Signs You Might Have Repressed Unresolved Trauma from Childhood

signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults

Signs You Might Have Repressed Unresolved Trauma from Childhood

Unresolved trauma experienced as a child leads to “stunted” adulthood.

Repressed childhood experiences and memories of it leak through numerous emotional responses you have as an adult. Though, as debilitating as it may feel, there’s always help to address the core issues.

Signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults can be seen in overly anxious, self-conscious, and emotionally unstable people.

Ever noticed how your instincts kick in as soon as you face certain events? But to others, it may seem insignificant. To them, you are overreacting.

But is that so? 

You may not be aware of it consciously. But your brain knows the experience and the consequences all too well to allow you to feel secure.

In the same way, experiences as a child form the basis of mental associations you make as an adult.

So, if you’ve had an unstable childhood, chances are the effects will be seen later on in life.

Sudden realizations of past trauma can also trigger intense anxiety, confusion, and emotional upheaval. 

Just think of how difficult it is to manage emotions even as an adult. And it’ll give you a good idea of how traumatic it could have been for your child self. 

Thus, the memories are repressed deep within your psyche as a coping mechanism.

It’s not until you become more self-aware around the symptoms of childhood trauma that you can address the recurring issues.


6 Signs of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Signs of childhood trauma

It’s not uncommon for adults with childhood trauma to have a disintegrated sense of self-esteem and identity. 

Other symptoms of childhood trauma in adults may also include:

  • Struggling to act like an adult in stressful and demanding situations.
  • Strong and uncanny reaction to certain sights, smells, and places. 
  • Feeling alarmed by some people and not feeling safe around them.
  • Finding it hard to cope with certain experiences sensibly (fight-or-flight response).
  • Noticing repeated patterns of negative behaviors. 
  • Intense fear of abandonment or unhealthy attachment in relationships.
  • Getting into repeated cycles of codependent relationships as an adult.
  • Emotions bubbling up to the point of exhaustion.
  • Panic and anxiety attacks in certain situations.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions and managing anger.

As a child, you didn’t have the ability to filter events through the lens of better judgment, education, and healthy boundaries. 

You were left vulnerable in the face of challenges your brain didn’t know how to handle. 

Childhood trauma could have been in the form of sexual assault, molestation, and physical dangers.

The effects of childhood molestation in adulthood can be even more devastating.

Struggling with self-identity and feelings of shame and self-pity are common.

Additionally, the absence of one or both parents, emotional avoidance from caregivers, bullying, or witnessing domestic violence can leave imprints that last. 

The trauma, thus, stays unresolved well into your adulthood until you recognize the issues and seek support. 

Ask yourself if you can relate to any of the signs of repressed childhood trauma mentioned above. 

It’s important to know that not all of these are indicative of symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood

However, if you’re certain of your experiences as a child, these pointers will help cultivate a better understanding. 

#1. You Struggle to Act Like an Adult—Consistently

Child-like behavior

Whining and throwing things around are not exactly adult behaviors.

So, if you often find yourself acting out like this, there may be deep-rooted issues. 

Know that this doesn’t include occasional feelings of frustration and immature acts.

But the repeated display of child-like behavior shows you haven’t addressed some issues that may stem from your childhood. 

The symptoms are so unconscious that you might have failed to take note until now. 

Some people may even start acting out in a child-like voice and show stubborn behavior. 

If you’re in the same boat, there’s no need to shame yourself, though. 

But you do have to be more aware and find tools to manage your emotions the next time you see this happen. 

#2. You Have an Intense Fear of Abandonment

This is one of the most common signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults.

An adult who has experienced avoidance from caregivers may cling to people in their life. 

Feeling emotionally dependent on others and people-pleasing can be early indicators of this kind of behavior. 

Some people even feel the need to be with their partner all the time. They get overly jealous and cannot bear even the slightest hint of distance. 

This is problematic, to say the least. 

Feelings of insecurity and lack of self-identity can make other people in your life feel burdened.

Understanding that no one is responsible for your happiness but only you is important. 

Plus, as an adult, no one can really abandon you. You’re in full control of your life unlike when you were a child.

Also, a therapist might be able to help uncover why you feel the way you do and what to do about it. 

#3. You Get Triggered by Certain People Or Situations

Symptoms of childhood trauma

Other signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults may also involve feeling alarmed in some situations. 

These circumstances remind you of memories your brain has registered as a threat. 

Certain smells, sounds, or sights may make you feel vulnerable. This can often be a sign of repressed memories coming back to haunt you. 

Your brain remembers these stimuli and that can trigger uncanny feelings of insecurity in you. 

The same applies to interpersonal interactions. 

Some people might feel like a threat as you relate them with something that didn’t go well in your childhood. 

Getting distrustful of yourself and others triggers some serious anxiety as well. 


These types of tendencies are also present in adult relationships. PTSD from past relationships can leave lasting damage and a fear of certain people and situations.

#4. You Notice Patterns 

How often is it that some people find themselves in the same kinds of relationships in spite of knowing better? Pretty often, right!

People with repressed childhood trauma centered around emotionally unfulfilling parents often strive to find validation through adult relationships.  All this happens unconsciously without you being aware of the patterns.

For instance, a girl with an emotionally absent father may seek adult partners who exhibit the same behaviors towards her. 

It’s familiar and offers her the opportunity to mold her partner in a way she wanted her father to be. 

Essentially, filling the void left by her father and trying to find the validation she seeks from another male figure in her life.

Needless to say, these kinds of relationships are doomed from the very start. 

Due to a lack of awareness, you’ll fall into the same patterns again and again without knowing why it keeps happening. 

#5. You Form Unhealthy Attachments in Relationships

In the same vein, you might also notice adult attachment disorders if you had an ignorant parent or caregiver. 

Signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults caused by emotionally avoidant parents result in:

  • Fearful-Avoidant Attachment: Abuse or trauma as a child makes some people fearful of deep emotions. This fosters distrust and lack of mutual connection in adult relationships.
  • Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment: If a child’s emotional needs were ignored, they grow up to be avoidant of emotions. If you can relate, you may be over-independent to avoid feeling vulnerable in front of another human again.
  • Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment: On another extreme end of the spectrum, someone can be too clingy in relationships. This usually results from the lack of emotional security and validation as a child. 

In most cases, you’ll be able to relate to at least one of these attachment styles.

In that case, getting in touch with a therapist or cultivating a better understanding of your relationships will help. 

#6. You Feel on the Edge—Emotionally 

Signs of Repressed childhood trauma

With so much going on inside your unconscious mind, it’s easy to feel exhausted mentally. 

In fact, this may also make you feel physically ill and fatigued.

People with repressed childhood trauma can go through a range of emotions on a constant basis.

Their brain is in overdrive, particularly in situations that feel threatening.

Intense feelings of shame, guilt, and lack of a healthy sense of self are common personality traits of sexually abused adults

Other forms of repressed childhood trauma may resurface when you feel sudden jolts of anger that are frightening to others.

Not only this degrades personal health but it also damages the ability to connect with other people.

Thus, it’s crucial to ask for support when you can’t deal with it all on your own.


Mental and physical exhaustion can also be a sign of depression. Seek immediate support if you feel overwhelmed. 

Recognizing the signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults is easier when someone remembers the experiences. 

But what if you don’t have any memory of the trauma?


Childhood Trauma and Memory Loss

Even more shocking is the relationship between childhood trauma and memory functioning.

Memory loss can happen if you’re a survivor of sexual, physical, or emotional childhood trauma.

Certain traumatic events during childhood can have a profound impact on your psyche.

In that case, blocking out any memory of the event allows for survival.

It’s a coping mechanism that helps you move on from the traumatic past. You may firmly believe you’re not a trauma survivor or have experienced any kind of trauma. 

However, in reality, your brain has just blocked out those specific memories. 

People may remember the traumatic event after a long time only when they experience the associated stimuli. 

For instance, you might get triggered by senses, such as smell, sound, touch, or sights.

Knowing about other people’s trauma may irk you without having the sense of why that happens.

This loss of memory can be temporary or permanent. 

Moreover, there can be cases of childhood trauma and short-term memory loss along with other signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults.

So, how to remember repressed childhood memories?

how to remember repressed childhood memories

A therapist can help you reveal secrets from your past if you suspect you have repressed trauma. 

Other than that, similar experiences may also trigger fright and intense reactions. 

However, it’s important to remember that memories are complex. People may also make up stories to fill in memory gaps and believe they are true. 

As a result, it’s crucial you don’t self-diagnose. A professional will be able to help in most cases. 

It’s also imperative to understand why we go through these experiences! 

Can’t the past always stay in the past?


Causes of Repressed Childhood Trauma in Adults

Brain development is in a critical stage, particularly during early childhood.

If this is the time you experienced or witnessed emotional or physical abuse, you bet the effects will last. 

The risk of developing the above signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults is even higher in the cases of prolonged abuse. 

Some of the causes of repressed childhood trauma in adults are:

  • The amygdala is overactive in individuals who have experienced trauma as a child.
  • Trauma instigates chronic stress that may reduce the functions in the area of the brain that processes memory.
  • The brain’s emotional memory center is triggered in the presence of danger, activating the fight-or-flight response.
  • The capacity of the thinking part of the brain shuts down when we perceive danger.
  • Traumatic experiences and memories may remain stuck in implicit memory and are not fully integrated.
  • The brain’s inability to contextualize the memories trigger flashbacks and re-living of the trauma and its associated feelings.
  • Enhanced mental sensitivity to threat and higher levels of cortisol.

So, you see it’s pure biology. A person who has gone through trauma in the past cannot always act in a way expected of them. 

Those suffering are not the ones to blame. They can themself be unconscious of how they react to certain stimuli. 

In fact, the neurological system gets heavily compromised due to trauma. Trauma survivors face issues with verbal expression and finding emotional stability. 

Henceforth, it’s paramount to get educated about the neurobiology of trauma. 

Moreover, practice compassion and understanding instead of shaming those you can’t necessarily “understand”.

Having said that, there are ways to manage the symptoms and even heal childhood trauma. 


Dealing with Repressed Childhood Trauma As an Adult

Dealing with Repressed Childhood Trauma

It’s always best to seek immediate support rather than delaying treatment when you’ve suffered a trauma. 

A therapist can help in overcoming the symptoms of repressed childhood trauma as an adult.

However, make sure the therapist specializes in childhood trauma and has a deep understanding of its effects. 

An empathetic, patient and professionally equipped therapist will be able to help you navigate your emotions. 

As a result, you’ll be able to form better relationships and enjoy an overall more fulfilling life. 

Here are some treatments of repressed childhood trauma in adults:

#1. Narrative Exposure Therapy

This is a short-term therapy session aimed at putting an individual’s life into context. 

It encourages a better understanding of the patient’s entire life experiences and their thought processes. 

This may help cultivate a deeper understanding of where a traumatic memory stems from. 

As a result, this treatment method is often effective for those exhibiting signs of repressed childhood trauma as a result of multiple incidents. 

#2. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

As the name suggests, this kind of therapy is specifically focused on trauma. 

Engaging in this therapy might help you raise awareness around traumatic experiences. 

This, in turn, helps in fixing any negative connotations, thought patterns, and behaviors associated with the trauma. 

Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy has a good success rate with adolescents and adults alike.

#3. Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy is often used with patients with PTSD. 

The main aim here is to redefine the traumatic experience and rationalize it for the victim. 

This therapy method is often effective for sexual assault victims and children who have gone through abuse.

#4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

This is a unique type of psychotherapy where the patient recalls traumatic events while moving their eyes side to side in a rhythmic pattern. 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is effective for those with long-standing PTSD. 

The therapy sessions can help reduce the negative effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

#5. Prolonged Exposure Therapy

It’s essentially a gradual approach to the feelings and memories associated with the trauma. 

The professional works with you to help you confront your fears and understand that trauma-related cues are not dangerous.

This kind of treatment plan has much success with patients with anxiety and PTSD-related depression.

Understanding that trauma doesn’t have to dominate your life is the first step to progress.

It can be daunting at first, but there’s no need to feel shame in accepting that you’re a survivor. 

Getting the therapy you need will help improve the quality of your life drastically. 


Final Notes

Childhood is a word that should ideally ignite feelings of innocence, bliss, and playfulness. 

Sadly, that’s far-fetched from reality. 

Almost all of us experience at least one traumatic event during early childhood or adolescence. 

Thus far, you might have noticed that some signs of repressed childhood trauma in adults are actually standard behavior for many. 

Though, never self-diagnose on the basis of these signs alone. Every person has a different reaction to trauma. 

If you suspect you have symptoms, and it’s overpowering your mental health, seek a professional for a trauma diagnosis.

Additionally, find comfort in sharing your thoughts with close ones you can trust. 

If you do get clinically diagnosed with trauma, taking up regular sessions with a therapist will likely help you manage the symptoms. 

Negative experiences as a child can very well lead to a fractured sense of self during adulthood. 

But you’ve got a fair chance at healing as long as you’re willing to ask the whys and hows of your repressed emotions.

Horizon Clinics

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  • Jenny Olive
    Posted at 02:12h, 13 September Reply

    It makes me so sad that at the age of 65 and going through many, many counseling sessions, and hospitalizations and countless medications for depression, that it is just my reading this article today that explains my life of misery. Why didn’t somebody help me? I’ve endured traumatic experiences as an adult, but no expert has ever delved into my emotional neglect and traumatic experiences as a child. I like knowing WHY my life has been like it has, now that I have read this;, but it still makes me sad because here I sit alone and depressed and scared of people and the world. This has been my life. I wish I had been given the treatment I needed at age 10. Everything in the article is true for me! I wish people to be aware of this and that maybe there is an underlying condition why people may act “weird.” Thank you.

    • Horizon Clinics
      Posted at 11:05h, 17 September Reply

      We are glad this article helped you have better awareness about yourself, Jenny. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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