Know how childhood trauma can expose you to health risks as adults

Childhood trauma can have a long-lasting impact on your health. It can even spill over to adulthood, so know how to tackle it.
psychological effects of childhood cancer
Facing childhood trauma may shape up your adult life. Handle it with care. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 31 Jan 2023, 15:48 pm IST
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You might think that traumatic events are all about physical scars. But they also have a strong impact on your mind. Childhood trauma can have effects in your adulthood as well. Right from alcohol addiction to having mental health issues, traumatic events in childhood can spill over to adulthood. In fact, survivors of childhood trauma can often experience feelings of worry, anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness and anger. You can take several steps and lead a healthy life as an adult by leaving behind the traumatic events that you faced during childhood.

HealthShots checked with Dr Rishi Gautam, a US-based mental health expert and a specialist of psychiatry, to know how childhood trauma can affect adults.

childhood trauma
Childhood trauma can affect your adult life! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Adverse childhood experiences have a long-lasting impact

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that children encounter during their development. Exposure of violence or abuse in childhood activates the body’s stress response system. This in turn leads to disruptions in the normal brain development. Dr Gautam says that they have a long-lasting impact causing psychological stress which manifests in the form of –

• Heightened anxiety
• Inability to trust their caregivers
• Poor sleep
• Nightmares
• Avoidance of school and everyday activities
• Depression

What happens to adults exposed to childhood trauma?

Adults who have been exposed to trauma in their childhood and haven’t dealt with it the right way, are at increased risk of developing some of these things.

1. Higher chances of mental health conditions

They can have depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a condition that lingers into adulthood. It causes impairment in people’s ability to form fruitful relationships, be able to work, avoid recollections of traumatic memories, and sleep, amongst other things.

2. Risk of addictions to alcohol and drugs

An adult who experienced childhood trauma may rely more on alcohol and drugs, which are all bad habits for health.

childhood trauma
An adult with a traumatic past may be addicted to alcohol or drugs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Difficulties with interpersonal relationships

Childhood trauma also affects adulthood relationships. People may suffer marital discord or even domestic violence (how to overcome domestic violence trauma).

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4. Increased risk of developing chronic physical illnesses

Be it obesity or diabetes, an adult who faced traumatic events as a child will have a high risk of developing such illnesses.

5. Loss of childhood memories

This will further lead to difficulties in developing a stable sense of self as adults. It will cause poor self-esteem, suicidal feelings and self-injurious behaviour, says the expert.

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Tips to lead a healthy life after facing childhood trauma

Don’t let traumatic events in your life make you unhealthy and come in the way of happiness. Healing is very important to lead a happy life (how to deal with a trauma patient). Here’s what you can do:

• Practice mindfulness and don’t just get lost in the past.
• Journal your thoughts as it’s a safe space to express yourself without fear of judgment. It’s a good step for those who aren’t comfortable with sharing these experiences with others.
• Practice coping with deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation
• Seek therapy as trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy is an evidence-based treatment for it.
• Antidepressants and anxiolytics have been found to be helpful in situations not responsive to therapy.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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