Childhood trauma changes everything.
When you experience abuse, neglect or a major loss as a child, the impact can be devastating and potentially lifelong. Years or even decades after the original trauma takes place, its effects continue to ripple throughout your adult life.
- You struggle to build and maintain healthy relationships because a part of you remains terrified of being vulnerable around others.
- You’re always physically exhausted because once your body senses danger, it can take hours or even days for you to feel calm again.
- Sometimes even the smallest amount of stress is all it takes for that intense feeling of helplessness to hijack your mind and body.
- And the unbearable pain of that crushing sensation in your chest makes it next to impossible to focus on anything else.
// What is childhood trauma?
For many of us, when we hear the word “trauma” we think of isolated events, like a bad car accident, a violent assault, exposure to war, and other similarly horrifying experiences. But in most cases, childhood trauma goes well beyond a singular event and tends to involve repeated, prolonged relational patterns.
This more complex form of trauma can involve any number of early-life experiences, such as:
- Growing up with an emotionally distant or overly critical parent
- Lack of validation or empathy from caregivers
- Parenting that consistently made you feel physically and emotionally unsafe
- Physical or emotional abandonment or disownment by a parent or caregiver
- Physical and emotional boundary crossings by guardians, grandparents, church leaders, or other adults in a position of authority
- Growing up with a parent who struggles with a mental illness or substance abuse
// What are the symptoms of childhood trauma in adults?
We’ve all experienced the fight, flight or freeze response in stressful situations; it’s our body’s natural way of keeping us safe when we’re confronted with threat or danger.
When you experience childhood trauma, however, you struggle to “turn off” this natural fear response. Even though a rational part of you may know that you’re not in any immediate danger, your body remains stuck in a heightened state of arousal, preventing you from ever feeling completely safe in your body.
Relief from the tensing up, constant alertness, overreaction, being on guard, and times of intense panic only comes with the inevitable crash. Following periods of being so “revved up” and hyperalert, your body eventually expends its energy and you collapse into a state of numbness, immobility and exhaustion, leaving you feeling disconnected and dead inside.
Childhood trauma often affects your self-beliefs and relationships, too. Many of the people we work with in trauma therapy show up carrying core self-beliefs that they’re fundamentally bad, not enough, worthless, or unlovable. They’re struggling to connect with feelings of safety and calmness as they move through the world and engage in relationships, both romantic and platonic. They’re trying to connect with others but having a hard time with trust and openness.
When you’ve experienced childhood trauma, intimate connection can feel like a never-ending tug of war between equally strong desires for closeness and distance. Openness and guardedness. Feeling and detaching. Connecting and retreating.
It’s an exhausting tension, and it can make the possibility of developing close, healthy, satisfying relationships feel almost impossible.
// Other signs of childhood trauma in adults include:
- The terrifying thought of losing control
- Persistent nightmares and flashbacks
- Unhealthy relationship patterns that make you feel unsafe or wothless
- Intense feelings of shame and self-loathing
- Dread or discomfort around physical intimacy
- Shrinking away from emotional closeness and vulnerability
- A fear of rejection or abandonment that leads to you pushing partners away (or clinging too tightly)
// How does trauma therapy help?
Not all forms of psychotherapy are effective when it comes to treating trauma. In fact, many traditional forms of therapy can make you feel worse. This is the reason why it’s so important to work with a therapist who understands trauma and has the clinical skills to guide you through it safely.
Interested in learning more about trauma and why it’s so important to work with a therapist who understands how to guide you through it safely? Check out this video on stress, trauma and the body:
At Modern Era, our therapists have completed extensive post-graduate training in trauma therapy and integrate a range of trauma-informed, science-based treatment approaches to get your body’s natural stress response back on track.
In trauma therapy, we focus on helping you work through guilt, shame, and other difficult emotions associated with traumatic stress from childhood. You’ll learn to access core qualities, such as courage and self-compassion, and use them to heal emotional pain connected to past trauma.
Counseling for relationship trauma is ultimately about helping you cultivate healthier relationships with others—and most importantly, with yourself. By the end of therapy, we want you to leave feeling confident and empowered to live your best life.
Trauma is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Contact us now to schedule your first appointment and start enjoying the life you’ve worked so hard to create.