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  • Melanie Ann Philp

Behavioural traits of adults that suffered childhood trauma

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Adults Who Suffered Trauma During Childhood Tend to Develop these 5 Behavioural Traits.

Some traumas stay with you. And if you were a child when you experienced it, then chances are, the effects are carry into your adult life.

Your childhood was supposed to about playing, learning, making memories with your parents, growing. It was meant to be about letting that inner wonder come out, safe in the knowledge that your parents would be there to help you up when you fell. But while some may have experienced this type of childhood, not everyone did. Some went through intense trauma, whether it was verbal, physical or sexual abuse, or separation from loved ones, unsafe environments, neglect, severe illness, bullying, and even medical procedures.

But just because the trauma happened in your childhood doesn't mean it ends there, states Psychology Today. “Our study suggested that childhood trauma casts a long and wide-ranging shadow,” researchers part of The Great Smoky Mountain Study say, reported the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation. According to a study published by a team of researchers in the American Medical Association, the results stated the following:

"Cumulative childhood trauma exposure was associated with poor adult outcomes even after accounting for many of the childhood and family factors associated with both trauma exposure and poor adult outcomes."

Essentially, all the trauma you faced as a child could have carried over into adulthood and manifested in the form of these five behaviours:

1. You withdraw into yourself, especially when you're scared or anxious

Various research has linked trauma to anxiety. In one study, it was found that trauma can play a role in developing Social Anxiety Disorders (SAD). In the study published in The National Centre for Biotechnology, researchers attempted to find the link between the two. They discovered that abuse from parents such as swearing, verbal aggression, denigrating, and insulting can lead to anxiety. Which is why as an adult, you try to keep mostly to yourself, for fear that you are going to face the same thing you did as a child. This withdrawal becomes worse when you're scared or anxious about something.

2. You panic for even the smallest things even if there's nothing negative about it

Everyone suffers some form of anxiety but with those whose anxiety is linked to childhood trauma, even the smallest negative things can have their stress levels shoot up. While a person who doesn't have anxiety issues might learn from some criticism or comments from people in authority, you may see it as a black mark on your self-esteem. For example, if your partner says they want to talk about something, your mind might immediately jump to all the worst outcomes and panic about talking with them. This panic may even become all-consuming, not allowing you to think about anything else, at least until you are told that there's nothing to worry about.

3. You tense up constantly due to the stress you take on yourself

More often than not, external trauma like stress, assault, and abuse can trigger your flight or fight response. When you feel like you're in danger, even if there is nothing around you that can warrant that feeling, your stress hormones, norepinephrine and cortisol begin to increase in order to protect your body, hence leaving you tensed up. And even once the stress is resolved, it doesn't always go away. It's why you find yourself constantly alert and ready to react, even in some of the most peaceful situations. It can give off a vibe of being unapproachable to others, leaving you a bit isolated.

4. You tend to underachieve because you believe you're not worth it

With the constant battering of your confidence, self-esteem and more from the abuse you endured as a child, by the time you reach adulthood, you find that you're unable to believe in yourself. So as an adult, you tend to underachieve, thinking that there's no possible way you'd be able to achieve success. In a study published by Michael D. De Bellis Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, he explored how a person who has suffered trauma as a child tends to have poorer outcomes throughout their life. He found that it is those children who don't excel in academic settings and find fewer opportunities in life.

5. You avoid things that you fear, even if there are benefits to it

Everyone has something they fear. The only difference between them and others who've suffered like you, is that they can overcome their discomfort for the sake of reaping the benefits of it. For example, others might not like going to the dentist but will go anyway to get the job done. However, while you might schedule an appointment, you end up giving into the impulse to not go. It's unsurprising as since childhood, you've been broken down and made to let fear rule you. Hence, as an adult, the moment you feel threatened, you do your best to avoid that particular event or person.

Your trauma is no joking matter. Every emotion you felt as a child is valid, even if others made you think they weren't. And they don't realise just how much it has affected the way you interact with people as an adult or look for success. You deserve better than the fear, pain, and anxiety that you go through on a daily basis. As hard as it may seem, ask for help. Because getting past it can finally help you make beautiful memories with the right people in the right places.

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