Childhood Trauma

11 Ways Your Childhood Trauma Affects Your Adult Life

Many of us grew up in pretty dysfunctional families. 

Whether it was your constantly fighting parents or a completely toxic environment that hardly resembled an average family, you likely experienced some sort of childhood trauma.

The unfortunate truth is that childhood trauma doesn’t magically disappear once you hit adulthood. And while it may not bother you for the rest of your life, it’ll likely show up in unhealthy and self-sabotaging ways.

What is trauma?

Trauma is described as an experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening event. But it’s not about the memory, it’s about how our bodies perceive that memory. Even after the event has concluded, the memories can feel as if they are happening all over again, like we’re stuck in the past.

Though other kinds of trauma can happen, physical/sexual abuse, neglect, or other mistreatment are the most common. But it doesn’t always have to leave physical traces behind, and you may not even be aware that some of your behaviors actually stem from a traumatic past. But as an adult, you have the power to understand how it affects you today and make positive changes to heal from your past.

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Here are 11 ways childhood trauma can impact your life as an adult:

1.You avoid conflict at all costs. 

If you were taught to hide from conflict as a child, you might be more physiologically reactive to arguments as an adult. You may feel that your opinion doesn’t matter or that these situations aren’t safe for you to be in, so you shut down.

2. You struggle to remember your childhood.

Gaps in memory are prevalent; not having many memories from childhood is usually the brains coping strategy of protecting you from long-term trauma. People tend to block painful memories, or certain feelings related to their emotions, in an attempt to avoid them.


It may feel natural to isolate yourself completely from others. In efforts to protect yourself, you end up feeling distant, disconnected, and detached. You might be anxious about burdening others with what you’ve been through. Or, you don’t want to deal with it, so you keep it inside. 

4. Highly sensitive or ‘over-emotional’. 

You may be triggered by little things that don’t make sense. Or, you experience unexplained or irrational fears of people, places, or things. 

5. Or, you bottle up your feelings entirely

When you’ve grown up experiencing emotional abuse, these unexpressed feelings of hurt, rage, and shame fester over time. As adults, emotions become so intensely painful that they create a false sense of self. You take on so many defense layers and pretense that they lose all conscious awareness of your authentic self.

 6.Severe anxiety.

Feeling constantly on guard or alert (also known as hypervigilance) or frequent panic attacks occur in what would be considered typical situations. Anxiety also shows up as dissociation– or feeling like you’re floating outside of your body or watching yourself like you’re in a movie.

 7.You’re highly critical of yourself 

A harsh voice is constantly pushing or criticizing you, and you can’t seem to get it out of your head.

8. Mental health and substance abuse disorders

Experts (including me) believe that trauma is the root cause of most mental health issues, including severe anxiety, depression, and other personality disorders. Those with traumatic childhoods are more likely to use food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with stress.

 9. Difficulty trusting others.

Trauma is commonly referred to as a break of trust. If trusting adult figures in your childhood weren’t associated in your mind as a positive experience, trusting other people feels “unsafe” to you as an adult. 

10. You experience chronic physical ailments with no apparent cause. 

When traumatic experiences occur, they tend to get stuck in the body; this is one reason why people who’ve experienced trauma have lower immune functioning, trouble sleeping, gut issues, random physical pain that comes and goes.  This may be due to a heightened stress response, meaning the body gets “stuck” in fight/flight/freeze, even when you’re in safe, calm situations. 

 11. You’re attracted to unhealthy or toxic partners. 

 Your childhood trauma will show up in your marriage, friendships and relationships. People who have been abused as children often gravitate toward abusive relationships, even if they don’t realize it. The behavior we witnessed in the past becomes normalized, so if you’ve grown accustomed to chaos, you may reject the respectful, honest person for the manipulative, abusive one. 

Remember, your responses today are normal reactions to what you’ve experienced.

Your experiences, symptoms, and relationships of today can be understood as a reflection of your past. But by becoming aware of your patterns, you learn to think differently and start protecting yourself while healing from old, destructive wounds.

Getting a therapist who understands abuse, trauma-bonding, or attachment trauma can help you work through the original traumas and get you on the path to recovery.


If you struggle with anxious, self-critical, racing thoughts and consider yourself an overthinker then don’t worry..I’ve got you…Check out The Overthinking Toolkit.

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