8 Signs Of Childhood Trauma In Adults, Effects & Treatment

Childhood trauma in adults means that bad things that happened when they were young still affect them emotionally, mentally, and physically. These traumatic events, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental drug use, or seeing violence, can have deep and long-lasting effects on a person’s health.


Childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on individuals well into adulthood. Even though everyone’s childhood differs, some common signs may point to unresolved childhood trauma. Seeing these signs is important if you want to know how your past affects your well-being now. By noticing and dealing with these signs, people can start the healing process and get the help they need for their emotional health. In this article, we’ll look at eight common signs of childhood trauma in adults, showing how important it is to heal and get better.

What is Childhood Trauma in Adults?

Childhood trauma in adults means that bad things that happened when they were young still affect them emotionally, mentally, and physically. These traumatic events, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental drug use, or seeing violence, can have deep and long-lasting effects on a person’s health. Trauma in childhood can change how an adult thinks, acts, and works as a whole, affecting their relationships, self-esteem, ability to control their emotions, and even their physical health. Adults must recognize and deal with childhood trauma through therapy, support networks, and self-care to help them heal and build resilience.

8 Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

1. Emotional and Mood Instability

When adults haven’t dealt with a traumatic event from their childhood, their feelings can change quickly and strongly. They may have trouble keeping their feelings in check, leading to frequent mood swings, angry outbursts, unexplained sadness, or increased anxiety. These mood changes can happen without any clear cause or seem disproportionate to the situation.

2. Flashbacks and Intrusive Memories

Repressed childhood trauma can resurface in the form of flashbacks or intrusive memories. These vivid and distressing recollections of past traumatic events may occur spontaneously, causing individuals to re-experience the emotions and sensations associated with the trauma. Flashbacks and intrusive memories can be triggered by certain sights, sounds, smells, or emotional experiences resembling the original trauma.

3. Avoidance and Numbing Behaviors

Individuals with repressed childhood trauma often develop avoidance behaviors to protect themselves from re-triggering painful memories. They may avoid specific people, places, activities, or conversations that remind them of the trauma. Additionally, they may engage in numbing behaviors, such as substance abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, or self-isolation, to cope with emotional pain or to detach themselves from their feelings.

4. Relationship Difficulties

When people don’t talk about bad things that happened to them as kids, it can make it hard for them to make and keep healthy relationships. Because of past betrayals, abuse, or neglect, people can have trouble trusting others, being close to them, and making emotional connections. There may also be trouble communicating, a fear of being left alone, and a tendency to push people away.

Childhood trauma in adults means that bad things that happened when they were young still affect them emotionally, mentally, and physically. These traumatic events, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental drug use, or seeing violence, can have deep and long-lasting effects on a person's health.
Childhood trauma in adults means that bad things that happened when they were young still affect them emotionally, mentally, and physically. These traumatic events, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental drug use, or seeing violence, can have deep and long-lasting effects on a person’s health.

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Childhood Trauma In Adults Fact Sheet


Childhood trauma in adults refers to the ongoing effects of adverse experiences endured during childhood, including physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, or exposure to traumatic events.


Childhood trauma is unfortunately widespread, with research indicating that a significant portion of adults have experienced some form of trauma during their early years.

Impact on Mental Health

Childhood trauma can significantly impact an adult’s mental health, contributing to the development of various mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and personality disorders.

Impact on Physical Health

There is a strong connection between childhood trauma and physical health outcomes in adulthood. Individuals who experience trauma during childhood may have an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and substance abuse disorders.

Interpersonal Difficulties

Childhood trauma can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. Trust issues, fear of intimacy, challenges with emotional expression, and patterns of dysfunctional or abusive relationships may arise.

Emotional Regulation Challenges

Adults who experienced childhood trauma may struggle with regulating their emotions. They may exhibit emotional instability, difficulty managing stress, heightened sensitivity to triggers, and difficulty expressing or understanding emotions.

Self-Esteem and Identity Issues

Childhood trauma can negatively impact an individual’s self-esteem and sense of identity. They may struggle with feelings of worthlessness, shame, and self-blame, resulting in low self-confidence and a distorted self-perception.

Coping Mechanisms

Adults who experience childhood trauma may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, self-harm, avoidance, or dissociation to manage emotional pain or distress.

Resilience and Healing

Despite the challenges, individuals with a history of childhood trauma can heal and build resilience. Seeking therapy, engaging in support networks, practicing self-care, and learning healthy coping strategies are vital steps toward healing and recovery.

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Childhood Trauma in Adults Statistics

About 61% of adults in the United States say they had at least one bad childhood experience. Different kinds of childhood trauma can affect both men and women differently. Researchers have found that people who experienced trauma as children are more likely to develop mental health disorders, have trouble making and keeping relationships, and have worse physical health outcomes.

Trauma can be passed down from generation to generation, which is a worry because people who went through trauma as children may be more likely to raise their own children similarly. But it’s important to remember that people can be strong and get better with the right help and care. Childhood trauma can happen at different rates and have different effects, so it’s important to talk to a professional to understand better how it affects you.


adults surveyed in the United States reported at least one adverse childhood experience.

Source: CDC

Gender Differences

Research suggests that both males and females can experience childhood trauma, with some variations in the types of trauma.

Source: CDC

High Risk

Individuals who have experienced childhood trauma are at higher risk for developing mental health disorders later in life.

Source: NIMH

5. Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Individuals with repressed childhood trauma often struggle with low self-esteem and a pervasive sense of worthlessness. They may internalize negative beliefs about themselves based on past experiences of abuse, criticism, or invalidation. Feelings of shame, self-blame, and a persistent belief that they are unworthy or undeserving can affect their overall sense of self-worth.

6. Self-Destructive Behaviors

Some people who haven’t dealt with painful memories from their childhood do things that hurt themselves as a way to deal with or show their pain. Some behaviors are self-harm, using drugs or alcohol, engaging in risky sexual behavior, gambling too much, or doing dangerous things. These actions can help people temporarily deal with their feelings, but in the long run, they just keep the cycle of trauma going.

7. Physical Symptoms

Repressed childhood trauma can manifest in physical symptoms without an apparent medical cause. Headaches, migraines, stomachaches, chronic pain, fatigue, and other unexplained physical symptoms may arise due to the psychological stress and emotional turmoil associated with the trauma. The mind-body connection is strong, and unresolved trauma can manifest in physical discomfort.

8. Dissociation and Memory Gaps

Dissociation is a coping mechanism that individuals with repressed childhood trauma may employ. It involves detaining oneself, others, or the immediate surroundings as a defense against overwhelming emotions or traumatic experiences. Dissociation can lead to periods of feeling disconnected, as if observing oneself from a distance or experiencing memory gaps, particularly regarding specific events or periods of the individual’s childhood.

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Effects of Childhood Trauma in Adults

Childhood trauma can have profound and long-lasting effects on adults. Here are some common effects:

Mental Health Problems: Adults with traumatic childhood experiences are more likely to have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and problems with drugs or alcohol. Trauma can change their beliefs, how they see themselves, and how they handle their emotions. This can make it hard for them to control their feelings and deal with stress.

Problems in relationships: Childhood trauma can make it hard for an adult to maintain healthy relationships. Because of how the trauma affects attachment and social skills, the person may have trouble trusting others, be afraid of getting close, making emotional connections, or get stuck in abusive or dysfunctional relationships.

Self-Esteem and Sense of Identity Problems: Childhood trauma can hurt self-esteem and sense of identity. They may struggle with feelings of worthlessness, shame, and self-blame, which can make them feel bad about themselves and give them a skewed view of themselves.

Physical Health Consequences: Adults who have had traumatic experiences as children may be more likely to have problems with their physical health, such as chronic pain, heart problems, autoimmune diseases, and stomach problems. Trauma can affect the body’s physical systems because it causes stress and emotional stress.

Self-Destructive Behaviors: Some adults with traumatic experiences as children may engage in self-destructive behaviors to deal with their emotional pain or gain control over their experiences. This can include using drugs, hurting yourself, being sexually risky, or doing things repeatedly.

Flashbacks and dissociation: Adults with a history of childhood trauma may have intrusive memories, flashbacks, or dissociation when they feel disconnected from themselves or their surroundings. These things can be upsetting and make it hard to get through the day.

Emotional Regulation Problems: Childhood trauma can make it hard for an adult to control their emotions well as an adult. They may have trouble regulating their emotions, have extreme mood swings, have trouble expressing their feelings, or numb themselves to avoid feeling pain.

Negative Cognitive Patterns: Trauma in childhood can change the way a person thinks, which can lead to negative beliefs about themselves, other people, and the world. They may have a negative outlook, find it hard to be kind to themselves, or act in ways that hurt themselves.

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Childhood Trauma Test

Welcome to the childhood trauma test for adults, a free online quiz designed to help adults assess their experiences related to childhood trauma. This interactive test aims to provide you with insights into potential symptoms or effects of childhood trauma that you may have experienced.

Please note that this Childhood Trauma quiz is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice. It is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional or therapist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized guidance.

*By taking this free quiz, you may obtain your results online and in your email box. You’ll have the opportunity to opt-in to learn more about your symptoms, talk to a mental health consultant and join our newsletter. Rest assured your information is private and confidential. Results, consultations and assessment are provided without any cost to you and without any obligation. If you do not wish to provide your contact information, you may omit it during your quiz. Thank you for opting in and participating. To you best of health.

Please enter your email:

1. Name:

2. Phone:

3. Do you always feel anxious or on edge?


4. Do you often experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest?


5. Do you always have vivid and intrusive memories of past traumatic events?


6. Do you often have distressing nightmares related to the traumatic experience?


7. Do you always feel easily startled or on high alert?


8. Do you always avoid people, places, or activities that remind you of the trauma?


9. Do you often struggle to manage or express your emotions appropriately?


10. Do you never fully trust others or form close relationships due to fear of harm?


11. Do you often have low self-esteem and feel worthless or blame yourself for the trauma?


12. Do you always engage in self-destructive behaviors as a way to cope with emotional pain?


13. Do you always withdraw from social interactions and feel disconnected from others?


14. Do you often experience physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches without a medical cause?


How to Treat Childhood Trauma in Adults?

Childhood trauma therapy for adults is a specialized form of therapy that aims to help people heal from the effects of the trauma they experienced as children and move on with their lives. Here are some common ways to treat people:

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. TF-CBT helps people deal with and control their feelings, thoughts, and trauma-related actions. It uses both cognitive-behavioral and trauma-specific techniques to help people heal and learn how to cope.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a therapy that uses bilateral stimulation to target traumatic memories and help people deal with them. This method aims to reduce the stress from traumatic events and help people deal with them more healthily.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) uses cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices to help people control their emotions, deal with stress, and improve their relationships with others. It can help with emotions that are hard to control because of trauma in childhood.

Narrative therapy is a way of helping people make sense of their traumatic experiences by telling a story. Its goal is to help people understand, make sense of, and reframe their trauma story so that healing and resilience can happen.

Somatic Experiencing: Somatic experiencing focuses on the connection between the mind and body and helps people let go of and control the physical effects of trauma. It uses body sensations, movement, and “grounding” techniques to help people feel better and safer.

Group therapy: Group therapy gives people a safe and validating place to talk about their problems, learn from others, and develop healthy ways to deal with them. Group therapy can help people feel like they belong and lessen feelings of being alone.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Mindfulness practices, like meditation and body scans, can help people become more aware, less reactive, and more compassionate toward themselves. These techniques can help you deal with the effects of trauma and improve your overall health.

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  1. Can adults recover from childhood trauma?

    Yes, adults can recover from childhood trauma. Individuals can heal and develop resilience with the right support, therapy, and self-care practices. It’s important to seek professional help from qualified therapists experienced in trauma treatment to guide the recovery process.

  2. How long does childhood trauma therapy take?

    The duration of childhood trauma therapy varies depending on various factors, including the severity of the trauma, individual needs, and progress made during therapy. Therapy can range from a few months to a year or more. Consistency and commitment to the therapeutic process are key to achieving positive outcomes.

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  4. 5.Davies JM, Frawley MG. Dissociative processes and transference‐countertransference paradigms in the psychoanalytically oriented treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Psychoanalytic Dialogues. Published online January 1992:5-36. doi:10.1080/10481889209538920 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  5. 6.Trippany RL, Helm HM, Simpson L. Trauma Reenactment: Rethinking Borderline Personality Disorder When Diagnosing Sexual Abuse Survivors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Published online March 30, 2006:95-110. doi:10.17744/mehc.28.2.ef384lm8ykfujum5 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  6. 7.Davis TE III, Ollendick TH, Öst LG. Intensive Treatment of Specific Phobias in Children and Adolescents. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. Published online August 2009:294-303. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2008.12.008 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  7. 8.Watson S, Chilton R, Fairchild H, Whewell P. Association between Childhood Trauma and Dissociation Among Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. Published online May 2006:478-481. doi:10.1080/j.1440-1614.2006.01825.x Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  8. 9.Etherington K. Supervising counsellors who work with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Counselling Psychology Quarterly. Published online December 2000:377-389. doi:10.1080/713658497 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  9. 10.Kendall-Tackett K. The health effects of childhood abuse: four pathways by which abuse can influence health. Child Abuse & Neglect. Published online June 2002:715-729. doi:10.1016/s0145-2134(02)00343-5 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults
  10. 11.Edwards RR, Dworkin RH, Sullivan MD, Turk DC, Wasan AD. The Role of Psychosocial Processes in the Development and Maintenance of Chronic Pain. The Journal of Pain. Published online September 2016:T70-T92. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2016.01.001 Learn More: Childhood Trauma in Adults

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