situations individually that are uncomfortable for us.
Please note that all traumas, and nervous systems, are unique and everyone's responses will be different. Some of these adult areas may affect you, or someone you know, or they may not. This post is simply to build awareness of things that could happen relating to trauma, not set in stone things that are bond to happen with everyone.
Here are some common areas where childhood trauma can have a role in your adult life:
Sleep. Probably the most measurable aspect of dealing with past trauma is the ability to not fall sleep, or only getting a poor night's sleep night after night. Recurring nightmares and tossing and turning every night can be signs of a past event that is causing distress present day. Restless nights can be the result of being triggered by a traumatic reminder previously in the day, week, or even month. Of course, consulting with a doctor could rule out any biological concerns with sleep as well.
Relationships. It may be difficult to accept that your past hurts could be affecting your current adults relationships. Whether it's a fear of trusting people, getting close to others, or being accepted, all of these trauma responses could appear in trying to relate to other adults. It may seem like we are pushing people away when in reality we want them closer. It may also be difficult to find the good in others when we have been hurt again and again in the past by people who were close to us. This can affect intimate, friendly, or family relationships.
Self Care. Trauma can cause adults to experience both depression and anxiety symptoms. Past trauma can also decrease our self confidence. Traumatic memories sometimes make us feel powerless, or not worthy, of having fun or just taking care of ourselves. We may try to "people please", or isolate ourselves, rather than doing what we actually want to do. Sometimes our self care and confidence can go on the back burner without even realizing we are neglecting ourselves.
Work. Dealing with unstoppable demanding deadlines and rude coworkers can trigger memories of being stressed or belittled in the past. A toxic work environment can feel very similar to a toxic childhood home environment to our brains. We may not strive to be ambitious in our work life if trauma has caused us to feel shame and failure. Taking mental health days, or even leaving a toxic job, can be better to cope with those triggers.
It's never to late to heal from your childhood trauma. Learn about the benefits of Trauma Therapy and how it can help you.
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. (2020). Recovered Memories of Childhood Trauma. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://istss.org/public-resources/what-is-childhood-trauma/remembering-childhood-trauma
Viatcheslav, W. (2015, January 24). How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain? Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://brainblogger.com/2015/01/24/how-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-change-the-brain/