Behaviours Common in Adults Who Went Through Trauma At A Younger Age

The intensity of a traumatic incident varies from person to person. Trauma from when one was a child can range from a crippling fear of abandonment to physical abuse and anything between the two.

Many adults are forced to deal with the trauma they experienced as children throughout their lives.

This article will hold true for whoever has had to face something traumatic as a child. Sometimes, we just hide things because that’s easier than actually dealing with them. We even do this unconsciously in order to protect ourselves at the time. But it is important to deal with these issues so that we can finally be free of that burden.

7 characteristics shared by people who went through trauma at a young age

1.  Recurring panic attacks

Those who have had to deal with trauma early on in life often struggle with anxiety as they grow older. They find it hard to process a lot of things in one go. Whatever they suffered as kids still influence them by making them extra jumpy. They’re always looking over their shoulders because they see the whole world as threatening. This is why they often get panicky even when they know that there really is no cause to panic in that situation. They have to suffer through panic attacks every time they deal with even the slightest bit of stress.

2.  Making do

Any traumatic experience as a child can completely transform the rest of your life. You’ll be anxious because you want to be sure that you’ll never be in a situation like that, or in a situation similar to that, ever again in your life. This makes you extra careful at all times and unwilling to take risks, even if you know they’re important. You like to stay where you are comfortable even if it means that you’re holding yourself back from realizing your full potential. You just complete all the tasks that are necessary to get by but you don’t push yourself to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

3.  Being overwhelmed by fear

Trauma can hurt you a hundred different ways, some of which you may not even realize till you’re much older. Part of this experience is the phobia you develop of certain things because your mind associates them with the pain you had to go through. It could be anything from the fear of a certain kind of alcohol to more crippling fears like that of being inside a moving vehicle and so on. It’s important to try and win over this fear before it begins to control every aspect of your life. We never know when we’ll run into something that can trigger us so it is better to try and work through our issues because we actually know that those things don’t have the power to hurt us anymore.

4.  Becoming a recluse

When you’ve been through so much, sometimes it’s easier to just hide yourself away from the pity, the sympathy, the blame, and all the other emotions that the rest of the world will try to project on you, even if they are not close to you. You might hate the pitying glances or you might fear others passing harsh judgments on you. By ensuring that you only go out into society when you absolutely need to, you hide yourself from the prying eyes of everyone else. This is called a social anxiety disorder and don’t forget that you can always seek help for it.

5.  Becoming passive-aggressive

It’s usually easier to beat around the bush rather than directly confront the cause of your problems. When people are too scared to do the latter, they spend a lot of time trying to repress the anger and resentment that has taken hold deep inside them. While they may be successful at times, some of it will eventually start to find its way out. They might not be ready for the direct confrontation but they start dealing with it in a passive-aggressive manner in an effort to remain subtle while getting their point across. They might think that they’re avoiding negativity but they’re just lying to themselves.

6.  A state of constant tension

That traumatic experience probably ended a long, long time ago but some people have a hard time letting go. They’re well aware that their circumstances have changed but they’re always preparing for those problems to come back, some even unconsciously so. Their brain is stuck on the principle of flight and fight and this causes a good deal of internal conflict.They are in a state of constant tension which keeps them from living life as it should be lived. They are never carefree about anything. This is usually seen in survivors of physical abuse but it also occurs in those who have had breakdowns due to being overstressed.

7.  Victimizing themselves

This is what happens when the victim of some form of trauma becomes too used to that role. They’ve been treated as a helpless victim for so long and by so many that they actually start to believe it. But once the attention passes, they are left lonely, feeling like they are just floating around alone in life. They try to deal with it by further embracing the role of the victim. They find it safer to take orders rather than to give them. They’ll obey even if they don’t agree with the order they’ve been given. They feel much safer this way.

For more information on CPTSD and other issues visit our YouTube Channel

If you need support or would like to connect with like-minded people join our Private and Closed online Facebook Group for Child Abuse Survivors and those with CPTSD. Click here to join

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  1. Thank you for this article. It is exactly what pstd is as an adult of trauma. I am so sorry you had to go through that and I do hope that God will restore you a hundred fold. Thank you once again Erin.

    • Hi Kathleen, thanks so much for taking the trouble to comment. I truly appreciate it. I am being slowly restored and am looking forward to the day when I am fully healed. I am married to a wonderful man who supports me fully so I am very lucky. Thank you for you kind wishes. All the best to you. Erin

  2. Thank you so much for your very informative article. I feel like it was written about me; as I’m sure many other do, too. It is very upsetting too as I try and always pretend as if nothing is wrong. Being an adult now for a very long time, I guess it is probably way past time to face it. Thanks again. I wish you much luck on your continued journey.

    • Hi Nikki, thanks for commenting. It is very hard to face our past, particularly one continuing abuse as a child. Your very brave to do so. I wish you all the very best on your journey to healing and hopefully coming to terms with what happened to you. All the very best Erin.

  3. Thank you for this.I actually started to cry when I realized that the trauma that I have been dealing with started much earlier than I thought. I knew, instinctively, that it did, but I had never mentally connected the two, and to my surprise, it has colored far more of my life than I previously realized. Like many of us, I became good at hiding. Its funny; I never considered the fact that I was hiding from myself as well. Again, thank you. This will help me to heal more and understand why I act the way I do.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I truly appreciate it. I am glad my sharing my article has helped you in some way on your journey towards understanding your trauma and acting the way you do. I hope you heal well and it’s not too painful a journey. I wish you all the very best. I hope you have a good therapist and lots of loving support around you. Erin

  4. Thank you for posting this! It’s interesting that by the time you even connect-the-dots between your dysfunctional childhood and your completely messed up adult life most windows of compassion from others have closed. You might get a lot of push back from others that boils down to “Jeeze – get over it – it’s in the past.” or something like “That’s awful, I’m glad that wasn’t my childhood.” (from my own husband!)
    We are left with a double whammy of sorts. You can’t change your past and you can’t explain your present in a way that others will understand.
    I would recommend trying out an ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) group for those who are suffering. The only requirement is self identifying as someone who experienced dysfunction in their childhood (doesn’t need to be alcohol/drugs involved.)

    • I understand what you mean by the push back. People seem to think you should have “just gotten over it by now it was so long ago”. I am glad to hear you have found ACA. I have hear great things about them as an organisation. You are lucky to have a group near you. All the best for the future and thanks for commenting. I appreciate it. Erin

  5. Erin- thank you a thousand times. Your voice is a birdsong in a parched and barren wasteland for me.

    As I went through those point I could check every one off. I find that news stories also utterly depress me at the moment and I think being overly empathetic can also be a trait? I cry at anything these days. It’s a joke at work which grinds me down. I wonder if it’s like pouring water into an already full glass. Got to spill over, right?

    Thank you. Be happy. Xx

    • Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate them. I am glad the article resonated with you. I hope it helped you. I think your analogy of the glass spilling over is a good one. Be careful of your stress levels. All the best Erin.

      • I’m not one who knows how to write motivating comments, but I do desperately need to mention that it has been verrrry helpful for me.

      • Hi, Niharika thank you for getting in touch. I am glad that the article was helpful to you. I appreciate you commenting so positively. All the best for the future. Erin

  6. I applaud AC for the many children & adults who have gone so long without a voice. It’s never too late to start anew. Speak out & be heard.

    • Hi Carolyn, yes I applaud them too. Thanks for commenting. It is good that people are starting to speak out more. Protection of children is paramount. All the best Erin.

  7. I suffered severe physical and psychological abuse from my father, including torture, as a child from age 6 on. I have kept my sufferings to myself. Sometimes I get flashbacks from the past of the beatings etc and it overcomes me. It has toughened me to a degree but the flashback still occur. My father loved his other children very much, but hated his eldest son because unfortunately I was too close to my mother his wife whom he also hated. My father had a very aggressive nature and following arguements with my mother he would takeout his aggression on me. Some of my injuries were physical like broken front teeth, but I have psychological damage. I have never ever sought professional help for this problem.

    • Hi Mike sorry its taken me a few days to get back to you. I am so sorry you had such a terrible time as a child. I completely understand the trauma that leaves you with as an adult and how hard it makes growing up. I would really encourage you to seek out therapy. It is vital in the processing of the trauma and putting you on the road to healing. I used psychotherapy and EMDR (you can seek for information on that on the site). It took me thirty years to take help and the quality of my life has improved exponentially since I did. Hopefully you can engage with therapy and find a good therapist. All my best Erin

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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