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What are the Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults

A woman who is sitting on the floor besides the door looking helpless and traumatized

Trauma experienced in childhood can echo into adulthood, influencing your behaviors, relationships, and ability to cope with stress. The effects of childhood trauma in adults influence people differently. For some, it can mean avoiding close relationships or triggering situations. For others, symptoms take the form of addictions. The one thing these effects have in common is causing distress to the person experiencing them. 

What is Childhood Trauma? 

Childhood trauma is a traumatic event that happens before you become an adult. This broad definition can cover different forms of trauma, but Adverse Childhood Experiences fall into four main categories.

Four categories of ACEs: 

  • Abuse. This category includes physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • Neflect. Not providing for a child’s physical or emotional needs.
  • Household Challenges. Experiences in this category include divorce, death or abandonment of guardians, serious illness, substance use disorder, or mental illness in the home. 
  • Community Incidents. These include natural disasters, terrorism, or violence in the community.

Childhood trauma can happen anywhere and take place at any age. Children don’t have the ability to understand their role in complex issues. Therefore, trauma can lead to feelings of personal responsibility, lack of stability, feelings of shame or guilt, and a mistrust of those around them. These symptoms can occur in childhood and remain into adulthood. Or they might appear many years after the trauma. 

A woman cober her face with both of her hands who seems to be so scared and traumatized

What are the Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults?

Trauma during developmental years changes the way a child’s brain develops, leading to issues in many areas of your life.


The trauma inflicted in childhood changes the way a person connects with others. It can introduce a sense of shame or lack of self-worth, which can cause you to form relationships in unhealthy ways. For some people, this might take the form of making unhealthy attachments with unsuitable people. For others, it could look like avoidance of relationships all together. 

Emotional Processing

You learn healthy emotional processing — attaching the correct emotional response to an external stimulus — in childhood. Childhood trauma can make forming these connections difficult. It makes it challenging for an adult to determine the appropriate response to experiences. You may have quickly shifting emotions or experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Experts link childhood abuse to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. 

Addiction and Substance Use

Childhood trauma can cause adults to have a difficult time managing stressful situations. As a result, it is common for people to turn to food, drugs, or alcohol as a coping mechanism. They use these substances to help them deal with their strong emotional responses to triggering people or situations.

Chronic Illness

Childhood trauma can physically affect the adult body, leading to a greater risk of chronic health problems. The sudden burst of stress hormones induced by trauma can put you at greater risk for: 

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Obesity

Memory Loss/Repression

Due to the incredibly traumatizing nature of trauma suffered in childhood, some people’s brains “forget” the trauma as a way to cope. The brain pushes the memory down into the unconscious, so you can continue to live your life. But, the trauma can still affect your behavior, even if you repress it. 

Can Adults Overcome Childhood Trauma? 

The effects of childhood trauma in adulthood can feel like they’re taking over your life. Fortunately, therapy can treat childhood trauma. Trauma therapy can help you identify triggering events, situations, or people. It also can help you learn to develop coping mechanisms to assist you in dealing with the effects and symptoms of trauma healthily. 

How ILC Can Help

Integrative Life Center recognizes that childhood trauma can have a far-reaching influence on many areas of your life. We offer a variety of holistic and evidence-based therapies to develop a therapeutic approach specific to you. 

Because every individual is unique, your treatment must meet your specific needs. ILC offers levels of treatment, from residential care to intensive outpatient programs, to offer the support you need. 

Trauma-specific treatment approaches include: 

  • Brainspotting Therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy 
  • Comprehensive Resource Model Therapy 
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Trauma-Informed Therapy

Working with our compassionate therapists, patients receive the tools they need to heal the trauma inflicted in their childhood. We work with you to determine a personalized treatment plan that integrates care of mind, body, and spirit. For help treating childhood trauma today, contact us. 

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