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How does childhood trauma seep into adulthood?

Researcher & Writer: Ruka ARAKAKI

Illustrator: Ashley ZHANG

What is childhood trauma?

Childhood trauma is an event experienced by a child producing fear and is typically violent, dangerous, or life-threatening. One-time events can also be traumatic for children like car accidents, natural disasters, or medical incidents that affect the child or their loved ones. Childhood trauma might potentially arise from events that don't directly affect the child. Watching a loved one suffer through physical health issues, mental health issues or abuse are some examples that can be traumatic for a child to watch.

Adult attachment disorders

Adult attachment disorders are difficulties such as reading emotions, showing affection, and trusting others. These disorders usually start in childhood and can affect one’s self-esteem to relationship satisfaction.

Examples of these disorders include:

  • Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment

This form of attachment occurs when the caregiver ignores or neglects a child’s needs. When the child becomes an adult, they may close themselves off from others and become solely independent.

  • Fearful-Avoidant Attachment

This typically occurs when a child experiences abuse and neglect and fear intimacy and close relationships as a result of this. In adulthood, it can be difficult for those to share emotions, trust others, and can seem disconnected from their partner.

  • Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment

Adults who have this attachment disorder may seem clingy or needy and require constant validation in relationships. Typically during their childhood, their parents are inconsistent in providing emotional support. One moment they may love and dote on their child but then reject them. This repeated action can cause the child to constantly doubt their place and require excessive acceptance from others.

The long-term effects of childhood trauma

Adults who experienced childhood trauma have been shown to have more chronic physical issues. They may engage in activities that cause these issues such as drinking, smoking, drug abuse, and poor diet and exercise leading to obesity. As for emotional effects, most are associated with anger and aggression, anxiety, lack of trust, low self-esteem, self-destructive behaviour, and suicidal thoughts.

Forms of therapy for healing childhood trauma

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a highly recommended form of therapy for trauma recovery. It is effective for children, adolescents and adults and it can ben done either in person or online. EMDR helps overcome childhood trauma by identifying specific “targets” that could be memories, negative beliefs, intense feelings or negative body sensations. This will help the mind approach more accurate information regarding past events, situations and people one may not have had as a child.

  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)

TF-CBT is a type of intervention that focuses on both the primary caregiver and the child in order to provide maximum support, identify negative and self-defeating belief systems, and learn effective coping skills. For families seeking knowledge through education and parenting skills, direct assistance for the child during their healing process, improved future interactions, and safe growth, TF-CBT is an evidence-based solution.

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT is an intervention based on research that aims to help people recover from PTSD. In CPT, a 12-session short-term therapy, patients concentrate on recognising distorted ideas and beliefs connected to the trauma and how those thoughts and beliefs affect their present-day emotions and behaviours. The individual is then instructed on how to refute and alter problematic beliefs in order to enhance their lives. The psychoeducational aim of this intervention is action-oriented, and it offers useful tools for dealing with harmful thinking. It may be given in both individual and group settings.

Childhood trauma can stick with an individual for the rest of their lives and can be dangerous both mentally and physically. The way and environment in which we are raised can impact the decisions and relationships we make. If you are struggling due to childhood trauma, although it may be difficult, consulting with a professional is the first step to healing.


Dh, M. @. (2019, April 3). How childhood trauma affects us as adults: Mental health. Mental Health Center. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

Peterson, S. (2018, June 11). Effects. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from,habits%20that%20lead%20to%20obesity).

LCPC, W. by: R. M., & MD, R. by: R. A. (n.d.). Healing from childhood trauma: The Process & Effective Therapy Options. Choosing Therapy. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

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