25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Childhood Trauma


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

Experiencing trauma in childhood can be both debilitating and far-reaching, often extending out of childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. For many, experiencing trauma at a young age can affect their self-worth and relationships. For some, childhood trauma may even have contributed to a current mental health struggle.

We wanted to know what kinds of effects childhood trauma can have on adulthood, so we asked our mental health community to share one thing people don’t realize they are doing because of their experience of trauma as a kid.

No matter what your experience of childhood trauma was, it is important to remember hope is never lost and you’re not alone.

Here’s what our community had to say:

  1. “Not standing up for myself or expressing any anger. I learned it was too time-consuming, humiliating and sometimes dangerous to express my anger or frustration toward authority. So instead of expressing my indignation in a productive way and asking for what I need, I bottle my feelings up and it bursts the seams elsewhere.” — Jacinta M.
  2. “I apologize for everything. Even if I had nothing to do with what happened, I will find a way to make it my fault. I also become defensive if I think someone is angry, even if they’re not angry at me.” — Heather M.
  3. “I dissociate to protect myself from it all. I have developed depersonalization/derealization disorder because of severe trauma throughout my entire life and it has become my defense mechanism. It has been easier to ‘shut off’ than face all that I have had to deal with in my short lifespan.” — Kristen H.
  4. “Looking for approval — in ideas, opinions, achievements; anything that seems like ‘attention-seeking’ behavior is generally based in feeling unloved, invalidated or worthless. It’s the ‘inner child,’ so to speak, crying out for someone to tell me I’m worthy of love, when I’ve never felt like anything I do is good enough.” — Sarah M.
  5. Always wanting to make sure that someone’s not mad or tired of me being around them.” — Krystal D.
  6. “Living in constant protective mode. I’m constantly scanning my surroundings and watching people and feeling people out. I’m so tired all the time because I live in heightened alert mode 24/7.” — Kristen G.
  7. “When dealing with a very assertive, confrontational or authoritarian person, I find myself unable to think clearly and it feels like my vocal chords freeze up and I can’t speak up for myself in that moment.” — Janie S.
  8. “I get incredibly anxious and tense when people’s tones of voice change, or when voices are raised unexpectedly. I’m always on alert in case I need to protect myself.” — Arianna J.
  9. I 100 percent believe nobody will believe me, after many traumas with no support as a child. I felt so abandoned. I’m 25 and it is still just as bad as when I was 3. Also I wasn’t taught feelings or emotions, so I find it hard to tell anyone how I feel in the moment.” — Stacey R.
  10. “I always have to have some kind of shirt and shorts on when I go to bed. I can’t sleep in just my underwear or anything flimsy.” — LaNae E.
  11. “I overwork myself to perfection. I make sure I’m ‘perfect’ through other peoples’ eyes because I can’t take criticism. I try my best to please everyone because I don’t like others being mad at me or knowing my flaws. I don’t like people seeing the ugly side of me. So I hide behind my perfection. I was always pressured to be the ‘top student,’ ‘the role model,’ the person ‘going places.’” — Lauren P.
  12. “If I feel like someone’s energy has shifted negatively suddenly, I’ll find a way to leave the room they are in” — Amber R.
  13. “Being paranoid about everyone’s intentions. If you offer to do something nice for me, I’m paranoid that you’re trying to groom or manipulate me. I’m just trying to keep myself safe but I know it’s hurtful to the kindest people in my life.” — Heather F.
  14. “Feeling responsible for other people’s feelings. Feeling like I can’t voice my true thoughts, ideas, wants and opinions because I don’t want to hurt people and I grew up thinking they didn’t matter anyway.” — Kaitlyn L.
  15. Being hypervigilant all the time!! Having to manage all the strangers in my environment so they physically don’t get too close to me. It’s exhausting! Also jumping at everything all the time. People that think it’s funny to make people jumpy are the worst. Every time I feel like I’m about to die… It’s not funny!” — Amy P.
  16. I don’t know how to love properly. I push people away who show me love because I don’t ever think it’s genuine.” — Angela W.
  17. “I have the inability to maintain a healthy relationship because I set unrealistic standards for myself and believe that love is conditional and is only given as an award for excellence.” — Hillary D.
  18. “Being somewhat afraid of male authority figures (bosses and whatnot) as I had an emotionally and physically abusive father for early parts in my life. I will be afraid of even approaching them sometimes.” — Alan B.
  19. “Feeling like I don’t need people and am totally fine on my own… but when the crushing realization happens that I actually do need people, there’s no one there because I haven’t maintained healthy relationships.” — Cherie L.
  20. “I constantly feel the need to feel needed. Like if someone doesn’t want my help or asks me to do things, I feel like I’m unwanted and I just kind of self-destruct on the spot. Me doing things for others was a way to cope with feeling unwanted and feel like I was necessary and people would still want me around. It took a long time to really learn to say ‘no’ and do things because I wanted to, not to feel needed.” — Abagail B.
  21. “I am a people pleaser. I will do something I don’t want to do, or make decisions based of off a ‘superior’s’ opinion — including relationships and lifestyle choices. I am always convinced other people know what’s best for me more than I do.” — Kariy Y.
  22. “I cannot eat in front of other people. I will let my food get cold, pretend I’m not hungry or ask for an unusually tiny portion. My husband is the only person who knows.” — Keri H.
  23. “I struggle to express negative emotions, especially anger. I also have trouble opening up to people who are more than a few years older than me — distrust of ‘adults.’” — Rebecca J.
  24. I don’t like physical contact unless it’s from my husband, and that includes from my children. I’m a snuggler until they’re about 3 or 4 and then I’m hands-off. Childhood abuse and attachment disorder gets the blame.” — Tara P.
  25. “Go above and beyond for people even if they don’t deserve it. I know what it’s like to feel unloved and unwanted, so I fight like hell to make sure no one in my life ever feels like that.” — Jessica T.

Getty Images photo via Archv


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

two characters from Sharp Objects

'Sharp Objects' Episode 3 Recap: 'Fix'

In this episode, a piece of Camille’s past came together for us in a loud and graphic way. The tension is no longer subdued, the self-harm is no longer subtle. If any episode needed a trigger warning so far, it was this one. The episode begins with Wind Gap teens partying in a field. They [...]
young blonde woman covering eyes with hair braid

A Letter to My Future Mental Health Provider

Dear future provider, I’m curious to meet you, and also quite wary. There’s so much emphasis on first impressions, but what about all of the past impressions that have led us here? At this point in your career, you have a burgeoning caseload with many former and current clients to track. As for me, in [...]
close up of person's eye with filters

Why I'm Not Sorry for Being the 'Difficult Patient' in Psychiatric Hospital

Dear past in-patient psychiatrists, Imagine having your freedom stripped from you “for your own good.” Imagine that consisting of: being handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and locked in a psychiatric ward for an unspecified amount of time. Being in a psychiatric unit can feel so dehumanizing. In the psychiatric ER, you [...]
Debby Ryan in Insatiable

People Are Calling Out the Problematic Storyline in the New Netflix Show 'Insatiable'

On Thursday, Netflix dropped a trailer for its new high school drama “Insatiable,” which premieres August 10 — and not everyone is happy with the plot. Starring Disney Channel actress Debby Ryan, the series follows a “former fatty” (their words, not mine), who seeks revenge on her bullies after losing weight over the summer… because [...]