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A young girl with curly hair sits by a window dealing with subconscious trauma from childhood

What’s the Best Therapy for Subconscious Childhood Trauma?

5 min.

We review how adverse childhood experiences can cause suppressed trauma, as well as the best therapy for healing.

By: Alex Bachert, MPH

Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC

May 15, 2023


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Table of Contents

Trauma is the emotional response to a painful or distressing life event. While some trauma responses are obvious, our bodies can also hold onto trauma without us even being fully aware of how it affects our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Some people experience something called subconscious trauma, which is when we develop habits, behavior patterns, and beliefs due to traumatic events that we may not even remember or recognize as harmful. Below, we share more about subconscious trauma and how to help heal from an adverse childhood experience.

How to heal subconscious trauma from childhood

Trauma affects everyone differently, and some people may not even realize when they’re carrying subconscious grief from childhood. For example, research shows that trauma can impact the brain’s ability to form memories — potentially as a way to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of difficult events.

Whether you’re fully aware of your trauma or still struggling to unpack an event from your past, finding ways to heal is essential for living a more fulfilling life. Here are five steps to help you address and understand trauma from childhood.

1. Acknowledge the trauma

Trauma relates to a person’s understanding of a distressing event and their ability to process and cope with that information. For some people, it’s easier to bury the feelings associated with the trauma or pretend that it didn’t happen all together. It’s also possible for your body and mind to respond to certain triggers, even if you don’t consciously remember the traumatic event.

However, acknowledging your trauma symptoms is one of the first steps in healing and moving on with your life. Once you acknowledge a traumatic event, your triggers, and its impact on your life, you give yourself the power to break down your defensive walls and regain control of the narrative. 

2. Process the emotions 

Guilt, shame, sadness, confusion, fear, fatigue, embarrassment, denial — there is no right or wrong way to feel after living through a traumatic event. Whatever it is that you feel, take the time to understand how your trauma has impacted your emotional health and wellbeing. Processing your emotions creates the necessary room to grow and heal. 

3. Be patient

It’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Childhood trauma can have long-term consequences, such as unpredictable emotions, disturbing flashbacks, and strained relationships. If you’ve experienced trauma, you may also have certain triggers — including smells, sounds, and situations — which can unexpectedly remind you of the traumatic event. Everyone’s response to trauma is different so show yourself patience and compassion as you navigate your unique healing journey. 

4. Seek professional support

Without proper support, trauma can remain in a person’s body and continue to affect their mental and physical health. Trauma-related symptoms include difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and eating. Trauma has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and PTSD, as well as increased substance use, emergency room admissions, and general feelings of unhappiness. 

There are several forms of therapy that are used for trauma healing, including: 

Another effective tool for coping with your trauma is to learn more about it. Consider joining a childhood trauma support group to share your unique experience and gain advice from fellow survivors. If you’re living with intergenerational trauma, make it a point to educate yourself on how multi-generational events have impacted you and your family. More specifically, it can be helpful to understand how these events may have contributed to behaviors and communication patterns that occur in your family.

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What causes early childhood trauma?

Data show that more than two-thirds of American children experience a potentially traumatic event by the time they turn 16. 

One type of trauma that can occur during childhood and unknowingly impact people is intergenerational trauma. Also referred to as transgenerational trauma or generational trauma, it describes years of persistent traumatic challenges within families across generations. Intergenerational trauma, especially when left untreated, can impact how generations of families think, feel, and act.

Intergenerational trauma can refer to behavior patterns within a specific family, such as a history of abuse or addiction, as well as patterns of collective trauma that affect the larger community. Examples of collective, generational trauma include:

  • Pandemics
  • Natural disasters
  • Intergenerational poverty, including lack of opportunities 
  • Historical oppression or violence against a particular group 
  • War
  • Cultural dislocation 
  • Racism, sexism, homophobia
A teen girl in a hoodie thinks about the subconscious trauma from childhood she's dealing with

Additional sources of traumatic stress

Other common causes of trauma in children, teens, and young adults include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse 
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Traumatic events such as a car accident, fire, or natural disaster
  • Being kidnapped
  • Experiencing the sudden death of a loved one
  • Receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition
  • Lack of parental involvement (via addiction, divorce, abandonment, or death

Signs of repressed childhood trauma

Identifying the signs and symptoms of subconscious trauma from childhood can be difficult — especially when you’re not sure what to look for or if there’s even something to find. Latent trauma may present similarly to other mental health conditions, so it’s always best to share your symptoms with a mental health provider to best understand your situation.

That said, below are several signs that you may be struggling with repressed childhood trauma:

  • Discomfort in certain situations
  • Attachment issues 
  • Difficulty coping with stressful situations
  • Often feeling overwhelmed or on edge
  • Memory issues
  • Nightmares 

Treating trauma at Charlie Health

If you’re currently struggling to cope with a traumatic experience or think you’d benefit from mental health support, consider seeking help. Charlie Health’s compassionate mental health professionals are here to listen to your story, understand your needs, and match you with an appropriate treatment plan. 

Our personalized Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers mental health treatment for teens, young adults, and families who are dealing with a variety of mental health struggles, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and more.

Learn more today.

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