11 Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Today in this article, we will be tackling a heavy subject like signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults. Trauma is a heavy subject to deal with but something that needs to be addressed.

Trauma is a topic that many might not find comfort in discussing, but it’s a topic that can’t be avoided as it affects people’s mental being. Sometimes we find ways to cope with a traumatic event by forgetting it completely, pushing it down, and completely bottling it up.

We don’t do this intentionally because it is how our brain copes with traumatic events. This is known as repressing memories, and we will further discuss the effects and signs of repressed childhood trauma.

Sometimes you might feel like something about you doesn’t add up, maybe a personality trait that you do not know why you have developed. If you feel this way, this article might help you in some way.

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be described as a deeply disturbing event. This kind of event has long-term effects on a person’s mind and body. There are three main kinds of traumas.

We have acute trauma, which is a result of a single event. Then there is chronic trauma in which the victim is faced with trauma repeatedly for a prolonged period, such as domestic abuse or sexual abuse.

And then, we have complex trauma, which is the result of multiple traumatic events that are invasive and intrapersonal.

Childhood Trauma

Now that we know what trauma is, we can now discuss childhood trauma in-depth as well as signs of repressed childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma generally refers to traumatic experiences faced by a child between the ages of 0-6. During a traumatic experience, the child’s brain is dealing with extreme stress and fear, which leads to fear-related hormones being released.

When a child is faced with such stress regularly due to abuse or neglect, their brain tends to remain in this heightened state.

This results in the child’s behavioral, emotional, and cognitive functioning adapting to promote survival most effectively. These traumatic events can affect the child’s future behavioral, emotional, and cognitive growth as well as their physical and mental well-being.

signs of repressed childhood trauma
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Repressed Childhood Trauma

Your brain is a very powerful organ that sometimes makes decisions on its own to protect you from harm. Repressed childhood trauma is an example of that. Sometimes your brain pushes back the traumatic experience; hence you forget the memory of the trauma, but your brain remembers. This helps you cope and move on with your life.

Repressed memory is a coping mechanism for your body and mind to fight and survive extreme conditions.

Causes of Repressed Childhood Trauma

Adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs, determine childhood trauma. Such events include verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment by a parent due to divorce, prison, or death. Severe childhood illness, mental illness of family member, bullying, alcoholic parents, domestic violence.

Some other people’s trauma also comes from refugee trauma, natural disasters, etc. Learning disabilities can also lead to a traumatic childhood. These are some of the reasons for repressed childhood trauma.

Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

How would you know if you have unresolved trauma affecting your life? Here are some signs of repressed childhood trauma that might help:

1. Strong Reactions to Certain People

One of the first signs of repressed childhood trauma can be strong reactions to certain people. You might find yourself feeling extremely uncomfortable around certain people.

You might feel like your gut is telling you to stay away from them, that this person is not safe and can not be trusted. This might be the result of that person reminding you of your trauma in some way and your brain strongly reacting to it.

2. Certain Places Freak you out

Another one of the signs of repressed childhood trauma is – some situations or places make you feel extremely uncomfortable or generate intense fear. Anything like a place or situation that relates to your trauma can lead to making you feel anxious in a similar place. For example, a car accident survivor might find it hard to sit in a car after the accident.

3. Anxiety

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Trauma can lead to anxiety in adulthood. Trauma survivors are at a higher risk of getting anxiety. Anxiety causes adrenaline to take effect. Adrenaline causes your body to activate fight or flight mode in stressful situations. Traumatic stress 1studies show that past abuse can cause extreme anxiety in victims.

Anxiety is part of our daily, and hence it is extremely important to know if it can be one of the signs of repressed childhood trauma or not. Seek help from a mental health professional if extreme anxiety is interfering with your daily life.

4. Intense Mood Swings

It can be difficult for people with repressed memories to cope with mood swings or extreme emotional shifts. They might go from happy a moment ago to having a temper tantrum the next. Small details might trigger your mood swings and emotional upheaval.

5. Low Self-esteem

Low self-esteem can be one of the signs of repressed childhood trauma. It is identified by low confidence, anxiety, fear of being judged, people-pleasing, and not being able to set boundaries.

6. Abandonment Issues

Sometimes some traumas happen due to neglect on the part of the parent when the child was young. This could lead to trust issues being formed. Apart from trust, there might be an intense fear of being abandoned by people you love or trust.

7. Childish Behaviour

Acting immature or what some may call childish can also be a symptom if you display this characteristic more than often. This might include talking in a child-like voice, outbursts, and stubborn behavior.

8. Adult Attachment Disorders

Attachment disorder can be an extension of abandonment issues as in this; a person is not able to trust their partner in a relationship. Traumatic experiences can lead an individual to form attachment types that are not exactly healthy such as fearful-avoidant attachment, dismissive-avoidant attachment, or anxious-preoccupied attachment.

9. Exhaustion

Other signs of repressed childhood trauma include mental and emotional exhaustion. If you feel emotionally exhausted, it might be because your unconscious mind is trying to repress memories actively. This leads to mental exhaustion and the inability to connect and build new relationships with people.

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10. Not being able to Accommodate Change

Getting anxiety 2over change or not being able to accommodate emotionally to change can be another sign as well. Change might trigger extreme emotions and might interfere with your normal functioning.

11. Chronic Pain or Illness

Peer-reviewed studies have found that people with trauma are more likely to develop a chronic illness or pain in the later years of their lives. Hence this is also included as a sign of repressed childhood trauma.

How to Deal with Repressed Childhood Trauma?

Mental health3 is extremely important; if you feel like you might be someone who has gone through a traumatic event and just can’t remember or have doubts about your mental health, contact a mental health professional or the mental health hotline.

Once you have identified your emotions and repressed trauma, the next step would be to find a mental health professional and a supportive environment that can help you retrieve your traumatic memories and help you understand and guide you through your recovered memories.

To live a fulfilling life, you must seek support and help if you have experienced trauma and are not sure what to do.

Some therapies that help with coping with signs of repressed childhood trauma are:

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1. Behavioral Therapy

In this therapy4, you are provided with a safe space to experience and process your emotions while weeding out the negative effects of it. This therapy aims to identify and correct the destructive nature that might stem from your trauma.

2. Cognitive Processing Therapy

This therapy helps with restructuring beliefs related to traumatic events.

3. Exposure Therapy

In this therapy, you are pushed to confront your fear. As the therapy escalates, the exposure to fear is also heightened. This therapy aims at replacing fear with relaxation and the process is called desensitization.

Key Takeaways

In this article, we learn about the signs of repressed childhood trauma, which helped us to identify the traumatized events faced by a person and how he can resolve them.

Trauma can be extremely hard to deal with, and repressed trauma can be extremely confusing as well. If you think you have found the reason for your memory gaps or are unexplainable life events, it might be time to find help and go on the healing journey.

Trauma 5can be due to so many reasons like childhood sexual abuse, child abuse, and physical abuse, and when you are a child, you might not even know how to deal with it. A child’s emotional and physical well-being can be fragile, and yet so many cases of child abuse torment us every day.

Early childhood abuse can lead to the child forming post-traumatic stress disorder, config themselves to substance abuse or any other form of activity that might only end up bringing more pain.

Hence, find help, seek help, and help people who need help when they need it.

I hope you found the information you were looking for and found this article helpful.

Read more from us here.


1. What are some of the signs of unhealed childhood disturbance?

Ans. Some of the signs of unhealed childhood disturbance are:

  • Difficulty in trusting people
  • Social fear
  • Bursting out in frustration
  • Fears of being judged
  • Always trying to please people

2. How do I know if I have some repressed memories?

Ans. To know if you have some repressed memories or not, then look out for these signs:

  • Certain persons, places, or things trigger you.
  • You react emotionally to any negative past emotions
  • You avoid some situations.

3. How do I remember repressed childhood trauma?

Ans. You can try out ‘trauma-focused talk therapy’ this will help you to remember repressed childhood trauma.


  1. O’Connor, Daryl B., Julian F. Thayer, and Kavita Vedhara. “Stress and health: A review of psychobiological processes.” Annual review of psychology 72 (2021): 663-688. ↩︎
  2. Knowles, Kelly A., and Bunmi O. Olatunji. “Specificity of trait anxiety in anxiety and depression: Meta-analysis of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.” Clinical psychology review 82 (2020): 101928. ↩︎
  3. Moreno, Carmen, et al. “How mental health care should change as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The lancet psychiatry 7.9 (2020): 813-824. ↩︎
  4. Mendell, Jerry R., et al. “Current clinical applications of in vivo gene therapy with AAVs.” Molecular Therapy 29.2 (2021): 464-488. ↩︎
  5. Coccolini, Federico, et al. “Liver trauma: WSES 2020 guidelines.” World Journal of Emergency Surgery 15 (2020): 1-15. ↩︎

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Srishti Bisht

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