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23 Unexpected Side Effects of Childhood Trauma

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When we think of childhood trauma, we often only think of how it can rob a person of their childhood. But the reality is, trauma in childhood often leaves deep emotional scars that affect a person long into adulthood. 

For some, childhood trauma might be the result of growing up in an household where abuse and neglect were present. For others, childhood trauma might have stemmed from the sudden death of a loved one. Childhood trauma can look different for each person who experiences it, so it’s important that we discuss the impact it can have on an individual’s mental health. With this in mind, we asked our Mighty community to share with us one unexpected side effect they experience now because of childhood trauma.

If you are a survivor of childhood trauma, you’re not alone. Here are some stories written by Mighty contributors that might resonate with you.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. “Even now as an adult it’s like I still can’t find my voice. I can’t handle conflict so I keep everything to myself.” — Mara W.
  2. “Remembering events by what people tell you rather than your own memory. It’s horrible when you start to figure out where the gaps in your memory are and even worse when you realize why. It makes the ‘happy family get-together’ become a nightmare. I hate it.” — Callum C.
  3. “Getting close to people older than me is super easy. It’s like even at 29 years old I still seek out that parental relationship I so desired.” — Brittany L.
  4. “I like everything (and everyone) under control. If something unexpected occurs, I get frazzled and lose my bearings. I have been ‘controlling’ change by visualizing and preparing for every possible scenario — from the best possible outcome to the worst.” — Lennie G.
  5. Constant anxiety over relationships and whether people are annoyed/angry/mean what they say. I don’t show it, and most people who know me will probably be surprised to know this is something I struggle so much with.” — Selena W.
  6. “Panic attacks when people touch my back or shoulders or if I’m in a crowded room without being able to see the exit.” — Hayley M.
  7. “Chronic physical health issues. People expect the mental health issues as a result of trauma, which I have plenty of issues with as well, but few people realise the physical effect trauma can have on your body and health too.” — Jessica H.
  8. “I don’t know how to ask for anything for myself. I feel I’m a bother, so I keep quiet even if I’m starving and need to ask for food. Also conflict or yelling can spin me into a panic attack so I avoid it at all costs; I let thoughts boil in me for fear of the conflict they may produce. I use noise-canceling headphones during football season because the cheering and yells scare me.” — Stephanie R.
  9. “I’m socially awkward and don’t know to hold a good conversation with people my age. I get along better with older people than people my age because I matured fast as a kid. I also look for approval with everything I do cause I feel like I do everything wrong. And sometimes even when people tell me I am doing good and stuff, I don’t believe them or have a hard time believing them.” — Brittney L.
  10. “Going vegan. I understood what it was like to be treated like an animal, and never wanted to inflict that pain onto another being. I wouldn’t give up my experiences for anything. They have turned me into the compassionate person I am today.” — Makenzie S.
  11. “Freezing. My body goes into straight freeze mode. Fixed stare. Can’t move, speak and sometimes am completely unaware of anything going on outside of my mind. I remember that I’m having flashbacks sometimes. Other times I just reanimate feeling embarrassed or confused a bit. Ice, touch by designated people and talking softly helps get me out more quickly and safely. Otherwise I could go into a straight panic attack.” — Teresa L.
  12. “Sometimes I get stuck in my own thoughts so much I dissociate. I have even forgotten to rinse out my hair while showering and didn’t find out until hours later.” — Kim S.
  13. “My selective mutism is returning. I will only speak on the phone to doctors or the pharmacy. Speaking on the phone to anyone else is out of the question. I was about to buy an item from a neighborhood sale page. When the seller told me to please call, I just disappeared. I really really don’t like ‘please call me’ or ‘please come see me.’ It feels like a trap. Nothing good is coming from someone summoning me.” — Diana R.
  14. “My memory is severely damaged. I can barely remember anything. Bits and pieces are clear, but I have huge pieces of my life that are just gone. And it has continued now that I’m adult, it’s why I love Timehop and Facebook memories, to help me remember things I’ve done. And still there are things I know I have done that I can’t remember anything of at all. My abuse was emotional, but it still leaves scars.” — Michelle M.
  15. “I lost my boyfriend and friends in a small plane crash when I was a freshman in high school. I loved him deeply and we were really close. It was his birthday and the plane ride was his gift from his father. They were missing for four days before they found the wreckage. No survivors. It was my first real loss and it destroyed me. To this day, I am terrified of losing my loved ones suddenly. I am constantly expecting someone to die. I have terrible PTSD and I still can’t look at an airplane without feeling intense fear and a sense of doom. I have not been on a plane since. It changed my whole life.” — Danelle E.
  16. “I can’t stand to see a stuffed animal thrown away. My husband has to secretly throw my kids’ toys away when I’m not around because it’s a trigger for me. Like the other day I saw my daughter’s stuffed animal lying in the field next door and I sat there and cried because I knew it was destroyed. All thanks to my step father’s abuse.” — Christy H.
  17. “I fall asleep when I am in a room full of people. I spent many nights not being able to fall asleep because I didn’t know if he would show up. I get around a big group at a party or the movies and I get eye-crossing tired. I think I feel safe enough to fall asleep with others around, even strangers.” — Nicole S.
  18. “I automatically cry when someone yells or is angry near me. This is due to watching a family member [hurt] another one of my family members in front of me when I was a child. Now I can’t handle the emotion anger. Even when I’m angry, I will cry because it is such a dark emotion I can’t handle.” — Jodi H.
  19. “I hate myself. I hate my body. I hate that I’m not good enough. My father never approved of me and I was always criticized. So now I am 34, have anxiety and depression, battle with extreme weight loss and gain, battle eating disorders and can’t stand up for myself. My dream is to have a family of my own but the men I have dated have been the near mirror image of my father. So I’m not holding my breath.” —Alyce K.
  20. “I’m afraid of women. I’m not concerned with it anymore or experience it harshly like that anymore, but I see my wife as superior with the power to harm me. (She doesn’t, she treats me beautifully and I’m now a stronger man than I was). Yet I can see it in the air between us when she does get stern in conversation. Might not be a complete horrible thing, but raised by a single mom, she was so strong and was always the one to discipline me physically. I feel I haven’t always been as confident as I could’ve been with the opposite sex, growing up/in my 20s.” — Fernando G.
  21. “I am constantly worried and anxious that a child might be suffering sexual abuse and nobody knows. Also, I get extremely anxious around parents yelling at their children.” — Sarafia J.
  22. “Can’t handle people watching over my shoulders. Feels like they’re always looking for me to make a mistake.” — Jay B.
  23. “Looking for a mum figure in mental health professionals, and every time I leave or they leave, all the feelings of abandonment come flooding back.” — Lauren C.

If you are a survivor of childhood trauma, you’re not alone. Here are some stories written by Mighty contributors that might resonate with you.

Unsplash photo via Daniel von Appen

Originally published: August 28, 2018
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