You may think it was all in your past, but it could be the reason you feel the way you are today.
Not everyone can look back at their childhood and immediately feel a flood of fond memories come rushing back to them. Some of us are reminded of lying sleepless on the bed as a child, while our parents argued across the hall. Some remember being neglected and bullied by the very people meant to take care of us. And some of us can only see the haunting memories of being abused as a child.
Years may have passed after those adverse experiences, but it's possible that the effects of childhood trauma are still very much a part of your life today. The hurt you felt in your childhood could manifest in the following ways when you're an adult.
Constantly being exposed to situations that made you terrified as a child can often make you feel on the edge as an adult. A study published in the South African Journal of Psychiatry concluded that the more a person was exposed to childhood trauma, the more severe would be their Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Because of this, even ordinary social situations might make you feel anxious, which could be a reason why you tend to keep to yourself. Apart from the external noise, your own inner voice constantly criticizes you and makes you doubt your abilities and self-worth.
As a child, if you felt abandoned by a caregiver who was meant to protect you, or if someone would constantly undermine your feelings when you were young, it's likely that you have learned to keep your true feelings buried as you grew up. "Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves," wrote Andrea Brandt, marriage and family therapist, for Psychology Today. As an adult, even the people who are always around you might not know your deepest feelings because you tend to keep them hidden from the world. Or, you could fall in the other extreme as the wound we experienced still lies open and unhealed, leading to us reacting emotionally to situations that may not warrant intense feelings. A slight delay or hesitance from a partner may trigger fears of abandonment or rejection, leading to tears and arguments. Be kind to yourself. You coped the best you could and you survived. You can now learn new tools to manage your emotions.
The way you see yourself today can be a result of the way you were made to feel when you were a child. Childhood trauma can fracture your self-esteem, which in turn affects the way you make decisions, the risks you do and don't take in life, and the way you allow others to treat you. "The damage that trauma exacts upon your self-esteem also feeds into the harshness and self-hatred that frequently arises following a traumatic life event," wrote psychologist, Susanne Dillmann for Good Therapy. Even when you do well, you may struggle with imposters syndrome. Or, when someone expresses genuine appreciation, you wonder if they are just saying things to please you or get something done through you. Your equation with joy is so shaky sometimes you may unconsciously self-sabotage so that you can continue to sell yourself the false story of "I am not worth good things in life."
When your loved ones left you feeling hurt and alone throughout your childhood, somewhere along the line you convinced yourself that everybody you meet will leave you feeling the same way. Psychiatrist, Grant Hilary Brenner wrote for Psychology Today, "People with negative developmental experiences involving intimate relationships may opt to avoid closeness and isolate themselves." So, as a way of protecting yourself, you would rather be alone than give your relationships a fighting chance because you want to avoid the risk of feeling betrayed again. Or, you could develop an over-anxious attachment style where you tend to give more than you can and feel frustrated that you are not receiving the same kind of love or attention from your partner.
Childhood trauma can significantly impact the way you respond to situations as an adult. When you are confronted with a situation where someone else might experience ordinary levels of stress, you might instead respond with extreme levels of stress which can make your body "shut down." You might feel like your heart is racing or your breathing becomes heavy, according to NCTSN (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network). Over time, your health can also be affected as Kristi Williams, an Ohio State University sociology professor affiliated with their Institute for Population Research, said "childhood adversity creates a chain of risk that has a lifelong impact on health," as quoted by PRB. Apart from stress-related physical issues, you may also develop mental ailments like depression or PTSD or have body symptoms such as CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) or fibromyalgia (constant pain).
It is important to note that childhood trauma may have long-lasting effects, but with the right help, it's possible to minimize the negative impact that your childhood experience has on your adulthood. Ask for help and seek therapy if you have to, so you can stop your past from affecting your present. You can even talk to a trusted friend as the first step or join online groups or forums to share and learn from strangers who shared similar experiences.