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What are the Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Sometimes you feel like something about you just isn’t quite right. You respond to certain places, people, or experiences in ways that you just don’t understand. You’re wondering if something happened that makes you feel this way. You may want to consider whether you should look for signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults.

Experiencing traumatizing events during your early years is incredibly difficult. For some people, their brains choose to push the memory down into their unconscious, so they can continue living their lives. It isn’t something you decide to do. It is your brain’s coping mechanism, so you can survive and attempt to thrive. But the childhood trauma may cause you issues without you even realizing why.

Childhood Trauma and Memory Loss

Adverse Childhood Experiences are traumatic events that happen in your life before you reach adulthood. There are 10 ACEs, and each traumatic experience can harm your ability to function as an adult if you don’t cope with them.

The 10 ACEs are:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Verbal abuse
  3. Sexual abuse 
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Alcoholic parent(s)
  7. Victim(s) of domestic abuse
  8. Family member(s) with mental illness
  9. The disappearance of parent(s), whether through a divorce, abandonment, or death
  10. Family member in prison

These traumas can impact your brain’s ability to form memories. It could be due to a physical impact on your brain, which impairs your ability to create memories. It also could be from your brain’s attempt to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of the trauma.

Sometimes you can develop dissociative amnesia. This memory loss is when you are unable to remember critical autobiographical information. Whether mild or severe, dissociative amnesia can impact all aspects of your life. 

Experts sometimes classify repressed memories from childhood trauma as a type of dissociation. You’re separating yourself from your past and trying to cope. 

8 Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Identifying the signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults can be tricky. Many of these signs also align with other mental health concerns. But some signs are unique as well. 

1. Strong Unexplained Reactions to Specific People

Have you ever met someone and immediately felt “off” about them? This feeling may be a sign of repressed childhood trauma. Your mind and body warn you that the person isn’t safe, even if you don’t know them. As a result, you may feel your body shift into a more protective stance, or you may have a strong desire to leave the situation. But you can’t identify why. This reaction may be because that person reminds you of someone who caused you trauma in the past. 

2. Lack of Ease in Certain Places

Places also can induce feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety in someone repressing memories of childhood trauma. When you first had your traumatizing experience, your brain made notes of everything — the colors, the smells, the sounds. Being in a place similar to your repressed childhood memories may trigger that fear deep within you and cause you to go into fight or flight mode. 

3. Extreme Emotional Shifts

Controlling emotions is difficult at the best of times. For those suffering from repressed childhood trauma, it is an even more difficult battle. If you have unaddressed ACEs, you may find that you are extremely upset by the everyday actions of others. You find yourself quickly going from relaxed and at ease to filled with anger or fear, all because of something seemingly small. Often this change is because that seemingly small thing subconsciously reminds you of some aspect of your repressed childhood trauma. 

4. Attachment Issues

Many ACEs cause you to have an intense fear of abandonment. Attachment issues can be because of developmental disruptions caused by traumatic experiences. You may find that you become intensely attached to other people and feel upset or highly emotional about them leaving. Even if it is just your partner leaving for an evening out or your friend going out of town, it causes intense anxiety and fear. 

5. Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion many people cope with throughout their lives. Those who have repressed childhood memories may experience more anxiety than others. Once you start uncovering your repressed trauma with an experienced mental health professional, you’ll be able to reveal how anxiety ties to your traumatic experiences. 

6. Childish Reactions

Moments of immaturity and childish outbursts are typical. But when this happens frequently, and you find that you regress into a child-like state, you may be coping with adverse experiences. Childish reactions may be a sign that you’re dealing with repressed childhood memories. It could be that you throw tantrums, speak in a child-like voice, or are stubborn about small things. These regular regressions are all indicative that you have memories you haven’t unlocked. 


A blonde woman with a pillow over her ears trying to block everything out


7. Consistent Exhaustion

You only have so much mental and emotional energy in a day. If you repress traumatic childhood memories, you subconsciously spend much of your energy on that. Exhaustion robs you of the energy you need to build and form new relationships and makes it difficult for you to connect with others. 

8. Unable to Cope in Normal Stressful Situations

Life comes with seemingly constant stressors. They’re part of a typical adult experience. People with repressed childhood trauma find themselves unable to cope with these everyday events and often lash out or hide. You may find that you lash out at others in a childish manner or throw tantrums when things don’t go your way. You are regressing to that original state you were in during trauma and trying to protect yourself. 

How ILC Treats Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Knowing the signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults is only one step toward recovery. You need to recover those memories in a safe space where professionals can help you understand and cope with the trauma.


At Integrative Life Center, our trauma-informed therapy techniques allow you to navigate your repressed childhood trauma at your own pace. You will learn the tools you need to accept your trauma and move forward in your life. If you’re ready to uncover your childhood memories and start living your life to the fullest, contact ILC today


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