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Sunday, 08 Mar 2020

8 Characteristics That Indicate a Traumatic Childhood (And What They Mean)

By Dr Becky Spelman
8 Characteristics of Childhood Trauma | Private Therapy Clinic

The effects of childhood trauma are difficult but certainly not impossible to overcome. In fact, it’s entirely possible to unlearn many of the traits that have imprinted themselves on your psyche at an early age. But there is nothing that can be done without first realising the effects that your upbringing has had on your behaviour. When you experience hurt in your formative years, you form what are known as maladaptive coping mechanisms. These may shield you from experiencing any further pain, but over the long-term can severely limit your capacity to create and enjoy more fulfilling relationships during your adult years. Here are 5 of the most common characteristics of childhood trauma:

  1. You’re Placing Unnecessary Blame on Yourself

Self-blame is almost always a remnant of what you’ve experienced as a child. If you’ve constantly been at fault for things that were nothing to do with you, this will carry-over into adulthood. If you have been the family scapegoat, you might automatically assume this role with others.

  1. You Second Guess the Intentions Behind Other People’s Actions

You may have a deep sense of suspicion about other people’s motives. If you’ve been the subject of manipulation, passive-aggressive or narcissism, you’ll be on high alert when interacting with others – especially those you don’t know well.

  1. You Worry About What People Will Think About What You Say

If you come from an abusive background, you might have learned to speak sparingly or only when necessary. You can also have some major hang-ups about how you’re perceived by your peers when you do open-up. It can lead to anxiety and social awkwardness around others.

  1. You’re Sensitive to Feeling Rejected By Others

If abandonment was part of your narrative in early childhood, you’ll always be looking for signs that people are about to leave. This could even manifest as a case of borderline personality disorder. However, being in such a state often fulfils the prophecy by driving people away.

  1. You Have a Poor Grasp of Setting Boundaries

When you have a dismissive attachment style, you’ll see boundaries as a way to keep you out. You aren’t able to recognise that being able to keep a safe distance from others is a good thing – both for yourself and them. You confuse boundaries with the act of rejection.

  1. You Believe that Love Is Earned (Always Conditional)

This is usually the case with daughters who’ve experienced cold mother syndrome or else had a narcissistic family dynamic. They learn that love is hard to come by, and when it does, it has strings attached to it. Love isn’t something that’s given freely and must be earned.

  1. You Deserve Everything that Happens to You

This thinking comes about from the denial of your circumstances. It’s suggested that on the subconscious level, it’s much easier for a child to believe that they were the source the problem than it is that the world is out to get them. You want to maintain faith in those who were meant to protect you.

  1. Forming Emotional Connections with Others is Dangerous

This is a natural follow-on from experiencing childhood trauma. If you’ve developed an avoidant style attachment, you’ll view all potential connections through the lens of hurt. You’ll equate any possible interactions to the worst days of your trauma and refuse to let anyone else in.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with childhood trauma and think you might benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here


Psych Central. (31st Jan 2020) Toxic Childhood? 10 Lessons You Must Learn. Retrieved on 12th February, 2020 from,

Psychology Today. (9th Aug 2019) Toxic Childhood? 10 Lessons You Must Learn. Retrieved on 12th February, 2020 from,

Psych Central. (9th Aug 2019) 7 Signs You Grew Up with Emotional Neglect. Retrieved on 12th February, 2020 from,

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