As a child, the only time you felt safe at home was the few minutes right after you wake up every morning, lying in bed under the covers. It was the only time you felt protected in your own house, because you could never tell what might happen once you walk out of your room, whether your parent would be in a horrible mood and take it out on you once again, or if you’d have to helplessly watch as someone you love is mistreated right in front of you.
Experiencing childhood trauma or being a witness to abuse can leave scars that last a lifetime. Even as an adult, you can still see how it affects your relationship with others and even the relationship you have with yourself. Anyone who experienced trauma as a kid would show some or all of the following signs in adulthood.
1. You keep to yourself because you feel anxious very easily
If you were regularly exposed to experiences that terrified you as a child, it’s possible that certain situations easily make you nervous and anxious as an adult. A study published on the South African Journal of Psychiatry analyzed the relationship between Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and childhood trauma. And it was concluded that “more childhood trauma exposure appears to be associated with greater SAD severity”. This could be why you are withdrawn and why certain seemingly ordinary social situations frighten you or make you anxious.
2. You are convinced that you’re not worth it and this affects your relationships
Having been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually by someone who was meant to protect you as a child can affect how you see other caregivers in your adult life, according to the Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center. You are convinced that they will never keep you safe and might do what was done to you as a child. And because of this, you stop yourself from trusting anyone who can possibly take the role of a protector or a caregiver in your life.
3. You jump to the worst conclusions and hold yourself back
It’s possible that you live your life now hoping that the people in your life won’t abandon you like you were abandoned as a child. But because of the trauma you faced, it’s possible that you are abandoning or neglecting parts of yourself as an adult. “We end up passive, and we don’t live up to our potential. The passive person says to him or herself, ‘I know what I need to do but I don’t do it’,” wrote Andrea Brandt, marriage and family therapist, for Psychology Today. “When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves.”
4. You rarely step out of your comfort zone because you’re afraid of getting hurt again
Once you have found your safe spot as an adult, it’s likely you might not want to disturb your environment or your relationships. You might avoid risks because you’re afraid of the outcome. A study published on JAMA Network found that “childhood trauma casts a long and wide-ranging shadow” and it can impact different domains of your life, including your health, social functioning, and financial/educational functioning.
5. You shut down when you’re extremely stressed and others might not understand
Being constantly exposed to stressful situations in your childhood could have affected how your response system developed, as explained by NCTSN (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network). Now, when you’re in a situation that might normally lead to ordinary levels of stress, you might experience more significant reactivity, sometimes with rapid breathing or your heart pounding. You might even completely “shut down” in some situations. And because of this, others who might not understand what you’re going through or what you’ve been through might think that you’re overreacting.
It may take years to undo the effects of a traumatic childhood, but it is possible with the right help. The experiences you had and saw as a child were out of your control. And it’s not fair to you or your potential to let your past control your present and your future. Ask for help, seek therapy, and you could take your first step towards a better future.
Disclaimer: This article is based on facts collated from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.