15 Ways Your Childhood Trauma Might Be Showing Up In Your Adult Life

15 Ways Your Childhood Trauma Might Be Showing Up In Your Adult Life

Childhood trauma can stem from many things. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and divorce are some of the main causes. And if this isn’t acknowledged and addressed, you can expect it to show up in your adult life. Here are just some of the ways that childhood trauma can present itself.

1. You have a fear of intimacy

boyfriend shouting at girlfriendiStock/Kiwis

Many people who experience childhood trauma will develop a fear of intimacy as an adult. This could be due to neglect, which can make you believe that the people you love most will abandon you at any moment. Therefore, you avoid getting too close to anyone to avoid building your hopes up and getting crushed later on.

2. You have low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can often be caused by emotional and mental abuse. If you’re repeatedly told that you’re worthless or not good enough, you might start to believe it. Also, if you experienced a lot of name-calling as a child, this may have changed the way you perceive yourself. As a result, your damaged relationship with yourself may lead you to withdraw and become afraid of the spotlight.

3. You’re drawn to toxic people

The sad reality is that you may be seeking out what hurts you the most. Why? Because toxic people and toxic situations feel familiar to you. It’s all you know. Therefore, you’re drawn to these types of people. You even seek out comfort and guidance from them. It’s quite common for adults with childhood trauma to self-sabotage, and unfortunately, it can be a hard cycle to break out of.

4. You’re hypervigilant

Experiencing childhood trauma may cause you to believe that you’re always in danger. Even as an adult, you see threats at every corner. As a result, you often feel stressed and anxious. You may also avoid certain situations and places where you think there could be dangers. This leads you to miss out on many opportunities.

5. You avoid romantic relationships


Not everyone with childhood trauma avoids romantic relationships, but it is quite common. There can be loads of reasons for this. Your low self-esteem might make you feel like you’re undeserving or not good enough for this person. You might be too afraid to get close and show your true self to someone else or you’re afraid that once they know your past, they’ll run away. Of course, this is just the trauma talking, but it’s what you’ve been made to believe.

6. You feel angry for no reason

Everyone experiences anger sometimes—it’s a normal emotion. However, there’s a strong difference between normal anger and frustration and repeatedly getting very angry and irritational. Your anger shows up in your everyday life, whether that’s when you’re in a line or stuck behind a slow walker. It feels uncontrollable at times and can be due to unresolved or untreated childhood trauma. You can’t let go of what’s happened and that makes you feel angry. It’s perfectly normal, but it needs to be addressed before it gets worse.

7. You don’t know how to trust others


When you’ve been hurt and let down as a child, it can be hard to form relationships and trust new people in your adult life. You don’t know who you can lean on since the very people who were supposed to take care of you didn’t even do that.  To avoid getting hurt, you’re wary of everyone. You keep your distance and choose not to open up.

8. You don’t sleep well at night

Trauma can keep you awake at night as you might be reliving some of the things that happened to you in the past. Additionally, you might find it hard to relax enough to fall asleep and stay asleep. Nightmares are common in adults with childhood trauma, too. As a result, you don’t often wake up feeling refreshed or energized. You spend some of your days feeling tired and lifeless.

9. You have social anxiety

Social anxiety isn’t always a sign of childhood trauma—it can affect all kinds of people. However, it’s more common with adults with childhood trauma to experience anxiety when meeting new people and socializing in big groups. You might hold back from certain events to avoid having to talk to lots of people or sit in the corner when you have to show up. In your head, this is a way of protecting yourself, but sadly, it stops you from making great memories.

10. You hate new places

People with childhood trauma have a fear of the unknown, so they might avoid going to new places and anything that feels unfamiliar. You’ve been conditioned to believe that there can be danger anywhere, so you don’t know if there are any “safe” places. Therefore, you avoid new ones altogether. That way you can’t get hurt, right?

11. You have memory issues

Did you know childhood trauma can cause memory issues in your adult life? The reason for this is that your brain tries to protect you from the trauma and as a result, you can’t recall past memories. At times, you might have trouble remembering important things about yourself and your childhood. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get those memories back, but you can see a professional who might be able to help.

12. You find it hard to make friends

For the same reason that you find romantic relationships hard, you find it difficult to make new friends. This is often caused by a combination of low self-esteem, a fear of rejection, and feeling afraid of opening up and getting hurt. To make friends, you have to reveal parts of yourself that you may be keeping buried. This is hard for someone with trauma to do, so you might completely avoid meeting new people.

13. You have poor physical health

Someone who experienced childhood trauma may feel like they don’t deserve to be happy and healthy. This is especially true if you were told things like, “You’re not good enough,” and made to feel guilty about things that were never your fault. You might avoid doing the things that will make you feel well, like regular exercise and eating a balanced diet, as a way of self-sabotaging.

14. You have unhealthy coping mechanisms

When your childhood trauma isn’t addressed or it goes unresolved, it can manifest itself in bad ways. Whether it’s intentionally or subconsciously, you might be drawn to unhealthy habits such as drinking too much alcohol or binge eating. Although this might be a way for you to cope with the trauma, it’s highly damaging to your emotional and physical self. It’s important to know that you can get help for this.

15. You’re drawn to danger

Sometimes, adults with childhood trauma are drawn to dangerous people and high-risk situations. This could be because it feels familiar to you or it could be an attempt to self-sabotage. You know it’s risky, but you don’t seem to care. It’s worth mentioning that it’s not too late to seek help. Talk to a professional such as a doctor or therapist who can get you the support you need.

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Coralle is a freelance writer with an interest in relationships, women's health and parenting. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching new Netflix shows and spending time with family.