Menu Close

The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adults, part 3

Growing up in a family or household where trauma and addiction were commonplace can have lasting effects on functioning as an adult. In the third part of this blog series, we will look at some of the behaviors which can occur due to childhood trauma as well as how you can feel about yourself and your world.

  1. Problems with self-regulation can show up in ways that we think, feel and behave. Going from 0 to 100 at the drop of a hat, black and white thinking, feelings and behaviors are all signs that emotional numbing has occurred as a result of trauma and addiction. In your daily life, this can look life anger outbursts, blackout rage, highly emotional responses that do not match the situation, and trouble accepting alternative ways of thinking. When you go through traumas you can search for ways to make the uncertain certain as a means of establishing an internal sense of control. But this can lead to missing out on things in life due to rigidity in thinking and behaving.
  2. Being easily triggered and reactive to things like loud noises, criticism, gunfire, yelling or touching can trigger a person who has been through trauma to shut down, act out or experience intense emotional states. There are even subtle triggers such as changes in body posture, eye movements, feelings of embarrassment or humiliation which can lead to behavioral and emotional outbursts. This leads a person to feel constantly on edge and appear volatile at times. These triggers are reminders of past events which served a survival function when faced with trauma or potentially life-threatening events. Your body is responding to these triggers as a means of self-defense which can look life shutting down, acting out, or intense emotional states.
  3. Engaging in high risk behaviors can also result due to a lack of emotional expression as well as being “addicted” to living life in a high stress and chaotic environment. Speeding, sexual acting out, impulsive spending and fighting are examples of ways that people can try to feel some form of emotion or joy in a world that is filled with numbness.
  4. Disorganized inner world is experienced when there is a lack of constancy and/or sense of relatedness. This is common in homes filled with trauma and addiction as you may not have known what to expect from others or even how love is shown. This leads to an internal emotional disconnect or fusion of feelings. For example, anger and sex, intimacy and danger, need and humiliation can become fused due to inconsistent or unhealthy ways of showing the basic needs for love, affection, connection and attention. If you were raised in a family where dangerous situations were the only times in which you felt emotionally connected or close to others, then a fusion can occur. You can associate being in dangerous situations with how intimacy is shown.
  5. Survival guilt occurs when an abuse or childhood trauma has occurred and you were able to survive, or “get out” of the situation while others remained in it. This occurs in many different ways to include you surviving a trauma in which a loved one died or leaving and abusive or addiction filled home with a younger sibling still in the traumatic situation. Guilt is a response to feeling that you have done something that is wrong. Having survived the traumatic experience and knowing that others may not have been able to get out of the experience can lead to you feeling that you have done something wrong by that person. The belief that “I should have done….” can begin to creep in and lead to a mixture of many different feelings.

When childhood trauma and addiction occur in the home, many different effects can occur. Hopefully by learning about the impacts of your childhood experiences on your current functioning, you will be able to learn more about yourself and ways to improve your daily functioning as an adult. If further help is needed, our team would love to connect with you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Author: Angela Powell, MA, LPC