Childhood trauma is a bigger issue than many people might realize. In one study of children aged 0-6, more than half had experienced a severe stressor. The most common traumatic stressors for young children include accidents, physical trauma, abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. Overcoming a childhood trauma can be extremely difficult. It can follow a child into adulthood, and take years to sort through, rehash the painful memories, and finally find the peace needed to move on. Here’s why it’s often so difficult to overcome a tough and painful childhood:
1. The Source of Pain May be Difficult to Realize
When traumatic experiences occur at a young age, there is no frame of reference to compare it to. When a child experiences a traumatic event, it may seem normal, especially if the trauma is coming from their caregivers. It can take years for someone to realize exactly how damaging their childhood really was, but the longer a person waits to get help, the tougher it may be to heal.
2. The Damage May be Biological
Research has shown that childhood trauma can alter brain structure and change how certain genes are expressed. A 2012 study from Brown University found that childhood trauma such as abuse or the loss of a parent can alter the programming of genes that regulate stress, which raises the risk of developing issues such as anxiety and depression.
3. Related Issues May Mask the Real Problem
Those who experience childhood trauma may turn to drugs or alcohol to help them deal with the pain they feel. When addiction becomes the main focus, it’s much harder to discover the actual source of the trauma and the root of the addiction. Fellow addicts may also provide a sense of “family” that a person believes is missing from their life.
4. Overcoming the Past Could Mean Remembering It
People who experience childhood trauma often block the memories as a way of coping. Truly moving on and overcoming what happened can mean revisiting the memories, which may be too painful for some to endure. But pain can be difficult, if not impossible to eliminate if the source is never dealt with.
5. A Person May Look for Answers in the Wrong Places
If someone is attempting to find answers in others in order to fix the past, there’s a good chance they’ll end up being hurt or disappointed. When a person experiences childhood trauma, they may forget about their own needs, and spend their time and energy trying to earn the love or affection of others. This can cause further abuse and pain.
6. Emotions May be Difficult to Reach
When childhood trauma is severe, a person may numb their emotions as a defense mechanism. Closing off all emotions can damage a person’s ability to build healthy relationships. It can also complicate attempts later on in life to access the buried emotions that are necessary for healing.
7. Inner Voices Can be Difficult to Silence
If a child is constantly told they are worthless, stupid, ugly or a failure, these negative thoughts can stay with them throughout their life. No matter how great their life is going, they may have a little voice in their head that is constantly telling them they aren’t good enough, leaving them feeling unworthy and powerless.
8. Closure Can be Hard to Find
Someone who has experienced childhood trauma may spend their life seeking closure, but closure can be elusive. When a person is finally ready to face their trauma, the source may no longer be around, or the person who hurt them may never be held accountable for their actions.
Closure doesn’t mean that things end exactly the way we want them to. It means finding peace, despite the odds against us.