11 Signs of Childhood Trauma


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Page last updated: 20/11/2022

11 Signs of Childhood Trauma

Hey Optimist Minds!

Childhood trauma is an event or a series of events experienced by a child that threatens their life or bodily integrity. This can include violence, natural disasters, motor vehicle accidents, and physical and sexual abuse. 

In some cases, even emotional abuse can lead to trauma. If something causes children to feel stressed and scared for prolonged periods, it traumatises them. Therefore, parental neglect and stressful home environments cause trauma even when the child isn’t being impacted directly.

This happens because any kind of trigger, whether it’s physical or psychological, sets off a threat response in our bodies. Spending too much time with an activated threat response is the basis of trauma.

Individuals with childhood trauma typically grow up to have various kinds of mental health issues as adults. Usually, it’s hard to recognise that the problems in the present are being caused by traumatic incidents from the past.

In this video, we will describe eleven signs of childhood trauma. Identifying the signs can help you better understand the underlying causes behind your current behaviour. We recommend consulting a trauma-informed therapist for recovery and treatment options.

Now, let’s begin.


Distorted or absent memories from childhood.

Are there periods from your childhood that seem absolutely blank to you? Do you have little to no memories from large chunks of time in your early life?

This is usually an indicator of something traumatic that might have happened back then. Suppressing the memory was your body’s way of coping. You might also have distorted memories that make you doubt whether the events actually occurred.


Unpredictable emotional outbursts.

Having unexpected crying spells after sex, drinking, or other seeminly non-triggering situations is a classic sign of childhood trauma. You tend to feel overwhelmed and as if your emotions have taken over your rational mind. 

Trauma survivors may mistakenly believe it’s in their personality to act so emotional, when the real cause is unresolved trauma.


Inability to concentrate.

When your body is focussed on dealing with a threat, all other bodily functions take the back seat. The only priority is to fight or flee from the perceived danger. Consequently, cognitive functions decline temporarily. 

Childhood trauma forces one to perceive many dangers around them. Since they are repeatedly triggered, they cannot concentrate optimally.


Difficulty maintaining boundaries.

Growing up in an abusive home fails to teach children how to assert and maintain healthy personal boundaries. They either learn to have completely porous boundaries that make them passive and submissive. Or they form rigid boundaries to protect themselves that sadly, hold them back in life.

11 Signs of Childhood Trauma


Low self-esteem.

While there are many reasons for someone to have low self-esteem, our childhood experiences have a major impact on how we see ourselves. Research shows that persons who reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect in childhood had significantly lower mean self-esteem than those who did not report these events.


Issues with interpersonal relationships.

Trauma shatters your basic trust in the goodness and safety of the world we live in. Relational trauma occurs when there is some disruption in the healthy bond formation between a child and his or her primary caregiver. Survivors of relational trauma tend to have many problems with their adult relationships.


Problems with self-regulation.

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results. It’s how we deal with our stressors. Survivors of childhood trauma struggle to self-regulate in healthy ways.


Issues with immunity.

The chronic stress brought by trauma causes an excess production of stress hormones and energy in the body. The physiological consequences of being triggered so often include problems with the immune system. You might fall sick easily or have auto-immune conditions like hives, migraines, and other pains.


Depressive symptoms and anxiety.

It’s not uncommon to have high levels of self-doubt and negative thoughts after a traumatic childhood. There is a large consensus indicating that childhood trauma is significantly involved in the development of depression and anxiety. Studies have found that experiences of multiple trauma also lead to significantly more severe depressive symptoms. 


Substance abuse.

More often than not, survivors of childhood trauma form addictions that serve as coping mechanisms. Smoking, drinking, and doing drugs are ways to alter their subjective experience and escape intense negative feelings. It can lead to long-term addictions that lower one’s quality of life.


Persistent feelings of guilt and shame.

When a child undergoes something traumatic, they can’t help but blame themselves for it. Even as victims, children tend to internalise all the guilt and shame associated with the traumatic incident. These feelings can stay for a lifetime if not addressed and healed from.

Were you able to relate to any of the signs we described? Do you think you or someone you know might have dealt with childhood trauma? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.