People With Unresolved Childhood Trauma Usually Do These 16 Things As Adults

People With Unresolved Childhood Trauma Usually Do These 16 Things As Adults Shutterstock

Unresolved childhood trauma can cast a long shadow, subtly shaping our adult lives in ways we might not even realize.

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From how we handle relationships to our everyday habits, these past experiences can leave lasting imprints. Here are some common patterns that might emerge in adulthood for those who haven’t fully processed their childhood trauma. Recognizing these behaviors can be the first step towards healing and creating a more fulfilling life. Remember, this is just a starting point and everyone’s journey is different. If you resonate with any of these points, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who can guide you on your path to recovery.

1. You have serious trust issues.

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Maybe you find it hard to let your guard down completely, even with people who seem trustworthy. You might question their intentions or worry about getting hurt again. This can make it difficult to form close relationships and maintain them over time. It’s as if a part of you is always expecting the worst, making it hard to fully believe in the goodness of other people.

2. You tend to blame yourself for everything that goes wrong.

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Did a project at work fail? It must be your fault. Did a relationship end? You probably did something to mess it up. It’s a familiar pattern of shouldering the blame, even when it’s not entirely yours to bear. This can stem from feeling inadequate or unworthy, a belief that might have taken root during your childhood experiences.

3. You struggle to set boundaries.

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Saying “no” feels like an impossible task. You might agree to things you don’t want to do, overextend yourself to please people, or tolerate behavior that makes you uncomfortable. This lack of boundaries can leave you feeling drained, resentful, and taken advantage of. It’s as if you’ve lost touch with your own needs and prioritize everyone else’s instead.

4. You constantly seek validation and approval from other people.

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Your self-worth seems to hinge on external recognition. You crave compliments, reassurance, and constant reminders that you’re good enough. This can make you feel anxious and insecure when you don’t receive the validation you seek. It’s a never-ending cycle of chasing approval, hoping that it will finally fill the void within.

5. You struggle with self-criticism and negative self-talk.

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Your inner voice is often harsh and unforgiving. You might berate yourself for the smallest mistakes, replaying them over and over in your mind. This negative self-talk can destroy your confidence and make it difficult to see your own strengths and accomplishments, Verywell Mind warns. It’s a constant battle with your own thoughts, a relentless critic that seems determined to keep you down.

6. You tend to attract partners who are emotionally unavailable or unhealthy for you.

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Your relationships might feel like a rollercoaster of highs and lows, marked by drama, conflict, and a lack of emotional intimacy. You might find yourself drawn to people who are distant, unreliable, or even abusive. This can be a reflection of unresolved trauma, a subconscious reenactment of familiar patterns in the hope of finally getting it right.

7. You find it hard to identify and express your feelings.

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You might feel emotionally numb, disconnected from your own feelings. Or maybe you experience intense emotions that seem to come out of nowhere, overwhelming you. It can be hard to put words to what you’re feeling, leaving you bottled up and frustrated. This emotional disconnect can make it challenging to form healthy relationships and connect with people on a deeper level.

8. You engage in self-destructive behaviors as a way to cope with stress or pain.

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Perhaps you turn to alcohol, drugs, or other substances to numb the pain. You might engage in risky sexual behavior, overspend, or self-harm. These behaviors might provide temporary relief but ultimately leave you feeling worse off. It’s a vicious cycle of seeking solace in unhealthy ways, only to perpetuate the suffering.

9. You find it hard to maintain healthy friendships.

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Perhaps you find yourself constantly switching friend groups, struggling to find people who truly understand you. You might feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, or that your friendships are shallow and lack depth. This can stem from a fear of vulnerability and intimacy, making it hard to form any kind of meaningful relationship.

10. You experience flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts related to your childhood trauma.

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The past seems to haunt you, intruding into your present life in the form of vivid memories, disturbing dreams, or sudden overwhelming emotions. These triggers can be unpredictable and disruptive, leaving you feeling shaken and vulnerable. It’s as if your childhood trauma is still alive within you, demanding to be acknowledged and healed.

11. You often feel overwhelmed and easily triggered by stressors.

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Even minor inconveniences or challenges can feel like insurmountable obstacles. You might react with disproportionate anger, anxiety, or sadness to situations that other people might consider trivial. This heightened sensitivity can make it difficult to navigate everyday life, leaving you feeling constantly on edge and easily overwhelmed.

12. You struggle with chronic physical health issues.

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Your body might be carrying the weight of your unresolved trauma, manifesting in unexplained pain, digestive problems, headaches, or other physical ailments. This mind-body connection is a powerful reminder that our emotional well-being is intertwined with our physical health. It’s a call to address the root cause of the suffering, not just the symptoms.

13. You have difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks.

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Your mind might feel scattered and distracted, constantly jumping from one thought to another. You might find it hard to stay on track, complete projects, or follow through on commitments. This difficulty with focus can stem from the emotional overwhelm and anxiety that unresolved trauma can create.

14. You experience sleep disturbances such as insomnia or nightmares.

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Sleep becomes a battleground, a time when your subconscious takes over and replays the trauma in vivid detail. You might have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently throughout the night, or experience terrifying nightmares. This lack of restorative sleep can further exacerbate your emotional and physical well-being, the National Center for PTSD warns.

15. You isolate yourself from people, withdrawing into a shell of protection.

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Social interactions feel draining and overwhelming. You might prefer to be alone, avoiding situations that trigger your anxiety or discomfort. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection, further perpetuating the cycle of pain.

16. You may have addictive behaviors due to seeking comfort from outside sources.

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Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, or other compulsive activities, you might turn to these crutches to numb the pain and escape from reality. While these behaviors might provide temporary relief, they ultimately mask the underlying trauma and prevent true healing.

Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.