Effects of Trauma in Childhood

Posted by Marthe Lemire on June 9, 2021

Trauma experienced in childhood can leave long lasting impacts throughout your life.
Just about everyone has had some kind of challenges in their childhood. You might think about trauma as being on a spectrum, from ‘small t trauma’ to ‘big T Trauma’.

  • Small ‘t’ trauma may include: having your feelings invalidated; moving to a different
    House; parental separation; teasing or social exclusion in school.
  • Big ‘T’ trauma may include: physical or sexual abuse; physical, emotional abuse or neglect; or on going physical and social bullying in the school setting.Does any of this resonate with you and your experiences?

Some ‘t’s can become ‘T’s on the spectrum depending on a variety of factors. Examples are: bullying, distracted parents, and childhood health issues.

Trauma can lead to social, emotional and mental health problems throughout your life. Some of these effects may include the following:

Lack of trust and difficulties establishing healthy relationships.

Physical, sexual and emotional abuse/neglect within a family context erodes any foundation of trust. You cannot trust that your fundamental needs (physical, social, emotional) will be met. It becomes very difficult to trust yourself and your own judgment and choices. This can lead to relationship issues such as being controlled or abused, or even to social isolation and avoidance. It may be very difficult to connect with others or to know what a healthy relationship would look like or feel like.

Core feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged.”

If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid, your needs don’t matter, or your feelings are wrong, these messages can come to define your ‘Core Self’, and you may experience the feelings and thoughts associated with them as reality.

Individuals who have internalized this kind of message may, as adults, settle for whatever they can get, and believe they deserve no more because they are worthless or damaged. This is especially true of sexual abuse survivors.

Difficulty regulating emotions.

Children that have been abused, neglected, or raised in a ‘crazy making’ environment cannot express their emotions safely. Emotions may get “stuffed down” or mislabeled or denied. This can lead to confusing emotional reactivity.
Adult survivors of child abuse or neglect often struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol, drugs, or food, to numb out painful feelings.

At the same time, there are factors that can mitigate or reduce the effects of trauma, such as support from a trusted adult, supportive peer relationships, or achievement or recognition through school, sports, or artistic pursuits. These factors can contribute to the resilience of a child who may be struggling with adverse environments. Again, it can be helpful to identify and explore your ‘gifts’ - positive events which may have lessened the trauma effects.

In my next post, I will talk about some of the tools that you can develop in adulthood to lessen the impacts of a range of childhood traumas.
There is Hope.
I welcome questions or comments.




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The information on this site is based on the knowledge and opinions of this writer, and is in no way meant to be construed as counselling or therapy.
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