Early Childhood Trauma You Don't Remember Can Cause Adult Anxiety

Early Childhood Trauma and Family Upbringing Can Cause Adult Anxiety 


Do you feel as it's your fault that you are feeling anxious?

Do you ever find yourself dealing with anxiety, worries, stress, feeling of emptiness, or even having panic attacks? And, now on top of all of that, you may be feeling guilty for not feeling well? You may even feel like an imposter because you don't recall any trauma in your life, and yet you are struggling with these difficult feelings. Early childhood trauma you don't remember doesn't need to be horrific to cause adult anxiety or depression.

Are you ungrateful and guilty of lacking positive thinking that would help you magically with these feelings? After all, it must be your fault. Your current life may look like a dream to so many people. You may have a lovely family, success in your profession, and your economic situation is better than for many people.

And yet, in spite of all of this, you feel sad, empty, anxious, stressed, or guilty. You hope this is temporary, and you may not want to talk about this. You may be thinking that revealing that you are feeling less than joyful will make you look ungrateful for all these good things universe is giving you. You also may try different remedies, such as positive thinking for instance. This may be helpful temporarily, but the deep hurt that comes from the past still remains. This may prevent you from seeking help until it's really difficult to manage.

Early trauma may cause adult anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge

Early childhood trauma you don't remember may affect you even if your parents weren't monsters

Although you may not recollect some horrifying events happening in your life, it's not excluded that you may have had early traumatic experiences. Trauma doesn't occur only when we experience some horrible violent attacks or disasters. Early childhood trauma also occurs when our parents are unable to meet our needs due to various reasons. None of this has to be horrible, but for a little baby, these events may feel like life threatening situations. A little baby doesn't have the capacity to reason and soothe herself. Although you don't remember them, early childhood trauma experiences have profound effects on you.

Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT Aguora Hills

Does this mean that my parents didn't love me?

Absolutely not. Your parents could have tried to raise you to the best of their ability. It could just simply be that they were so anxious to be good parents, that they couldn't be attuned to you for instance. They may be overwhelmed with daily responsibilities or going through some scary situations themselves, so it may be very hard for them to be completely present and soothing for you. Parents are limited human beings, and they all make many mistakes.

Basis of infant emotional needs is to feel safe

Providing the baby with clean clothes, food, and shelter will not be sufficient to keep the baby feeling safe. As mammals, we are designed to attach to other human beings, and the first attachment figures are usually parents. If parents for whatever reason aren't able to provide the safe space for the baby to feel soothed, this can lead to adult anxiety.

Have you ever seen a crying baby unable to stop in spite of mother trying to hold her, rock her, or feed her? The mother seems to be at the end of her capacity at this moment because nothing that she does can soothe the baby. Then the grandmother or the father comes and just by taking the baby, the baby stops crying. If the mother was alone and didn't have support, the child could be traumatized due to the mother's struggle to feel calm herself and inability to soothe the baby at the moment.

Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFt

Magic of internal connection

This second caretaker was not exhausted and had the capacity to soothe the baby at the moment. The actions were the same, but the capacity to soothe the baby comes from within. The mother just couldn't feel calm when the baby needed this. This is why it's important that caretakers have support.

This example also illustrates how providing basics, isn't enough. Babies need caretaker's presence and soothing that comes from within the caretaker, and sometimes parents are just not capable of it. When babies are not comforted, they perceive the situation as life threatening, as they don't have the mental capacity to understand the proportion of the threat. Read more about the examples of unintended early childhood trauma.

There are so many ways in which you as a baby could be traumatized without experiencing any horrific events. And, this is not to blame your parents. They've possibly done the best they could with resources they've had. What matters here is that you don't feel guilty and worse about the fact that you don't feel well.

Our upbringing contributes to adult anxiety and stress

Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT

Rewards for feeling guilty and punishment for expressing authentic emotions

Besides potential early childhood trauma, our upbringing can contribute to feeling anxious, empty, unhappy, and so on. The issue is that we women are not raised to be happy, but we are raised to be "nice girls" and "get along." Nothing wrong with being nice and getting along. The problem is that we were rewarded for feeling guilty and punished for expressing our true feelings. This kind of upbringing leads to an inability to know ourselves and read our own emotions. Living an authentic life isn't possible if you don't know yourself. And, when you live an inauthentic life, you can develop these difficult feelings and symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, irritability, addiction, and so on.

Women are raised to be in tune with others and their emotions, but now with their own

In addition to this, we women are raised to be caretakers, and not to pay attention to our needs, and avoiding self-care can deplete you drastically. Have you ever seen articles where they have to tell you of the importance of self-care? They basically explain that if you don't take care of yourself, you will not be able to be there for your family. Where did our upbringing go wrong when our own well-being is not a sufficient motivator to make us women do something for ourselves?

Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT
Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMfT

Lack of self-care can affect your relationships negatively

You can carry on like this for some time. Your life may continue as it has been going, but these feelings will eventually erode your capacity to handle stress and other difficult situations. Your relationships with loved ones may start suffering too. If you don't take care of yourself, you may not be able to be there for your partner or children in the way they need you. Similarly, they may not be able to be there for you. If you are not in tune with yourself and able to let them know what your needs are, they may think everything is OK. In this way, you don't provide your loved ones with the opportunity to give back to you, and they'll feel powerless to please you.

Focusing on your personal struggles may be hard, but it's so liberating

What can you do for yourself right now? It may be hard to start dealing with all those difficult feelings. This may be the reason why we distract ourselves with so many things. It may feel like going through some scary caves where you may encounter some strange monsters. But what if you had a competent guide? This guide can show you that these monsters can be tamed. A good therapist can guide you through this safely, so you start feeling more and more empowered.

Help is available, and you have a great capacity to get through this. You've been the rock of Gibraltar for so many people in your life. Imagine how it would be if you paid a little attention to your own needs? I bet you, you could make a big difference in your life. Just think how it would be if you didn't need to pretend that everything is OK when you feel ailing inside. This alone leads to a great relief. From this place, you can start the path of healing.

Early Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Anxiety, Dalila Jusic-LaBerge, LMFT

Are you ready to pay attention to your needs?

You can start by booking a free 15-minute consultation to see what the best steps are.  

About the Author

I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Malibu, Oak Park, etc. I specialize helping divorced women transition from despair to a joyful life.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks for posting. I appreciate the information, how you normalized their struggles, and the emphasis on women learning to take care of themselves.

  • Stacey says:

    Such good information that is incredibly relatable!

  • Great article! I am glad you talked about self-care too because not taking time out of our day to rest and recharge can really take a toll on relationships.

    • Thank you Daniela. You are so right about the self-care. But, somehow we women seem to be programmed to skip it. I’m trying to spread awareness about the importance of it and helping women internalize it

  • […] upbringing contributes to both how we feel and how we relate to our partner and other loved […]

  • […] You, just as many other accomplished women, wind up feeling as if you are not sufficient in any of your roles. You feel guilty for not spending more time with your partner, your children, and even your career. Although you know there are only 24 hours in a day, you still feel guilty for not accomplishing more. You know you aren't inadequate. Your logical part of the brain has the data to prove it, but boy, do you believe it deep down. Your emotional part of the brain doesn't give you a break. This constant feeling of guilt and lacking is always simmering underneath. Somehow it seems the logical part of your brain is disconnected from your emotional part of the brain. How do we wind up being so fragmented? You can read about how trauma can cause us to be fragmented here. […]

  • Chris says:

    Thank you for this article.

    We (as women) are the bearers of the emotional labor. We work hard because that’s what we do. It’s so ingrained that it becomes automatic for us and our partners. We are not supposed to complain. Or want another arrangement. Or know that other arrangements are even possible. That would upset the unbalanced balance of things. Combining this with anxiety or guilt from unmet childhood needs leads us to feel like it’s our fault for not being satisfied– not the fault of an unbalanced system that that is not stacked in our favor.

    • So well summed up Chris. We, women, are an important part of the well-oiled system. If we start changing there is the most backlash from family members or the society. People really don’t expect us to start changing.

      Thank you.

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