Everyone has distinct memories from their childhood that stay with them all the way into adulthood. Maybe you clearly remember the first time you rode a bike. Or perhaps you can recall every detail of the day you graduated middle school. But what happens when those memories include trauma?
Unfortunately, childhood trauma is a fairly regular occurrence. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by the time they’re 16. But before diving into how childhood trauma shows up in your adult life, we have to understand what it is.
Looking at childhood trauma through the lens of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can paint a clearer picture of all the different ways people may have experienced a traumatic event(s). If you aren’t familiar with them, ACEs include commonly discussed experiences (or bearing witness to) of physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and violence against a parent. But there are other experiences, like mental illness, substance abuse, or having a relative who has been sent to jail or prison, that can be equally impactful.
How childhood trauma shows up
Whether it was a single, isolated event, or an ongoing circumstance from your childhood, unresolved trauma finds a way of following you into adulthood. Many parts of your personal and professional life can be impacted.
Difficulty forming meaningful connections
If you learned from an early age you couldn’t rely on the people who were supposed to take care of you, it might be more comfortable to continue believing that as the rule and not the exception. This belief will stop you from forming meaningful connections in your life. Pushing people away and choosing to rely on yourself, and yourself alone, is just one example of unhealthy coping mechanism people use to feel safe, but actually does more harm than good.
Low self-esteem, self-worth, and lack of self-compassion
Regardless of your family’s intention, failing to care for you and not protecting you the way they should have, sent the message that you weren’t worth doing those things. Or maybe you felt like these occurred because you did something wrong or didn’t do enough right. The reality is their behavior and choices weren’t your fault. Leading with self-compassion and reframing these negative, untrue thoughts about yourself will make a world of difference.
Increased likelihood of depression and other mental health disorders
Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can be symptoms of underlying unresolved, untreated childhood trauma. According to a Cleveland Clinic podcast, “Adults who experienced trauma as kids are much more susceptible to depression and mood disorders, as well as thoughts of suicide. They are also likely to abuse alcohol and other substances.”
See a professional
Acknowledging your trauma and recognizing your triggers are only pieces to the overall puzzle that is healing from childhood trauma. Working with a mental health professional to explore the circumstances and people who contributed to your experience is another essential piece.
There is nothing shameful about getting help, and healing isn’t something you have to do alone. Therapists have a whole other set of tools and treatments to aid you on your healing journey. From cognitive processing therapy to EMDR, there are many different approaches to healing from childhood trauma–together with your therapist, you will decide the best treatment for you.
No matter where you are in your life, it is never too early or too late to seek professional help. Understanding how your past shapes your current beliefs and reframing those beliefs to help you heal and feel more content with your life, is what everyone deserves–and nothing less.
Our therapists here at Let’s Talk Psychological Wellness are committed to helping you understand and heal from your trauma. Learn how to reframe beliefs to help you lead a life filled with self-compassion. Call, text, or email us.
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