20 Subtle Signs That Your Childhood May Have Created Mental Trauma
While most of us may have a really well-rounded upbringing, there’s an equal chance that you may have been exposed to some form of trauma that has unknowingly affected your mental health well into adulthood.
We’ve found a list of cues that indicate whether you’re a socially anxious individual or have unwittingly adapted to the world by trying to reduce your presence and any conflict that may arise as a result of your natural individualism. How many of the following resonate and why?
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They apologise habitually, compulsively, and for everything. Even for things that have nothing to do with them.
Haphephobia, or the fear of being touched, is definitely one of them. Flinching at loud noises or quick movements. Wanting to be at work and doing good all the time. Inconsistent hobby practice- i.e. drawing, but only sometimes drawing, and then dismissing what you drew as “not good enough”.
Everyone is different, but one that automatically raises a red flag for me, and makes me extremely worried is when someone flinches for “no reason”. (I wouldn’t say It’s for no reason, but I don’t know what other words to use. So really sorry about that!).
Like, you raise your voice slightly at them and they flinch, you raise your hands to grab something near them and they flinch, you look at them in a certain way and they flinch, you hug them and they flinch, etc., etc.
Watch their table manners.
Meals are forced contact time in bad households and it can easily show. Some examples are becoming less talkative or withdrawn during meals, they realize their elbow is on the table and they jerk it away quickly, or something innocuous like a sneeze at the table causes undue shame or embarrasment.
Conversely, someone who grew up without parental guidance can also develop odd eating habits. In the case of a co-worker of mine, they collect the condiments near them. She would pull the ketchup bottle out of the little rack on the table, use it, and then keep it by her plate instead of putting it back. I asked if she was done with it, and she said, “Oh, sorry. I ate a lot of meals alone growing up.” Turns out she grew up with a single mom who worked 2 jobs, and she was used to nobody being there to pass things.
If you’re one of those people who gets super defensive about even the slightest error, it’s usually a good sign that they grew up in an environment where it was definitely not okay to make mistakes.
My sister in law adopted 3 siblings who are completely self-sustainable at a very young age. When they were visiting, I noticed a lot.
-If I gave anything to the oldest boy, he would pass it off to the youngest sister. Then I’d give him another and it went to the middle-sister. Then I’d give him another and he’d finally keep it for himself.
-I asked if they wanted water. He said “yes” and I asked if the girls wanted water too. “Oh, we can all share this one.” Obviously I gave them all water, but that one hit me pretty hard.
-He knew their eating schedules and would nag my sister in law.
-Offered to make them mac and cheese or noodles or whatever we have laying around. Promised to clean up after. He was 12 years old.
-When “normal” kids play videogames, they’re glued. This kid was constantly checking over his shoulder to make sure everyone was safe and if he felt one of his sisters was up to no good, he would put the controller down even if it meant dying or losing his progress in the game.
-To elaborate on “up to no good” what the oldest brother considered bad behavior was pretty innocuous. There were several instances of things I consider normal childish behavior that he would regularly put a stop to. The most outstanding one was being too loud. It wouldn’t even be yelling or screaming. Just typical 5 year old make-believe noises that would cause him to run over and tell the little one to keep it down.
Someone who rarely shares what happens at home or talk about their family.
Someone who is really uncertain in decision making and never wants to put anyone out of their way. They may also be really loving, but are really scared to be hurt
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If they subconsciously memorize the sound of everyone’s footsteps. You can tell that someone has done this when they know you’re nearby to ask for something without looking, or even around a corner, or what have you.
Not just “identify family members” footsteps, that’s pretty easy to do if you live with them a long time, but if they can readily identify *everyone* around them, even just coworkers, based on their footsteps? At a minimum they’ve got some serious anxiety running in their brain 24/7 making them worry about who might
be and what might they want so they’ve learned to discern who it is.
They move extremely silently, as though they’ve been conditioned to not be heard or seen.
PS everyone that has ever worked on a kitchen line with me hate how they can’t hear me move around them.
Someone who is very good at staying calm. Like, creepy calm. The room could be on fire and they’d walk out like nothing was wrong.
Being very calm and collected in serious/emergency situations. Having to deal with stressful stuff all my life has made me very capable in tense situations (This could go the complete opposite way too btw just my experience). Many of my friends have me listed as their emergency contacts instead of their parents because they’re like “I know that you can actually help instead of just flip out”.
My childhood wasn’t tough in the “my parents hated me/treated me badly” sense, but they are just basically children, completely unreliable, unable to plan, spiteful(in the way teens are). I had to take care of everything so now I’m just good at keeping it together.
Good people don’t always make good parents.
Edit: seems like many other people had similar experiences. Please remember to love yourselves and to still process all that stuff even tho you were calm at the time! (I say even tho I most certainly do NOT do that)
Mine was when I would say to my wife, our kids won’t have an upbringing like mine I want them to have the best. I thought most people thought like this turns out nope. When my kids were little my mum would say why do you go the kids sports day and the school play the won’t remember I turned and said “oh I remember everyone you weren’t there for which was easy cause you only came once and moaned about how long the carol service was because you wanted to go out and get pissed”. sorry this is long winded i just needed to vent.
Boundary issues are common, but reactions still are an individual thing. What helps to keep in mind is the 4F model of trauma responses: Fight, flight, fawn and freeze. When you notice somebody’s reactions are easily categorized as one of those and it is a very persistent pattern, adverse childhood circumstances of some sort are a pretty safe bet.
Edit: to fawn = to court favor by a cringing or flattering manner, so basically the stuff pathological people pleasers are made of.
I am overly sensitive to people’s emotions or feelings. If someone is quiet for too long I get nervous and think they’re angry with me. I also flinch when people come at me from behind or unexpectedly, both of these are difficult to explain in friendships with people with different childhoods because it’s easy to misinterpret anxiety as insecurity and downplay disproportionate reactions. I still have a hard time explaining that I actually hate being tickled/grabbed and I laugh and scream out of instinct and not fun.
I remember going to summer camp as a kid and meeting Milo. Milo was big on attention seeking and validation, and would take food from the cafeteria back to his bunk, like eggs and toast. I remember thinking he was just weird, but I think looking back and knowing what I know now, he was probably being neglected at home. Thin as a rail and probably malnourished, so he wanted as much food as he could get, and just wanted someone to acknowledge him. Pretty sad stuff.
Jumping at every loud noise, apologizing too much, difficulty maintaing eye contact in stressful situations, if the person suffers from insomnia or severe migraines (this is in my case, the stress from my childhood gave me chronic migraines) and there are many more. These are just from my perspective
Edit: i know that these are also symptoms of anxiety, some are for people/children on the spectrum, these are purely my reactions after suffering a very weird childhood.
My now boyfriend always used to say jokes like;
Nah you dont hurt me its way worse at home.
But he had a look on his face after saying those type of jokes and nooobody saw it i guesse? So one night when we where on a call I asked him if every thing was alright and if those joke were really a joke. He was quiete for 5 second and told me everything, after that i learned that some people knew but just ignored it. He was so relieve that someone could see his pain and was willing to talk about it. After 3-4 months after that, we where together and are still together. He is the nicest person i have ever met.
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Constant analysis of non-verbal cues. I spent my childhood trying to read tiny signals that my abusers sent, that were imperceptible to most people, but big red flags to me. The problem comes when you assume that these signals apply to all people, not just the a******s. I’m triggered by things that my gentle and loving partner does, because my abusers sighed that way, or tapped his hand that way, or got that glint in his eye. My partner is just trying to exist, and I read into everything that he unconsciously does. It’s hard for me to retrain my mind… But I’m working on it with a licensed counselor. I’ve spent nearly 4 decades of my life in flight or fight…. It’s good to be emerging from that mode.
My Psychology professor used to joke that, “Psychology is the study of common sense.” When someone is Insecure, it is generally because they lacked security as a child. Parental love was typically conditional and varied depending on the caretaker’s mood. The child becomes insecure due to love not being guaranteed, so to ‘earn’ this basic need, they will go throughout life trying to ‘solve social puzzles’ that don’t exist. solving imaginary puzzles all the time can prove to be fatiguing, so these individuals tend to isolate them selves.