Symptoms of childhood trauma in adults might be holding you back.
What is Childhood Trauma?
Almost no one has a perfect childhood…but some kids have it much worse than others. That’s because some kids grow up in what I call “high threat zones”. They see and hear things that terrify them. They are small, they are confused and they often have no big person who can guide, protect or comfort them.
These kids grow up and adapt to being around people that are mentally unstable, emotionally reactive,unpredictable. Or the adults are checked out on drugs and alcohol. Other kids find their problems out in the world as they face the terror and humiliation of bullying. And just like any other creature in the natural world, these children adjust to being on their own in a world that feels big and bad.
If it’s hard to make a connection to what that feels like, just think back to a time when you were little. Maybe you lost your mom and dad while you were out shopping.You panicked. Your heart pounded, you looked around desperately, and you didn’t know if it was safe to reach out to any of the adult strangers that walked. Everyone seems so close, but so far away.
Maybe you screamed, cried or stayed mute…maybe you threw a tantrum.
Imagine If You Felt That Level of Fear Regularly.
It would affect you deeply.
A childhood that is scary shapes your nervous system and your brain. It creates a body that is ready to defend itself, or is adept at numbing, ignoring pain and disconnecting.
What’s more is all of these body and brain habits develop at a time in life when the brain is most vulnerable.
The effect of childhood trauma can devastate even the strongest of men and women. These effects ripple throughout a survivors life fueling a range of problems which disrupt physical health, emotional well being, and interfere with academic or career achievement .
Important Childhood Trauma Symptoms in Adults Include:
Symptoms of childhood trauma in adults often appear as what I call “body problems”. In my work, here are some of the most common signs I see:
Hypervigilance is the first sign. Some clients keep an eye on me. They are hyperware of me and always watching. They talk about never being able to relax, and describe what it’s like to always feel like you are waiting to be attacked, blamed and criticized. Or, they talk about how difficult it is to trust their partners, even if they logically know they can.
The next most common sign I see is difficulty in relationships. For example, it could be emotional reactivity that is creating stress at home. Or it could be that avoiding relationships keeps them lonely and isolated.
After this comes the third common sign I see in my practice. It’s depression and problems with mood. Hopelessness and worthlessness flatten some adult survivors . They struggle in life as they feel little motivation or joy.
Physical health problems come next. Years of early life high stress take their toll on the body. Insomnia and problems with sleep are common. Many clients face immune system impairment, headaches, fatigue and pain symptoms. Similarly, medical doctors will also tell you that high anxiety and chronic stress cause most GI problems.
A nervous system and brain stuck on high alert create struggles with anxiety and worry. This can be sign of childhood trauma too. One client of mine described spending her days “trying to bat away the constant worries”. Another described how he would try to “unstick his brain” when he could not stop dwelling on all the imaginary things that could go wrong.
Fear of yourself and your body is the next sign. Many of my adult clients tell me how they suffer with the dread that their bodies and minds are going to somehow betray them. Clients confide in me that they are secretly terrified that they are mentally ill and will snap the way they saw their father or mother snap. Or they fear that panic attacks or anger will overtake them.
Healing The Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults.
After reading this depressing list, it’s important to remember that we are living in a time when we know how to help people learn and grow. Recovery from the the effects to childhood trauma is possible, with the right care and guidance.
Not all therapy is created equal. And sometimes the wrong type of therapy isn’t just useless, it’s harmful. A therapist who has little or no specialized training about the way trauma affects the brain and nervous system can unknowingly make an adult survivor of child trauma worse. It’s important to work with a specialist, a trauma therapist who can guide you and make sure that you don’t “spin your wheels”. Frequently, this happens when adult survivors engage in standard “talk therapy”.
Would you like to learn more about how I can help you? If so, please learn more by visiting my Trauma Therapy page. Symptoms of childhood trauma in adults can damage your relationships and career. Above all, remember -they can be healed.