Unraveling the Impact of Unresolved Childhood Trauma on Adult Well-being
If a child experiences trauma, it should not be surprising that traumatic problems may still be present into adulthood. It could bring up and ruin happiness, relationships, or any area of adult life. Maybe they haven’t been feeling themselves lately. And they’ve been wondering: Am I suffering from unresolved childhood trauma? They thought it was over. But childhood trauma has a way of leaking into their adult life, making them feel everything is turned upside down. Maybe therapy was once prosperous, and they were able to move on. Then comes a time when they begin to feel stressed, anxious, or even on the verge of panic again. Depressed feelings arise and try to take over; they want to withdraw and isolate. I had heard the term but didn’t know much about “unresolved trauma.”
Trauma’s Stealthy Infiltration into Adulthood
When someone has been traumatized as a child, it lives deep inside them. So deep it is as if it settles in the bones. The memories, even if pushed aside and unconscious, are etched into them in relationships, struggles, and self-esteem. Many traumatized children feel they’ve always been on their own and do the best they can to work things out for themselves. There is no template for working out unresolved childhood trauma. Trauma comes with its own experiences and has different effects in particular ways. Unfortunately, the roots of childhood trauma stay unresolved, and those symptoms might go underground for a while. But stress that causes an emotional upheaval or an event that serves as too close a reminder of earlier trauma can put them back into the original experiences.
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Although trauma is technically “in the past,” traumatizing experiences in childhood can’t be laid to rest until the ways they live in recent incidents, symptoms, and relationships are deeply understood. Freud said we have a “compulsion to repeat,” even if we try not to. That’s why people might find themselves in relationships that remind them of those that were traumatizing in the past. There are many different forms symptoms or behaviors might take. Again, these are very individual. The important thing is that the past is never “just” the past. Until there has been help working out exactly how the roots of the past are alive in the present, childhood trauma can remain “unresolved.”
Childhood trauma can sometimes leak into adult life because, no matter how hard one tries to go on, there is still a traumatized child living inside. If there has not been sufficient help or the right kind of therapy to work out trauma, the child part still carries the trauma and suffering. Maybe they don’t always feel it or know it’s there, but symptoms of childhood trauma spill out when stressed. Or when something in life serves as a subtle or not-so-subtle reminder of what happened as a child.
Childhood trauma lives on in symptoms. Depression. Panic attacks. An eating disorder. Obsessional worries, catastrophic anxieties, and relationship fears. They might have difficulties trusting, low self-esteem, fears of being judged, constant attempts to please, outbursts of frustration, or social anxiety symptoms that won’t let up.
- “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker
- “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” by Mark Wolynn