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24 Ways Trauma Can Affect Your Personality

Most life experiences render some impact, positive or negative, on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. For those of us who have experienced traumatic events, our brains and bodies may make some dramatic shifts. It can be a change that happens suddenly as a result of a singular trauma, such as a car accident, or it can be an ongoing sense that something is “off,” as is common with survivors of child abuse and neglect.

Sometimes, a new insight about trauma from long ago may “shock” the survivor into a sudden change in the way they relate to themselves and others.

Looking at the impact of trauma is like looking through a kaleidoscope, where the images are constantly moving and shifting. Depending on environmental triggers, some symptoms may become more intense and then retract. We asked some people in The Mighty’s mental health community about some ways trauma has affected or impacted their personalities. Some might relate to all of these symptoms, and some may relate to a few. All of these trauma survivors are Mighty.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

Lack of Identity:

1.I don’t have a personality. Everyone tells me ‘just be yourself.’ I’ve been lost for so many years due to constant and consecutive trauma throughout my entire childhood. I never had a chance to discover who I truly was and that makes recovery so much more difficult.” — Jennifer M.

2. “Not having a sense of self, before DBT I would always change myself to keep people around (no exaggeration) and avoid abandonment and feelings of worthlessness. I’m still working on it but feel I have more of a sense of self, I understand my traumas could take many more years of recovering from.” — Kirsty M.

3. “It has made it so that I don’t identify with myself when I am feeling certain ways (usually negative.) It’s like a switch is flipped and I’m a different person when I am triggered.” — Gia C.

Withdrawal/Self-Isolation:

4. “I used to be so outgoing and extroverted. After my trauma, I isolated myself and did a complete 180, becoming withdrawn, anxious and extremely shy for lack of a better word. I don’t even remember who I was before the trauma because who I am now is the complete opposite.” — Laura S.

5. “I used to be bubbly, friendly and outgoing. Now, in recovery, I’m much more quiet and reserved. I don’t tell jokes anymore, kid around, etc. unless it’s with close friends/family.” — Sonja D.

Hypervigilance

6. “I’m still very hypervigilant that I still feel the need to constantly ‘read the room’ by observing others’ moods in case they randomly explode and I’ll be prepared for it. Something I did a lot as a kid that I really don’t know why I still continue to do it, takes up a lot of energy and mental space.” — Kendall C.

7. “It’s made me hypervigilant and an insomniac, yet stronger and a survivor.” — Angie M.

8. “Constantly alert, bangs make me jump, loud noises, people laughing. It’s exhausting, but lockdown was a respite. At least people had to distance themselves and fewer people meant less noise, but now I’m getting worse as the world goes back to normal.” — Amanda M.

Trust Issues

9. “Whenever I’m given a compliment, I automatically think that person is being sarcastic and trying to hurt me, rather than build me up.” — Candace K.

10. “Hypervigilance and trust issues. Trauma has shaped me and impacted my personality to become a distrustful person. I find it hard to receive love and trust anyone who gives me compliments and love. I do think they want me to get whatever they want and then dump me. I have been dumped so many times by friends. So I stay clear from relationship to be safe. Looking over my shoulders to detect dangers and checking my doors several times to be sure they are locked. I can’t just stop as these toxic beliefs have become ingrained. I am trying to unlearn toxic beliefs and learn healthy beliefs instead.” — Yakubu J.

Low Self-Image

11. “I have a deep sense of worthlessness unless I’m doing something for others. If I can’t I feel like I don’t deserve to be alive.” — Monika M.

12. “I’m afraid to speak up for what I need because I feel I don’t deserve it.” — Jaxton J.

Undeserved Guilt

13. “I apologize for everything, even if it isn’t my fault. I was brought up to think everything bad was my fault. So if someone was treated badly by someone I would apologize for their actions.” — Amanda E.

14. “I feel guilt way to easily, even if it’s something I know 100 percent is nothing to do with me, I live feeling like most things are my fault. So I tend to apologize a lot and mostly stay quiet and be the shy person only because I don’t want to be blamed for anything.” — Jessica A.

Need for Order/Control:

15. “I’ve always liked planning things (knowing exactly what I needed to be doing and what time etc). After the worst trauma that increased and while I can roll with emergencies at work or very abrupt changes, at home or in my personal life last minute changes cause me to become scared and usually pretty agitated.” — M.K.K.

16. “Perfectionism. I think that the way I coped through childhood was by trying to control my environment. Without realizing it, I was trying to create a safe space.” — Kelley M.

Emotional Dysregulation

17. “I used to be vengeful, so angry and bitter. Now, depending on how it is expressed, I see anger as it is; an expression of sustained fear.” — Michelle M.

18. “I tend to ingratiate myself to people, especially authority figures, while suppressing my own emotional reactions, until those emotions explode, usually behind closed doors. I’m trying to learn alternatives to this pattern in therapy. But it’s really hard work. I’m still afraid of my own emotions to some extent.” — Kitty K.

Empathy

19. “Passionate to help others, while also struggling to recover myself. Also easily angered and feeling chaotic in my brain/unable to focus.” — Darla S.

20. “Absolute love of animals, complete distrust in medical doctors, justice system and made the pandemic [shelter in place] a breeze having been a shut-in due to agoraphbia. Totally and completely an introverted empath!” — Rheta G.

Resilience

21. “Losing both parents, my dog and having to move out of the family home in the space of 10 month has made me realize I am stronger than I thought I was.” — Natasha D.

22. “It has made my intuition stronger, I can sense when someone around me doesn’t have mine or my families best interest at heart. But I also don’t get invested in people as easily as I used to. I keep my distance for a long time.” — Jo T.

23. “It gave me determination to do anything I put my mind to.” – Nicole D.

24. “I say ‘my passion gives purpose to my pain and my past.’ I am now a therapist who works with PTSD, abuse, suicide, addiction.” — Annie B.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo by Remy_Loz on Unsplash