Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

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Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Some events that occur in childhood are so traumatic that the brain protects us by blocking the memory. Having repressed the trauma, the child then goes into adulthood with the traumatic memory tucked safely away.

However, repressed traumatic memories have a way of sneaking back into the person’s daily consciousness, often emerging as maladaptive behaviors. Here we explore the signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults.

What is Repressed Childhood Trauma?

When a child experiences a traumatic event, the memories of the event are sometimes repressed. This is a type of defense mechanism that may or may not be a conscious choice. Some of the types of trauma that lead to repressed memories include:

  • Physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Emotional abuse.
  • Neglect
  • Emotional neglect.
  • A family history of mental illness.
  • Separation from parent or divorce.
  • Violence against the mother or caregiver.
  • Having a close family member incarcerated.

Repressed memories, which originated with Sigmund Freud, are also referred to as “dissociative amnesia.” This happens when the child feels a total lack of control over his or her life and therefore blocks memories. By doing so, the person is able to keep the painful memories away from their consciousness and daily life.

Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Even if you are not aware that you have repressed traumatic memories, the signs that they exist still show up. Here are some signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults:

  1. Black or white thinking. You label people or situations as good or bad and make snap judgments using black or white thinking.
  2. Low self-esteem. You fear being judged by others and tend to be a people pleaser without setting boundaries.
  3. Mood swings. Strong emotions, anger, and toxic stress can cause extreme mood swings.
  4. Insecure attachment style. If you were neglected, abused, or had an absent parent you may have an unhealthy attachment style. This can make it hard to form stable, healthy relationships.
  5. Sensitive to triggers. You have a strong emotional reaction when you encounter a person, place, or thing that triggers memories of the trauma.
  6. Chronic pain or illness. As an adult, you tend to struggle with chronic pain or being susceptible to illness.
  7. Fear of abandonment. Because trust bonds were broken in childhood, it causes you to have an intense fear of abandonment in adulthood.
  8. Anxiety. People with repressed childhood trauma are at a greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
  9. Dissociative episodes. When you feel overwhelmed you may shut down emotionally and feel detached and numb.

How Repressed Childhood Trauma Impacts Life in Adulthood

When an adult is living with repressed childhood trauma, it can play out in various ways in daily life. Some of these include:

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  • Increased rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar, and PTSD.
  • Higher rates of fibromyalgia.
  • Being “love addicted.”
  • Forming toxic relationships.
  • Having trust issues.
  • Tendency to self-sabotage due to feelings of shame or guilt.

How to Overcome Repressed Childhood Trauma

The jury is still out on the practice of retrieving repressed memories. Someone may have had a dream or a flashback that sets them on a mission to retrieve the traumatic memory. However, even though this practice is controversial, there are other ways to overcome the effects of repressed childhood trauma. They include:

Outpatient Mental Health Treatment. Outpatient treatment is found in three levels of care:

  • Basic outpatient. This equates to a weekly therapy session with a private practice mental health professional.
  • Intensive outpatient program. The IOP features a more intensive level of care, working with therapists three times a week for three hours each.
  • Partial hospitalization program. The PHP is the highest level of outpatient care. These programs involve five days a week of programming for 5-6 hours each time.

Residential Mental Health Treatment. A residential mental health treatment center provides housing and a much more intensive approach to therapy. Treatment elements include:

  • Private psychotherapy sessions one or more times per week. Meeting with a therapist one-on-one provides a safe, confidential space to discuss childhood trauma and its affects. The therapist will help you develop better coping skills, to learn how to create boundaries, and provide tips to improve relationships.
  • Group therapy sessions daily. Group therapy allows you to get feedback from others in recovery for trauma, and offers a safe place to share.
  • Adjunctive methods. Exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and EMDR are helpful in treating the trauma.
  • Medication. Meds can help alleviate some of the symptoms of any mental health disorder that has developed due to the trauma.
  • Holistic methods. Learning how to better manage stress is important when recovering from trauma. This is why treatment programs include various types of holistic activities, such as yoga, meditation, and massage.
  • Exercise and nutrition. Rounding out the residential mental health treatment program is an emphasis on overall wellness. There will be a focus on healthy eating choices and getting daily exercise.

Mental Health Retreats. A mental health retreat is a concentrated approach to trauma relief and care lasting 2-4 days. These programs are highly skewed toward holistic and experiential activities and are akin to a luxury spa retreat. The difference is there is also a therapist on staff to provide individual and group sessions.

Are you an adult that has experienced a difficult childhood or a traumatic event in childhood? If so, you may benefit from a mental health treatment program that offers an emphasis on trauma treatment.

Mental Health Hope Offers Adults Guidance for Repressed Childhood Trauma

Mental Health Hope is a free online resource that offers guidance for those in need of mental health treatment. If you have all the signs of repressed childhood trauma as an adult, reach out to us today at (877) 967-9274

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