Understanding The Effects Of Childhood Trauma On Adult Mental Health (And Where To Get Therapy Online)

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated April 18, 2022


Experiencing childhood trauma has effects that last far beyond a singular traumatic event. When children experience trauma in early childhood, the effects of that trauma can last for years after the trauma has occurred. In severe cases, the effects of childhood trauma can last for the rest of their adult lives.

When this is the case, many people wonder how to cope with the lifetime effects of childhood trauma as an adult. In this article, we discuss symptoms of childhood trauma in adults, the effects of early childhood trauma, and strategies for overcoming childhood trauma as an adult. Let's start by defining early childhood trauma.

Early Child Trauma and Symptoms of Childhood Trauma in Adults

Early childhood trauma involves traumatic experiences that occur in a child's life when they are between the ages of 0-6. According to mental health researchers, the earlier in their lives that a child experiences trauma, the longer-lasting the effects are likely to be. Examples of childhood trauma include being a witness to or victim of domestic violence, family violence, neighborhood violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, natural disasters, or war.

Symptoms of childhood trauma in adults are affected by early exposure. Earlier exposure to traumatic events in childhood can affect childhood brain development. These effects may not show up until later in life. When the symptoms of childhood trauma do show up in adulthood, they often show up in the form of developmental disorders or mental health disorders. The damaging and traumatic effects of experiencing childhood trauma last a lifetime.

Traumatic events experienced at an early age can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that affects millions of Americans annually. This anxiety disorder normally develops in response to being a part of witnessing a highly traumatic event. Examples of events that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder are war, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and natural disaster events.

People who experience more than one trauma in their lifetime often end up experiencing a complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder called C-PTSD. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a more severe form of post-traumatic stress that happens as a result of compounding traumas. The situation with complex post-traumatic stress is the same in that, the earlier in childhood that people are exposed to these compounding traumas, the more severe their symptoms are likely to be in adulthood. Adults who have been recently diagnosed with this new form of post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to be screened for childhood trauma during their initial consultation with mental health care providers.

Other common symptoms of childhood trauma in adults include the development of substance abuse and alcohol addiction issues that often coincide with a mental health diagnosis. When people get treatment for childhood trauma that have compounding issues like alcohol addiction or substance abuse, they have to get treatment for all of the issues concurrently. For example, a person who is in therapy for childhood trauma who is also an alcoholic will be required to attend additional therapy sessions and participate in programs for alcohol treatment at the same time.

When you visit a psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional for assessment and screening, you'll be presented with a series of questionnaires, including a Childhood trauma questionnaire that asks questions about your childhood experiences to determine if you're potentially suffering from the effects of traumatic childhood events.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma

The first step to overcoming early childhood trauma is to recognize that the issue you're suffering from is not only a mental health issue but also a medical issue. Trauma has a lasting effect on the body and mind that can leave deep emotional wounds that begin to manifest in the body as chronic aches, pains, and other somatic symptoms.

Begin by acknowledging the effects that childhood trauma has had on you. Once you realize that you have been affected by childhood trauma, the next step is to reach out for support from a licensed professional. If you're not sure where to start, you can request a child trauma questionnaire to screen for a childhood diagnosis. Don't blame yourself. You didn't have any choice of over your circumstances as a child, and you didn't ask to be traumatized.

Early childhood trauma can interrupt brain development, which can lead to other physical health symptoms in the body. As more research is done on the effects of mental illness on the body, mental health care, and medical health providers are starting to work in tandem to develop a complete holistic solution for patients and clients that treat both the body and the mind.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the methods of treatment that today's behavioral health professionals use for helping clients overcome mental health trauma. Trauma-informed therapy helps people who have experienced traumatic events in their lives to find understanding, relief, and new ways to cope.

One of the main components of overcoming the effects of childhood trauma is to be honest with yourself about the process. Being honest with yourself as you begin the process of healing means understanding that you may have a long road to walk and committing yourself to the process anyway.

Getting therapy and medication management allows for mental health clients to improve the quality of their lives and requires a daily commitment to the process. Committing to the process means attending all scheduled therapy sessions, taking all prescribed medications, and incorporating new coping strategies and skills into everyday life.

Get Therapy Online

Online therapy options are available for adult childhood trauma victims who are still experiencing the negative effects of early childhood trauma later in life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, and other forms of psychotherapy are available online 24-hours a day. Clients who choose to get therapy online get access to thousands of licensed and board-certified therapists that have thousands of hours of hands-on clinical experience.

These certified mental health experts can guide clients down a path to wellness by helping them to realize where they have been making critical mistakes that have had a negative impact on their lives. Licensed mental health professionals provide real-life strategies and solutions that mental health clients can learn from and apply to their everyday lives to create more positive outcomes.

When you get therapy using leading online therapy providers like BetterHelp.com - you gain access to therapy options that include face-to-face video chat, secure online chat room access, SMS messaging therapy, and phone or audio therapy by phone. Your online therapist will ask you questions as an in-office therapist would. During your session you and your therapist will discuss how your treatment plan is going and how taking part in therapy is helping you make better decisions in your life.

  1. Register for an online account with your email address
  2. Decide if you will use your real name or attend therapy anonymously
  3. Choose your therapy subscription plan
  4. Choose your therapist
  5. Decide how you will attend therapy online (chat, phone, audio, or messaging)

Benefits Of Online Therapy

One of the main benefits of getting online therapy is that you begin to recognize that you're not the only one that suffers from childhood trauma and mental health issues. There are more than 40 million Americans in the US that have mental illness each year. The top mental health disorder reported is anxiety followed by depression and eating disorders.

Taking part in therapy online gives people access to real support services that can provide coping skills and strategies for improving the quality of their lives. Online therapy clients learn better communication skills that help them have better relationships with others. Another benefit of getting therapy online is that clients learn to recognize situations, and what triggers you.

Learning to recognize your mental health-related and emotional triggers can help you develop better coping mechanisms and responses that produce more positive outcomes in your life. Over time you'll begin to feel better as you become more in control of your emotions can deal with things that have triggered you in the past with a new perspective. Cognitive-behavioral based therapies like exposure therapy (ERP) help mental health sufferers to change maladaptive beliefs by using gradual exposure to lessen the effect.

The goal of therapy is to help mental health sufferers learn how to cope with symptoms of mental illness that may affect them for the rest of their lives.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the effects of childhood trauma on adult mental health, you can make more informed decisions when deciding to seek therapy and support. Over 43 million Americans annually suffer from symptoms of mental illness and related substance abuse. Many of these people have experienced early childhood trauma that aggravates their condition.

Help is available for childhood trauma victims through offline options like public health departments, private practice offices. Online therapy options are affordable and available 24-hours a day, seven days a week if you're ready to get started healing the wounds of childhood trauma, schedule an appointment with a licensed BetterHelp therapist today.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist Today
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.