It can be tempting to think, or at least hope, that what happens to us in childhood doesn’t affect us as adults.
If you had a difficult childhood, you may just want to put it behind you and move on. After all, no one likes to dwell on painful experiences. But trauma during childhood, often contributes to anxiety as an adult.
Your struggle with anxiety may be rooted in your earliest experiences of unmet needs, neglect, abuse and/or other adverse experiences. In working with clients, I have found that exploring early trauma in your life can be helpful as you seek healing.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaire is a 10-question assessment that measures the risk an individual has of physical, mental and emotional harm resulting from childhood trauma. Traumatic experiences such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; witnessing violence in the home; having a family member attempt or die by suicide; and growing up in a household with substance use, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation, divorce, or incarceration,1 are included as major risk factors contributing to the development of early trauma.
From the Centers for Disease Control2:
- ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood.
- 61% of adults had at least 1 ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs.
- Many people do not realize that exposure to ACEs is associated with increased risk for health problems across the lifespan.
- Preventing ACEs could lead to a reduction of up to 21 million cases of depression and 1.9 million cases of heart disease!
“Experiencing many ACEs, as well as things like racism and community violence, without supportive adults can cause what’s known as toxic stress. This excessive activation of the stress response system can lead to long lasting wear and tear on the body and brain.3”
Especially in the earliest years of a child’s life, toxic stress impedes the optimal growth and development of a child’s brain and their nervous system’s ability to maintain balance.
How Early Trauma Connects to Anxiety
When young children and their sensitive and developing nervous systems don’t have a consistent experience of safety and care, their little bodies have to work harder to settle and soothe. Young children require another person to help their little nervous systems calm down and regulate.
In the absence of that, their nervous systems do not get to develop optimally. Because too much energy is going into surviving leaving less energy for the body to grow and strengthen. The body then gets patterned to always be revved up or anxious.
In response to the toxic stress, children develop coping methods by adapting their behavior. So, if a child frequently feels threatened and afraid, it’s common that they will withdraw emotionally and socially isolate. They learn to behave in ways that won’t draw attention or anger from adults. This readily sets the stage for anxiety problems in childhood and/or later in life.
Researchers have found that early trauma creates a number of all-encompassing effects in children’s lives. In addition to anxiety, they may also struggle to regulate their emotions. Plus, trauma can lead to sleep problems and even weaker immune systems. This is often part of a bigger issue called a heightened stress response. In fact, experiencing trauma can make it harder for children to deal with even what is considered normal stress.
You can heal. Period.
If you suspect that your own anxiety may stem from early childhood trauma, we here at Somatic Therapy Partners, want you to know that it is possible to find healing. We specialize in working with clients who have experienced trauma in their childhood.
To learn more about how we treat early trauma and anxiety, click here to learn about Coregulating Touch and here to learn about the Safe and Sound Protocol.
We are dedicated to your best life after trauma! Reach out to us by filling out the form below.
There is so much love for you here!