Often, victims of trauma seem to act strangely. It might be confusing to those of us watching from the outside. However, the more we learn about the psychological effects of trauma, the more we see certain patterns, especially when it comes to childhood trauma and the multifaceted toll that it takes.

Being able to identify signs of childhood trauma helps us to uncover incidents and wounds that might be hidden under layers and layers of self-defense. The earlier that childhood trauma is recognized, acknowledged, and treated, the better people are able to heal and prevent the domino-effect of mental illness and dysfunctional coping methods. Here are some signs that can be hard to spot in victims of childhood trauma:

Physical Effects

Sometimes when we can’t express--or even acknowledge--the emotional damage that has happened, the body will find a way to express it physically instead. This is common in victims of child abuse, as things might be buried by memory, denial, and harmful self-image. Instead, the pain of the incident comes out in health problems. These problems could be different for every person. Often, it includes stomach issues, like acid reflux, problems with digestion, and even easily-triggered vomiting. Other people might experience pain--severe pain that seems without cause and feels impossible to pinpoint. Others suddenly get rashes, tremble uncontrollably at certain stimuli, or have persistent insomnia.

Unexplained reactions to triggers

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is different from childhood trauma in many ways. However, often victims of childhood trauma exhibit similar symptoms to PTSD, mainly characterized by flashbacks, anxiety attacks, and seemingly disproportionate responses to things around them. Painful memories can be triggered by something as seemingly innocuous as the smell of a certain perfume. These flashbacks might be the brain’s attempt to make sense of a seemingly incomprehensible event.


Much of the time, in order to protect ourselves from what’s happening (or has happened) to our bodies, the mind can create a wall of disassociation. This might mean that you have a hard time feeling connected to what’s going on around you even when you want to. You might be unable to feel pain or pleasure, excitement or nervousness in your own body. You might feel like you’re observing yourself from the outside now and then.

Attachment disorders

One of the most classic signs of childhood trauma is that people have a hard time building functional relationships. Although many people blame victims for this, science shows that childhood trauma can pause the development of important interpersonal skills: reading expressions, communicating emotions, and interpreting the tone of a conversation. It can be difficult for victims of trauma to build new relationships of trust. Conversely, someone might form a trusting attachment which becomes unhealthy because there’s too much dependence on it.