The Lasting Effects of Childhood Trauma on Your Mental and Physical Health

You may try to overlook events from your childhood. However, having negative or traumatic experiences as a child can significantly impact your adult life in numerous ways.

Our team at Compass Mental Health & Wellness in Houston provides integrated psychiatric and family medicine services. If you experienced trauma before turning age 18, it’s essential to understand the effects it can have on your health and wellness throughout your life.

Trauma and childhood

There are numerous events that can cause trauma in a person’s life, ranging from abuse and sexual assault to a cancer diagnosis, car accident, or death in the family. 

Examples of negative experiences, or adverse childhood experiences, include:

What can make trauma even more impactful during childhood is the vulnerable state of a child’s brain and how they perceive the incident. Plus, adverse childhood experiences often involve family members or people closely associated with us, which can cause even more trauma.

It also means that an event doesn’t have to be illegal, extremely violent, or leave physical scars to cause a traumatic response. In fact, even events that may seem relatively mild to adults can leave a mark on a child that lasts a lifetime, especially if they occur before age 8.

Trauma and your mental health

Unfortunately, trauma can often stay with a child, especially if they experience numerous adverse childhood experiences before turning age 18. The three most common mental health problems seen with childhood trauma are posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects 5-10% of the population and often causes feelings of severe anxiety, flashbacks, or nightmares. 


There are several kinds of anxiety disorders, but they all share an intense, persistent, and overwhelming feeling of worry, nervousness, and fear. 


Unlike temporary feelings of sadness, a depressive disorder can last for weeks, months, or even years. These negative emotions can be extreme, persistent, and overwhelming.

Trauma and your physical health

When you experience stress, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that triggers the fight-or-flight response. This stress response is what makes your heart race or a cold sweat form. Think of it like revving a car’s engine for a quick getaway.

Unfortunately, having high levels of stress hormones can lead to inflammation, long-lasting health problems, and wear on your body, especially if you have a high number of adverse childhood experiences. Plus, going through trauma in the first 18 years of your life can put you at risk of developing unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, substance abuse, smoking, and hypersexuality.

These factors can increase your chances of developing numerous health complications, such as the following:

Fortunately, there are ways to address past trauma to help protect your long-term health.

Managing childhood trauma

The first step is to get help. When you recognize the role childhood trauma plays in mental and physical health, you can take a crucial step in overcoming the challenges you face. 

At Compass Mental Health & Wellness, our team takes an integrated, whole-body approach to create a personalized treatment plan. Our comprehensive and compassionate approach often includes a combination of therapies, including:

With our support, you can reframe your past trauma so you can overcome your adverse childhood experiences.

To learn more about the lasting effects of childhood trauma and to get help, book an appointment online or over the phone with Compass Mental Health & Wellness today.

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