What are the impacts of childhood trauma and When to seek therapy?

Have you ever come across a person who is grounded and calm even when he or she is facing chaos in one’s life?  On the contrary, have you ever met someone who seems to be confused and inattentive even in a causal and relaxing atmosphere?  Given the similar educational or financial backgrounds of these two people, what makes them to have such a huge difference in their presence?  One of the possible reasons is that the one who is grounded and calm may have secure attachment with his or her caretaker in one’s childhood.  The one who is confused and inattentive may have at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) and these experiences contribute to their possible insecure attachment to their caretakers. 

Secure attachment in one’s childhood reflects a deep emotional bond between a child with one’s primary caregiver.  With secure attachment, the child feels consistently loved and cared for.  The child receives the messages from the caretaker that one’s environment is safe and the child is protected and valued.  However, adverse childhood experiences, such as death of parents, divorce of parents, or psychological abuse by parents, disrupt the cultivation of secure attachment.  As a result, the insecure attachment between the child and the primary caregiver causes feeling of being unloved and unvalued.  The child feels unsafe and is constantly in high alertness.  The sense of self of the child is also damaged. 

The impacts of childhood trauma are longstanding.  These impacts may include negative or unstable sense of self, insecurity about one’s environment and relationships, highly critical to self and others, avoidance coping, emotional dysregulation, and reexperiencing the traumatic experiences in nightmares, flashbacks and other intrusive memories.  If one is experiencing some of these, it is understandable due to his or her ACEs.  Can people experiencing childhood trauma undergo therapy so that they can be more grounded and calm?  Even though it is revealed in reseach that ACEs contribute to abnormality in the development of ones’ brain, the known plasticity of our brain gives us hope that the impacts of childhood trauma can be significantly reduced through therapy.  With professional help, people with childhood trauma can live a fruitful and meaningful life.

With a professional therapist who is experienced and knowledgeable in treating people with childhood trauma, one can experience caring, acceptance, compassion and respect in the therapeutic relationship.  Through different modalities of therapy, one can learn useful life skills to navigate in ones’ environment and regulate ones’ emotions.  In some cases, not all, processing of the childhood trauma also helps reconsolidation traumatic memories and rewire ones’ brains.  How does one know when to seek psychotherapy for childhood trauma?

When a person constantly recalling certain memories with distress or experiencing nightmares or flashbacks, it may be important for him or her to consider seeking therapy.  For those who constantly experiencing unstable emotions and have a poor self-image, seeking help from a professional may help to explore the root causes of ones’ perfectionism or frequent self-criticism.  Some people with ACEs also had persistent self-harming tendency or addiction.  Sometimes, these people may also have mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder.  In fact, people with childhood trauma may also experience persistent difficulty in concentrating and doing simple tasks.  Relationship issues, such as being trapped in a toxic relationship, and being bullied are also common. 

If one is experiencing some of the above in their adulthood, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist who has experience and knowledge in treating people with childhood trauma.

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