Childhood Trauma and Its Consequences: What Mental Disorders Are Caused By Childhood Trauma?

July 1, 2024

Childhood trauma can cause a number of issues with physical and mental health. When evaluating trauma in general, it is a good practice to consider the perception of the individual experience. However, childhood trauma, at least in scientific study, is generally the label scientists assign when there is physical or emotional abuse/neglect or sexual abuse early in life.  What mental disorders are caused by childhood trauma, though? A running list includes depression, anxiety, BPD, PTSD, and substance use disorder.

The silhouettes of three children playing against a sunset.
For the sake of scientific rigor, childhood trauma includes emotional abuse and neglect, physical abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and bullying.

What Mental Disorders Are Caused by Childhood Trauma: Understanding Childhood Trauma

As we have stated previously, something such as the death of a family pet can scar the mind of a child in a way that is considered traumatic. However, for the sake of scientific rigor, only behaviors under emotional abuse or neglect, physical abuse or neglect, and sexual abuse happening before the age of 6 (early childhood trauma) or 18 (childhood trauma in general) fall under the official definition of childhood trauma. Bullying by peers and community members is also sometimes considered an experience linked to childhood trauma.

For instance, if one of the adults in charge of caring for the child fails to provide them with adequate quantities of nutritious food or a safe home, that is physical neglect. If an adult intentionally inflicts physical harm on a child, that is physical abuse. Emotional abuse can take the form of the parent or caregiver neglecting the child’s basic emotional needs, such as validation of their feelings and affectionate nurturing.

Examples of bullying include excluding and isolating a peer from group activities, a teacher or student systematically taunting, invalidating, and mocking a child, and even physical altercations between peers. Some behavior that can be classified as bullying can also count as an act of discrimination. This is the case if done with the explicit or implicit justification that the child belongs to a certain race or ethnic group or is LGBTQ+. Childhood trauma can deeply scar people even beyond what they themselves are aware of. Mental health experts use various methods to assist patients in dealing with the consequences of childhood trauma. And top mental health clinics, such as Time Wellness Georgia, treat mental disorders caused by childhood trauma.

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Mental illness is a complex phenomenon. However, some mental illnesses are partially caused by trauma.

List of Mental Disorders Caused by Trauma during Childhood

Mental illness is a complex medical matter. However, some mental health conditions have a greater likelihood of taking place if the person experiences childhood trauma.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is one of the first answers to come up when considering mental disorders caused by trauma. Scientists and psychologists have found a correlation between a social anxiety disorder diagnosis and childhood trauma. Other studies have linked anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and other related diagnoses to childhood trauma. The severity of the anxiety disorder symptoms has a positive correlation to the amount of exposure to trauma that took place during childhood.

When the body experiences trauma, it responds by going into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. These can translate into anxiety symptoms later on in life, in particular, the flight and freeze trauma responses. The body learns that their environment is not safe for them to inhabit.

Depression

Another mental disorder caused by trauma is depression. There is a close link between trauma and depressive disorders, independent of whether the trauma took place in childhood. As the development of a sense of self and self-image takes place in adolescence, it is not out of the ordinary for some people to interiorize negative ideas about themselves after exposure to trauma. This negative self-image can later fuel depression.

Even if the individual can form a positive and strong sense of self, people who have been exposed to trauma can turn to destructive behaviors. They do so to avoid negative feelings they may still hold about the trauma. This can lead them to have a negative image of themselves as adults. They may perceive themselves as someone who cannot act constructively in their own lives. This often leads to depression.

Some of the avoidant activities they may partake in can also lead to depression, especially substance abuse, and remaining in codependent or even toxic relationships. Suppose depression gets too extreme, especially in cases when there is an inability to function in daily life or even a suicide attempt. In that case, you may consider PHP mental health in Atlanta.

PTSD and CPTSD

As the name indicates, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) are diagnoses that have to do with an exacerbated negative response to trauma. Specialists consider them relational disorders because they mostly affect relationships due to the distrust the traumatized person feels. However, other symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD can affect the individual in their careers and physiology as well. Please bear in mind that not all people exposed to trauma go on to have PTSD or CPTSD. PTSD treatment centers in Georgia have professionals who are experienced in treating trauma.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

A highly stigmatized personality disorder in Cluster B of the personality disorders in the DSM-5, borderline personality disorder has shown a shift in public image. This is especially the case after therapies like DBT have made it possible for a lot of patients with BPD to go into remission. Specialists have been researching the cause of this mental illness for years. The current consensus is that both biological and environmental causes contribute to it, including childhood trauma. This personality disorder is characterized not only by emotional stability but also by a weak sense of self and frequent feelings of emptiness. These may have their origin in childhood trauma.

Substance Use Disorder

Some people have a tendency to avoid negative feelings from their trauma with self-destructive behavior. This is why some people may turn to both legal and illegal substances. They may do this when they are triggered to numb their negative feelings as a way to self-medicate. However, because of the addictive nature of substances like alcohol, nicotine, weed, some prescription drugs, and illegal substances like cocaine, this can quickly turn into a substance use disorder.

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It is important to find out what mental disorders are caused by childhood trauma

Treatment and Support for Trauma-Related Disorders

A lot of relational healing, or healing in interpersonal relationships, is often necessary when trauma is present. This is particularly the case with childhood trauma. Trauma therapy is an option in one of the top facilities for mental health services in Georgia. During said therapy, trauma-informed professionals deal with the issue. They sometimes use techniques from other scientifically proven therapies like DBT and CBT. Developing trust in other people and dealing with triggers are among the goals of this therapy.

Understanding Childhood Trauma and Seeking for Assistance

Even though a lot of childhood trauma survivors never develop a mental illness, it is a significant component in some mental illnesses, like anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD and CPTSD, BPD, and substance use disorder. This is so because childhood trauma impacts people during critical developmental years. This can lead to arrested development or the body becoming used to distress from an early age. Childhood trauma also affects an individual’s self-image in ways that can be harmful later on in life. It is important to learn what mental disorders are caused by childhood trauma so they can be properly addressed. In case childhood trauma is the root cause of severe depression, the best recommendation is to consult with Time Wellness Georgia, known for the best depression treatment in Atlanta. Renowned mental health experts will be able to assist in diagnosis and treatment.