Today's Thought: “A medicine cat has no time for doubt. Put your energy into today and stop worrying about the past.” -Erin Hunter, Rising Storm

How Unhealed Childhood Trauma Leads To Psychological Struggles in Adults

childhood trauma

Childhood is a very formative period in everyone’s life. Experiences during childhood, whether positive or negative, can have long-lasting impacts on one’s psychology and mental well-being. Exposure to traumatic events like physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during childhood can seriously harm a child’s mental health and development. If such traumas are unaddressed and left unhealed, they can continue to affect the person in their adulthood as well, often manifesting as various psychological struggles.

Impact of Childhood Trauma on Mental Health

There is strong evidence that childhood trauma can increase the risk of developing mental health issues like depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc. in later life. Trauma experienced in childhood gets wired into the developing brain leading to altered stress response and the functioning of the limbic system regions involved in emotional regulation. This heightened stress state continues into adulthood making the person more vulnerable. Unresolved trauma can also disturb the formation of identity and sense of self during development resulting in issues with self-esteem and self-belief as an adult.

Long-term physical impacts

Early life stress and trauma have also been linked to increased inflammation in the body and deregulation of stress hormones like cortical. This chronic over-activation of the stress response system puts the individual at a higher risk of health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. in later years. The psychological distress arising from unaddressed childhood trauma history can also manifest as psychosomatic disorders in adulthood.

Difficulties in Relationships and Trust Issues

People who have experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse during their childhood years often struggle with difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships as adults. They may struggle with intimacy, tend to isolate themselves, be mistrustful of others, and have chaotic relationships. Their early unhealthy attachment experiences can deeply impact their ability to trust in close relationships later in life.

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Increased vulnerability to Substance Abuse

Unresolved childhood trauma increases vulnerability to maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance abuse. Individuals may resort to alcohol or drugs to unconsciously “numb” or cope with lingering distress from past trauma. According to experts, approximately 3 out of 4 substance abusers in recovery have a history of trauma or abuse in childhood. Substance use disorders are thus commonly seen in adults with an untreated trauma history.

Psychological Interventions can help

Childhood trauma will always be a part of one’s history, but timely consultation with an expert or a thorough therapy session can greatly help. Other interventions such as ERP, CBT, and EMDR help the patient to reprocess the traumatic memories and replace the distorted thinking patterns. Such support groups help the individuals feel less alone and are also a good way for the survivor(s) to learn appropriate coping mechanisms from other survivors. 


In summary, unaddressed childhood trauma can significantly increase the risk of long-term mental health issues and struggles like depression, addiction, and relationship problems in adulthood. It is crucial to acknowledge and seek help for past traumas to prevent them from continuing to exert harmful effects even decades later in life. Timely intervention with psychological support provides opportunities for healing and empowerment to overcome adversities faced during formative years.

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