People share adult behaviors resulting from childhood trauma
A Reddit thread, also shared on TikTok, asked the forum’s followers a serious question about how traumatic childhood experiences play out for people in adulthood.
A child’s sense of security depends on how safe his caregivers are. Traumatic moments in childhood can be complex and prolonged, or severe and immediate. No matter how a child experiences trauma while growing up, he or she will likely carry some aspects of it into adulthood.
21 people with difficult childhoods shared things they do now that are a direct result of living with trauma.
1. Second guessing and asking permission
Each of these behaviors can stem from childhood trauma. One person said that his trauma manifested itself in adulthood where he did not trust his intuition. They explained the need to “constantly (ask) permission to do literally anything, double-checking that I was doing the right thing, and always second-guessing myself, to an unnatural level.”
2. Being “toxically independent”
Another way trauma can manifest itself is having trouble trusting others and feeling afraid to depend on others to get your needs met.
“I’m having a really hard time asking for help because I’ve never gotten it before,” one person said in this thread.
3. Putting the needs of others first
“I don’t prioritize myself, whether it’s health, time, or necessities,” another person shared. “Everyone else in my life is ahead of me in the waiting list” for care. Sometimes, being too helpful can be harmful, as this person explained.
“Being helpful allows me to be present without being a target. Offering help allows me to avoid my own problems because I’m too busy helping others with theirs,” they said. “Being helpful allows me to feel valuable instead of expendable.” “
4. Excessive apology
Apologizing for taking up space can be a sign that you weren’t allowed to do that as a child, and rewiring that part of your brain that lets you know you’re enough can be really hard work.
5. Be hyper-aware of your surroundings
One person described how being constantly on edge due to childhood trauma made them hypervigilant in adulthood. “I listen to footsteps, doors opening and closing, people’s voices, water running through pipes, cars pulling into the driveway, over and over again,” they said. They explained being hyper-alert as a coping mechanism, saying: “When I was a child, I needed to know who was in my house and what they were doing.”
Their experience highlighted how the patterns we develop as children to protect ourselves can become harmful to us later in life. Resetting our nervous systems is never easy, but with professional guidance, it can be done, giving us an easier life and a sense of security.
6. Always prepare for the worst-case scenarios
One way to deal with trauma is to always expect something bad to happen. This leads to feeling hypervigilant and out of control of your surroundings.
As one person said, they are always “overthinking (and) anticipating and preparing for worst-case scenarios. Staying stuck in a fight-or-flight response can destroy your sense of security and overall well-being.”
7. Feeling uncomfortable
Another person discussed another interaction between childhood trauma and taking up space: feeling like they are an inconvenience to others, which prompts them to apologize for their mere presence.
8. Excessive vulnerability to the emotions of others
Empathy is usually a good trait, but if you find that you are attuned to the feelings of others in a way that makes it difficult to regulate your own emotions, it may be a sign of trauma that carries over from childhood into adulthood.
Being “extremely aware of anyone experiencing negative emotions” is one way people can experience residual trauma. This feeling is associated with being a peacekeeper. As one person described, “I feel someone else’s anger or depression so intensely that I feel as if I have to be the one to calm things down and keep the peace.”
9. Having increased responses to difficult situations
Feeling stuck in a loop of the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response can be a sign of residual trauma. One of them explained that they have “a huge surge of adrenaline at the slightest sign of conflict.”
Our bodies store our memories. It is quite common for trauma to live in our physical responses, yet there are certain healing methods, such as somatic therapies, that can help relieve people’s pain and discomfort.
10. Difficulty accepting love at face value
“It always occurs to me that anyone who says they love me has an ulterior motive,” the 54-year-old man said.
Although this is sad, it is fairly common, especially for people who have learned that love is a limited, and conditional, resource at that.
11. Be a people pleaser
“I beg you all the time,” said another person. “I thought I was being nice but I’m actually trying to be as agreeable as possible out of fear.”
12. Exaggerate the justification for every decision
One person said they grew up having to explain themselves completely in order to be seen as valid, saying, “If I don’t explain things as far as being absent or feeling sick or needing to go to the doctor, if I don’t have a good enough explanation, I “I was completely ignored.”
13. Feeling insecure or anxious
Another person revealed that his trauma led him to become “overly attached to people very (very) quickly which pushes them away and destroys me over and over again.”
Finding ways to feel securely attached is a skill that can be learned through professional guidance and mental health support.
14. Having difficulty hearing criticism
If you were judged harshly as a child, it’s entirely possible that receiving constructive criticism, even when delivered in a kind and supportive way, can feel like a major struggle. One person said that they felt a great deal of self-doubt and a need for constant external validation as a result of the trauma they had experienced.
“I have a hard time being patient with myself while I have a hard time learning (or) picking up new things,” they explained.
15. Have a self-deprecating sense of humor
Being able to laugh at ourselves is a skill, but having a darkly self-deprecating sense of humor can be a sign of residual trauma, as if you’re trying to make a fool of yourself before others can hurt you.
As one person said: “I’ve recently realized that a lot of the harsh things I’ve been said have been ingrained in my habitual vocabulary under the guise of ‘self-deprecating humor’.”
Being kind to ourselves isn’t easy, especially in the wake of generational trauma, but we can all try to talk to ourselves the way we talk to the people we love, and give ourselves the grace to be less than perfect.
16. Easily startled.
A major sign of trauma is feeling nervous or uneasy, as if something bad is always about to happen, because your body is trained to expect the worst.
17. Hate physical touch.
One person spoke about how difficult it was for them to accept affection, saying: “After much reflection, I realized that I don’t trust anyone enough to make myself vulnerable, even for a hug.”
18. Difficulty accepting failure
People experiencing trauma may feel that they must be perfect and infallible to avoid harsh and often emotionally or physically abusive reactions from the adults in their lives.
19. Lying by default
One person expressed concern that he was becoming a pathological liar as a way to protect himself.
“I can’t seem to stop,” they revealed. “I’m afraid the damage has become irreparable.”
People who experience trauma often develop maladaptive coping strategies, techniques that help in the moment but can cause harm in the long term. Acknowledging the existence of these habits is the first step to understanding them and changing them for the better.
20. Being very calm
“I move very quietly,” said another person. “It’s a skill you learn when you grow up and don’t want to be seen or heard.”
21. Having difficulty understanding verbal signals
“Language is full of pitfalls for me,” one person explained. “I cannot tolerate ambiguity, because it has been used against me so often.”
Open and direct communication can be a challenge for most people, but for people with trauma, it can be very difficult to interpret what people are saying and the meanings behind their words.
These shared realizations highlight that people who have experienced trauma are never alone, even if it seems like they are.
Healing from trauma is a lifelong journey, yet it is possible to do it, especially by giving voice to the challenges that trauma brings.
Alexandra Ploeger is a staff writer on YourTango’s news and entertainment team. They cover mental health topics, pop culture, and everything related to the entertainment industry.
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