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How Childhood Trauma Leads to Developing Anxiety Disorders

Childhood experiences do not stop affecting you just because you reach adulthood. The things that impact your emotional and psychological health as a child continue to influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors throughout your entire life. This means that, without treatment from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, childhood trauma and other adverse experiences can lead to the development or worsening of Mental Health Disorders in adulthood. 

Anxiety Disorders are some of the most common Mental Health Conditions to stem from childhood trauma. Learn more about why traumatic experiences influence Mental Health into adulthood with this overview of how childhood trauma leads to developing Anxiety Disorders. 

Causes of Childhood Trauma 

It is not always easy to identify childhood trauma as a source of Anxiety Disorders in adulthood. Many people hold the false belief that childhood experiences remain in childhood. They believe that kids are too resilient to harbor any serious effects of trauma or that healing from trauma happens naturally over time. 

The truth is that trauma—like with any Mental Health Disorder—requires professional intervention from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist to address. Without treatment, the effects of violence, neglect, and other adverse experiences in childhood will continue to harm your Mental Health throughout your life. 

It is important to recognize that childhood trauma can stem from countless situations and experiences. While many traumatic experiences involve direct violence, this is not always the case. Childhood trauma can also involve: 

  • Witnessing violence 
  • Witnessing or experiencing emotional or verbal abuse 
  • Neglect 
  • Parental substance abuse 
  • Loss of a loved one 
  • Bullying 
  • Natural disasters 

Any time a child feels unsafe, isolated, or overwhelmed, they can experience trauma. By recognizing childhood trauma for what it is, Licensed Clinical Psychologists and their patients take the first step toward identifying the cause of adulthood Mental Health Disorders. 

Childhood Trauma Creates Lasting Effects 

There are many ways childhood trauma can influence Mental Health and other experiences as an adult. The things you witness and experience as a child alter the way you think, react, and behave. As such, childhood trauma leads to the formation of negative thought and behavioral patterns that increase your risk for Mental Health Conditions such as Anxiety Disorders. From growing up in unpredictable environments to developing negative neural pathways and insecure attachment styles, the effects of childhood trauma continue to influence your Mental Health until you seek professional intervention. 

Unstable Environments 

For many people, childhood trauma comes with unstable and unpredictable home environments. From growing up around domestic violence to living with neglectful or absent parents, these situations lead to childhood environments that are full of conflict, tension, fear, and loneliness. This leads to the development of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that give way to Anxiety Disorders in adulthood. 

For example, someone who grows up with temperamental guardian figures will learn how to read their environment for any sign of anger or frustration that could turn into conflict. This instills a sense of hypervigilance that makes them more prone to Anxiety as an adult. 

Insecure Attachment Styles 

Attachment style is one of the biggest ways childhood trauma leads to developing Anxiety Disorders in adulthood. Insecure attachment styles—such as avoidant attachment, ambivalent attachment, and disorganized attachment—develop as a result of an insecure bond between an infant and their caregiver. 

When an infant does not experience consistent care, protection, love, and support from their parents or guardian figures, it leads to insecure attachment. This in turn creates problems with emotional regulation, self-image, distress tolerance, communication, relationships, and more—all of which can influence Anxiety Disorders and their symptoms. 

Neurological Effects 

Childhood trauma creates and strengthens negative neural pathways while weakening healthy neural pathways. This is a process known as neuroplasticity, which refers to the way your brain restructures itself in response to your environment and experiences. Trauma, stress, and other negative experiences promote negative neural pathways that lead to problems like negative thought patterns, poor self-image, and emotional dysregulation. 

Anxiety From Childhood Trauma 

The unstable environments, insecure attachment issues, and negative neurological effects of childhood trauma feed into make you more susceptible to developing Anxiety Disorders. Many risk factors of Anxiety Disorders—including chronic stress and perfectionist or overthinking personalities—can stem from childhood trauma. 

There is no single type of Anxiety Disorder that stems from trauma and other risk factors; you can develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or any other type of Anxiety Disorders because of adverse childhood experiences. 

General Anxiety Disorder 

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves ever-present feelings of worry or dread that are disproportionate to current circumstances. People with GAD struggle with indecisiveness and find it difficult to relax. They might also find it difficult to accurately identify situations as threatening or non-threatening. 

This form of Anxiety can stem from unstable childhood environments that instill a sense of hypervigilance. This makes it difficult for someone to let their guard down, trust others, and let go of their ever-present fear and worry. 

Panic Disorder 

Individuals with Panic Disorder experience panic attacks, or intense and sudden feelings of fear and vulnerability that make them feel as if they are not in control of themselves. Like General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder affects your ability to perceive threats accurately. Additionally, the threat of panic attacks create heightened feelings of dread and worry that affects your ability to carry out daily tasks. 

Agoraphobia 

Agoraphobia is a type of Anxiety Disorder that involves intense fear of leaving home and being in public. Individuals with Agoraphobia face extreme stress and terror any time they put themselves in a public space. Childhood trauma can lead to issues like chronic stress, poor distress tolerance, and emotional dysregulation—all of which create or strengthen anxiety triggers. 

These triggers makes you more sensitive to situations that spark traumatic memories or panic attacks. This in turn can make you feel more vulnerable and exposed when you are out in public, especially if you experience a trauma trigger in a public space. 

Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social Anxiety Disorder involves intense feelings anxiety that revolve specifically around social situations. This might be personal situations such as hanging out with friends or going on a date or professional situations such as giving presentations or attending a job interview. 

People with Social Anxiety Disorder fear judgement and rejection from their peers. Individuals who experience childhood trauma can develop this fear as they experience abuse or neglect from family, friends, authority figures, and other people in their lives. 

Treating Anxiety and Trauma With Blair Wellness Group 

When childhood trauma and Anxiety Disorders are intertwined, it is crucial to treat them together. That is why you need a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who understands the unique relationship between childhood experiences and adulthood Mental Health Disorders. 

If you are looking for an Anxiety therapist in Los Angeles, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood, Westwood, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and the surrounding areas, contact Blair Wellness Group to see how our evidence-based treatment plans can help you. 

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