What is Childhood Trauma and How Do I Know If I Have It?

How do I know if I have childhood trauma

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Healing from trauma is a deeply personal and often complex journey, one that can look and feel different for everyone. For many women contemplating therapy as a pathway to recovery, understanding the nuances of trauma healing can be both enlightening and empowering. This article aims to shed light on the process of healing from trauma, offering insights and guidance to help you navigate your own path to recovery.

How Do You Heal Trauma?

Childhood trauma is a profound and unsettling experience that can leave lasting scars, often carried silently into adulthood. It’s a term that also encompasses a wide range of distressing experiences that occurred during childhood. For many women, recognizing the signs of such trauma in adulthood can be a revelation that explains long-standing emotional, psychological, and behavioral patterns. Let’s explore what childhood trauma really means and what constitutes childhood trauma so we can discuss its signs in adults and help you or someone you love take actionable steps toward healing.

Understanding Childhood Trauma

There are times when my clients have “AHA!” moments and they usually come in the form of recognizing that something they experienced as a kid is actually childhood trauma. But what is childhood trauma? From a definition standpoint, it means a scary, violent, dangerous, or life-threatening event that happens to a child. More than two-thirds of children reported having experienced at least one traumatic event by the age of 16. Contrary to popular belief, childhood trauma isn’t limited to physical abuse. It can also include emotional neglect, sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, the loss of a caregiver, severe illness, or any event that significantly disrupts the child’s sense of safety and security. Trauma can stem from a single event or a series of ongoing situations, leaving a lasting impact on the child’s emotional and psychological development.

Some Examples of Childhood Trauma:

Does this mean everything on this list will develop into a trauma response? No. If you’re wondering how you would know if you suffered from a childhood trauma, it starts with a reflective look at your past and current emotional states and behaviors. There are signs that may indicate past trauma including persistent feelings of anxiety and depression, difficulties in forming or maintaining relationships, unexplained phobias, intense or overwhelming emotional reactions to certain triggers, and patterns of self-destructive behavior.

Can You Have Childhood Trauma Symptoms but No Trauma?

Sometimes, people may exhibit symptoms associated with trauma without being able to pinpoint a specific event or series of events that led to these feelings. This typically happens due to the mind’s ability to suppress painful memories to protect us. We also need to remember that one person may experience trauma as something traumatic while someone else does not. This is due to differences in perception, resilience, and available support systems at the time of the event. Additionally, people often do not recognize the significance and impact of certain events in childhood – especially when it comes to relational trauma.

childhood trauma examples

What Does Childhood Trauma Look Like in Adults?

This is an idea that I discuss a lot with my clients.  With many of clients, their childhood trauma results in negative core beliefs about themselves that drives unhealthy and unhelpful behavior patterns. 

What Happens If Childhood Trauma Is Not Resolved?

Unresolved childhood trauma can have profound effects on an adult’s life, potentially leading to mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and relationship difficulties. It can also result in physical health issues due to the chronic stress response being activated in the body. Without addressing the root causes of these symptoms, individuals may find it challenging to lead a fulfilling and healthy life.

6 Ways to Start Healing from Childhood Trauma in Adulthood

Healing from childhood trauma is a personal and often complex journey. It requires courage to face one’s past and the willingness to work through painful emotions and memories. However, with the right support and strategies, recovery is possible.

The first step towards healing is acknowledging that the trauma occurred and accepting its impact on your life. This process involves understanding that your feelings and reactions are valid responses to your experiences.

Therapy is a crucial component of the healing process, providing a safe and supportive space to explore your trauma with a trained professional. Therapists specializing in trauma can offer various therapeutic approaches, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or other trauma-focused psychotherapy, tailored to your specific needs

Healing from trauma doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be a solitary journey. Building a support system of friends, family, or support groups who understand and validate your experiences can provide comfort and encouragement.

Engaging in self-care practices can help manage the symptoms of trauma and improve overall well-being. This can include activities like exercise, meditation, journaling, or anything that brings you joy and relaxation.

Setting healthy boundaries is essential for protecting your emotional energy and creating a safe space for your healing journey. Learn to say no to situations and relationships that drain you or trigger negative emotions.

Understanding trauma and its effects can empower you to take control of your healing process. Reading books, attending workshops, or participating in online forums dedicated to trauma recovery can provide valuable insights and coping strategies.

What’s Holding You Back from Healing?

Healing childhood trauma

Childhood trauma is a deeply impactful experience that can shape an individual’s life in profound ways. Recognizing the signs of unhealed trauma in adulthood is the first step towards addressing these wounds and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilled life. With the right support, strategies, and a commitment to self-care, healing from childhood trauma is not just possible; it’s a pathway to rediscovering your strength and resilience.

If you believe you may be experiencing the effects of childhood trauma, remember that it’s never too late to seek help and begin the journey toward healing. Therapy for trauma offers a compassionate and effective approach to addressing these deep-seated issues, guiding you toward recovery and the peace you deserve.

Move Forward and Take Steps to Heal

Don't Let Childhood Trauma Hold You Back

Get the support you need as you rediscover your strength and resilience.

Adrianne Wagner is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist providing in-person therapy in Collegeville, Pa and the surrounding area and online in Delaware and Florida. She is trained in multiple modalities of trauma-focused healing to best support clients who are looking to feel better faster.

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