Although childhood can appear as a short amount of time in retrospect, it can have a long-lasting impact that follows you into adulthood. A traumatic or troublesome childhood can shape who you are and make you fearful of many things, even if your adult life is different from how you grew up.
It can be hard to undo the effects of a bad childhood, but you can understand how it affects you and what you can do about it as an adult.
The Brain is Developing
Perhaps the biggest reason why childhood can affect you so much is that it’s a crucial developmental time, especially neurologically. You are learning how to form relationships with others and make judgments about the world around you, and these can have effects on your preferences for the rest of your life. If there are traumas that you experience in your childhood, effects on your brain can impact the rest of your adult life.
Studies have shown that those that experience neglect and abuse during childhood have less white matter in their brain, and white matter is important for the ability to learn. This continues to develop throughout early adulthood.
Trauma Doesn’t Have to Be Big
Whenever you’re imagining childhood trauma, you may think of something that’s a huge, traumatic event. You may think of a child who lost a parent when they were very young or had a near-death experience.
However, trauma can be big or small, and things that may seem insignificant in comparison to other traumas can have an impact on your life. Examples include:
- Spanking. There have been studies that show that spanking may be a more severe way to punish a child than previously thought. While you may not have been beaten as a child, spanking can still have an impact, and can you fear authority figures and/or people putting their hands on you in even a non-threatening manner.
- Illness. Did you have a chronic illness as a kid? While some chronic illnesses aren’t life-threatening, a persistent illness can still have an impact on you and make you fear getting sick and lead to obsessive behaviors regarding cleanliness and hygiene.
- If your family struggled financially, this can impact your adult life. You may fear going broke and practice extreme money-saving measures, or choose not to participate in some things with friends or family that may call for more than you are accustomed to – or want to – spend.
Childhood trauma affects people differently. Some people may have been put through the wringer as a child and turned out fine. However, it’s important to remember that just because you turned out fine it doesn’t mean everyone else did. Everyone reacts differently to childhood trauma.
There are many types of therapy that may be able to help you identify and manage childhood trauma that is affecting you, now in adulthood.
This type of therapy exposes one to a trauma or a fear in a slow, gradual process, under the guidance of a trusted therapist or counselor. For example, if you are afraid of spending money because of a childhood where you or your family struggled financially, your therapist may suggest that you buy something that isn’t too expensive, but may be out of your comfort zone financially, such as a new shirt, or a grocery that you might want to try. Over time, they may then encourage you to spend money on activities and hobbies that you would enjoy, like a movie membership, or a small trip.
Exposure therapy does take time, but in the fight against anxiety, it’s quite good. There are many types of exposure therapy. Some people may benefit from imagining events, while others may be physically exposed.
This form of therapy is good for fears, PTSD, and of course, coping with trauma.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Often, the best way to avoid letting something get to you is to stop thinking about it (easier said than done, of course). Quite often, our thoughts are our enemy, and it can be hard for us to deal with them.
For example, if you can’t sleep, you may always think about sleeping (or the lack thereof), and this can make your insomnia worse. CBT tackles self-defeating thoughts and helps you to think about a subject in a much more productive way.
Changing your thought process does take a while, but CBT is designed for slow, gradual change, and this can help in the long-run.
There is a form of therapy known as trauma reenactment. If you have experienced childhood trauma, sometimes the best solution may be to reenact it with a counselor or therapist. By reenacting it under a controlled environment and being guided to change its outcome during the reenactment, this type of therapy can sometimes give you that feeling of closure that you’ve desired so much.
Childhood trauma is a challenge, but if you believe in yourself, seek help, and have the patience to deal with therapy, you may be able to move past it and ease your inner child.
This is a featured post by site sponsor Better Help.
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