Childhood traumas is a traumatic event that happens before a child becomes an adult.  The word trauma is used to describe negative events that are emotionally painful and that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. The experience of an event by a child can be emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in mental and physical effects. 

Bad things can happen in life as children grow up. Some are obvious like a natural disaster that destroys a home, physical abuse or death of a parent. Other factors can also be a strong influence on a child’s development like substance abuse in a parent, Intense argument between parents. An experience or repeated experiences may leave a child with an overwhelming response to fear, safety or no control over their lives. For some children these feelings become so intense that they get in the way of their continued physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. This is childhood trauma. 

The most common causes of childhood trauma include – 

  • Accidents
  • Bullying 
  • Chaos or dysfunction in the house ( such as domestic violence, parent with mental illness, substance abuse)
  • Death of a loved one
  • Emotional abuse or neglect
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Separation from a parent
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Stress caused by poverty
  • Violence (at home, in school or surrounding community)
  • Life threatening accidents and injuries
  • Discrimination

Such childhood traumas can evoke fear and is commonly violent, dangerous or life threatening. Also sometimes referred to an adverse childhood experiences or ACE’s. Trauma from childhood in adults causes people to be more likely to develop a pattern of victimhood thinking. This ideology can be dangerous as the way people perceive themselves impacts their words, choices, careers, opportunities and relationships. 

Childhood trauma chips away at a child’s stability and sense of self, undermining self worth and often staying with the child into adulthood. This trauma can also impact a person into adulthood as they experience feelings of shame and guilt, feeling disconnected and unable to relate to others, trouble controlling emotions, heightened anxiety and depression, anger. One of the most devasting impacts of childhood trauma on adults is the effect it has on self image. Trauma from childhood in adults causes people to be more likely to develop a pattern of victimhood thinking. 

Impact of childhood Trauma – 

Cognition – 

  • Impaired readiness to learn
  • Difficult problem solving
  • Language delays
  • Problems with concentration
  • Poor academic achievement

Brain Development – 

  • Smaller brain size
  • Less efficient processing
  • Impaired stress response
  • Changes in gene expression

Behaviour –

  • Poor self esteem
  • Social withdrawal
  • Aggression
  • Poor impulse control
  • Risk taking / illegal activity
  • Sexual acting out
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • Drug and alcohol misuse

Mental Health – 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Negative self image / low self esteem
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal tendency


  • Attachment problems / disorders
  • Poor understanding of social interactions
  • Difficulty forming relationship with peers
  • Problem in romantic relationships
  • Intergenerational cycles of abuse and neglect


  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Trouble recognizing emotions
  • Limited coping skills
  • Increased sensitivity to stress
  • Shame and guilt
  • Excessive worry, hopelessness
  • Feelings of helplessness / lack of self efficacy

Physical Health

  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Poor immune system functioning
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Shorter life span

In short childhood trauma creates a fractured foundation for the individual for the rest of their lives. The way we are raised and the sense of security it creates all impact the emotional and sometimes physical path we take as adults.

Therapy Techniques for Healing Childhood Trauma In Adults –

Therapy is specific to individual receiving treatment, so the best technique makes an individual feel comfortable and able to process there past. The most researched, evidence based approaches to childhood trauma are – 

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Dialectical behavioural therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing 
  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – is an evidence based treatment with the support of significant psychological associations as an effective form of therapy to change behavioural and thinking patterns. CBT works for variety of anxiety, stress, and depressive disorders. 
  2. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy – is a practical treatment choice for mental disorders because the focus of therapy includes emotion regulation, mindfulness and stress tolerance. DBT is well recognized by therapist who treat mood and personality disorders. 
  3. Eye movement desensitization and Reprocessing – is a psychotherapy technique that involves a clinician facilitating an individual to access traumatic memories by providing a guide to their eye movement while the client processes the situation psychologically. This form of therapy is related to post traumatic disorders. 

Additionally treatment styles consider less evidence based approaches and are still therapeutic like art and play therapy. 

Seek Professional Help and Guidance – 

In many cases, counsellors and therapists can serve as the greatest allies for adults navigating childhood trauma. This is largely because trained mental health professionals are well equipped to help people work through and heal from their experiences. Moreover overcoming childhood trauma as an adult will vary depending on the person , and it can be hard, but it will ultimately be worth it.