Does Childhood Trauma Affect Adulthood?

During childhood, a person should experience a sense of safety because they are loved and protected. Having the confidence that comes from knowing your family safeguards you paves the way for you to have healthy and secure connections in your later years. This is the idealized notion of childhood and the experience of having a childhood. Nevertheless, this idealistic expectation is in stark contrast to the reality many children face and the effect it has on the rest of their lives for many of these youngsters.

As adults, we are frequently unable to absorb the events that have occurred in our lives. Imagine the magnitude and breadth of the situation as seen through the eyes of a child attempting to make sense of the intricacies of these experiences. And making an effort to comprehend the part they played on the occasion. Children do not process information as we do because they have not had the same opportunities for education, socialization, or life experience. They frequently place the responsibility on themselves because they do not have any other frame of reference to explain why these occurrences take place.

Types of Childhood Trauma

Experiencing trauma as a child can take many different forms.

  • Abuse, either physical or sexual
  • Being a witness to a terrifying experience
  • Having a serious sickness that requires one to have surgery and stay in the hospital
  • Observing instances of family violence
  • being subjected to severe acts of bullying
  • Dire circumstances, such as the trauma of being a refugee or enduring a widespread natural disaster.

Attachment Styles

It is possible for a child to develop a variety of adult attachment issues if they experienced trauma in childhood to 

These may include the following:

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment

When the child grows up and becomes an adult, they may decide that the best way to shield themselves from being rejected once more is to become extremely independent.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment. 

It is only natural for some children who have been abused or neglected to develop a dread of personal connections and intimacy as a result of their experiences. Those who have fearful avoidant attachment styles as adults frequently have a lack of confidence in others, a difficult time communicating their emotions, and a possible appearance of being separated from their spouse.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment:

This adult may come across as clingy or needy, and they may frequently need repeated validation from their partners. As a result of having spent their childhood with parents who were inconsistent in the level of emotional security they provided, they will never feel completely safe and secure. When a youngster is loved but then rejected on multiple occasions, it causes the child to continually question their place in the world and requires them to seek constant affirmation.

Trust Challenges

A traumatic experience in childhood might make it exceedingly difficult to trust other people. Problems with trust might manifest themselves as extreme independence, in which the individual cannot bring themselves to believe that another person will come through for them when they need help. You fear being vulnerable like that or relying on someone else. It is possible that you will not ask for assistance when you really need it because you will think that doing so makes you appear weak

It can also manifest into being too trusting, to the point of being so desperate to be accepted that the moment someone shows interest in you, you inappropriately open up to them, frequently within the first few times of meeting them. You have a propensity to overshare and expect to feel for and care about you as deeply as you do for them.  Those who are extremely defensive have limits that are too difficult to cross, but people who trust others too easily may not have any boundaries at all.

Communication Styles

Our early experiences impact how we learn to communicate, or fail to communicate, in the interactions we have as adults. They also shape the possibility that our needs will be addressed in healthy ways. A traumatic event has a significant impact on future communication.

There are four different communication styles: passive, passive aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. Passively aggressive communication makes a statement about a need, but it does so in a style that is indirect, sardonic, snarky, or humorous, or it jokes about it.  Through aggressive communication, one’s wants are communicated in a hostile or threatening manner, while the needs of others are entirely ignored. Last but not least, assertive communication, which is the aim of the exercise, is achieved when demands are communicated in unambiguous, direct, and thoughtful ways to both parties.

Trauma Reenactment

Many people who have survived traumatic experiences are willing to repeatedly and, in many cases, obsessively place themselves in situations analogous to the ordeals they went through in the past. Those who have endured a difficult upbringing may find themselves accustomed to and comfortable in disarray. Most people who survive traumatic experiences are unaware that they may develop an addiction to the feelings that the abuse stimulated. This addiction can induce you to form emotional attachments to other people who bring about a feeling of disarray and instability within you. 

Mental Health Disorders that can Develop

In the most severe instances of childhood trauma, a person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of traumatic experiences (PTSD).This leads to a variety of symptoms, many of which have a detrimental impact on the overall quality of life of a child, as well as on his or her well-being and relationships. Other mental health disorders that may develop following childhood trauma include: anxiety and panic attacks, anger issues, low self-esteem, self harming behaviors, depression and OCD.

Ways to Work on Childhood Trauma 

The good news is that treatment can assist you with recognizing triggers, developing techniques for coping with them, and lessening the severity of the symptoms, all within the context of a supportive and safe setting.

Some therapies commonly used for childhood trauma include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and processing therapy (CPT) 

This evidence-based treatment incorporates behavioral strategies, humanistic principles, and family support, and it is dependent on the active engagement of the patient’s trusted parents and caregivers throughout the process. One subcategory of cognitive behavioral therapy is called cognitive processing treatment, or CPT for short. When it comes to the treatment of PTSD, CPT is frequently the method of choice, particularly when addressing the long-term repercussions of childhood traumas in adults.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Another form of treatment for traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. Eye movements are repeated throughout EMDR therapy in order to reorganize traumatic memories.

Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)

During the sessions, the therapist assists clients in confronting traumatic memories, fears, sensations, and events that they have associated with the trauma.

Types of Self Care

There are also things that can be done at home to help with overcoming childhood trauma. These include:


The practice of meditation heightens one’s conscious self-awareness and teaches one to pay greater attention to the feelings that arise over the course of daily living. When you cultivate greater mindfulness around your feelings, it becomes simpler to recognize the circumstances that set off undesirable reactions in you.


Journaling can help you see patterns in your adult life that you wish to change, and journaling from the perspective of your inner child can help you recognize detrimental patterns that began when you were a child. 

Reach out to Peaks Recovery today

If you are struggling to cope with childhood trauma, get in touch with the team at Peaks Recovery today to talk about how we can help you with out inpatient services.

Medical Disclaimer: Peaks Recovery Centers uses fact-based content about recovery treatment, addiction medicine, and behavioral health conditions to improve the quality of life for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction or mental health disorders. This information is not intended to replace professional medical guidance, diagnosis, care, or treatment. This information should not be used as a substitute for advice from a qualified healthcare provider and/or your physician.