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Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Table of Contents

Nobody has had a perfect life. There are often incidents that aren’t in our control, and they can affect us.

Traumatic events can be terrifying, dangerous, or violent; these incidents can cause us to have emotional and physical reactions long after the traumatic event itself.

Signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults manifest in several ways. 

This article will tell you what to look out for and what to do when you notice them. 

What is Repressed Trauma?

When you’re a child and you go through traumatic experiences, it might overwhelm you in the moment.

As a child, you can’t protect yourself, and the intensity of what you go through can even be hard to comprehend.

Typically, when we experience life events, whether good or bad, we keep them in our memory.

If there’s an incident that’s too traumatic or creates extreme distress, we might not do that.

Instead, we might consciously work to avoid these memories. 

Then, there’s another situation where you could unconsciously forget something.

When your brain basically can’t cope with something because it’s just too painful, it can go into a non-conscious area of the brain.

Just because that trauma is in the non-conscious part of your brain doesn’t mean it’s not affecting you.

The signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults occur due to that memory, even though it’s somewhat hidden in the brain.

Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Causes of Childhood Trauma

As children, we can’t process certain things that happen around us. Sometimes, trauma is caused by the people closest to us, such as abuse.

Other times, despite their best efforts, there might have been things our families couldn’t protect us from, like a natural disaster or a car accident.

Some of the most common stressful events that are the cause of childhood traumatic memories include:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Domestic Violence
  • Neglect
  • Terrorism
  • Natural Disasters
  • Community violence
  • Sudden loss of a loved one
  • Substance use disorder
  • Serious accidents
  • Life-threatening illnesses
  • Military stressors, like a parent deploying

What Are the Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma In Adults?

If you see these symptoms in yourself or someone you love, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re dealing with repressed trauma or memories, but it’s possible.

Sometimes, it’s also called unresolved trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Symptoms of childhood trauma in adults can include:

  • You might have a strong reaction to certain people. For example, maybe you have a family member that you feel triggered by. Your body could warn you that someone isn’t safe for you, and you might not even know why this is happening. This can also manifest in how you respond to strangers. 
  • Have you ever gone to a place or been in a situation that starts to freak you out, and you don’t have any idea why? You could have panic attack symptoms or just feel generally uneasy or off in certain situations. Maybe this is happening because your brain is linking that setting to childhood trauma.
  • Do you often find that you have a hard time regulating your mood and emotions? You could get angry quickly, react too strongly for what a situation calls for, or it might be as simple as startling easily.
  • How often do you worry about abandonment? You could have a real fear of someone leaving you. You might feel bad if someone leaves you for a night to go out of town, for example.
  • Do you have emotional outbursts when you’re feeling upset or tired? Does it remind the people around you of how a child would typically act?
  • You could enter into self-destructive relationships, somehow thinking you deserve whatever you get.
Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Developmental Trauma Disorder

When we talk about trauma, it tends to come from significant situations that maybe happened one time, like experiencing sexual assault.

Then, another case may be more familiar to you, which is called developmental trauma, also known as cumulative trauma disorder.

These are situations that might not be one major event, but instead are many things that happened to you in your childhood over time.

For example, maybe your parent was consistently verbally abusive to you; you could have been raised in a toxic environment.

Maybe you didn’t feel like you could depend on your parents to provide you with consistency.

Some of the symptoms of childhood trauma in adults that stem more from cumulative trauma disorder or developmental trauma disorder can include:

  • Feeling powerless—you might quickly become overwhelmed because you didn’t have a stable foundation as a child.
  • You could feel hopeless or discouraged.
  • Are you feeling a deep sense of shame? This could be because you feel like something wrong with you in your childhood led to the treatment you received. Of course, this isn’t true, but you may feel a sense of toxicity toward yourself or self-hatred.
  • When you have cumulative trauma disorder, you might have a hard time regulating your emotions.
  • You could have an overactive amygdala, which is an area of your brain. When your amygdala is overactive, you might always feel on high alert or hyper-vigilant.

Once you start to identify these potential signs, the question is to learn how to recover from emotional trauma.

How to Recover from Emotional Trauma

We always want you to understand that healing from trauma is possible.

Whether you think you notice signs of repressed childhood trauma or you’re aware of your trauma, you can work past it and feel safe again with the proper treatment.

Treatments might include talk therapy, trauma release exercises, medication, and lifestyle changes.

If you’re recovering from trauma, help is available.

The Mental Health Center of San Diego commonly helps people with healing from trauma with a number of treatment options, no matter what age you are. 

Call us at (858) 258-9883 to discuss options to improve your relationships, mental health, and quality of life.