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Does Childhood Trauma Impact Adult Health?

Childhood is something that some adults often look fondly back on, remembering “the good old days.” Others look back and only see a childhood marked by trauma. Children are known to be resilient, but what happens when those children eventually grow into adults? Does their childhood trauma affect their health as adults and, if so, is it too late to get help? Before we answer these questions, we first need to cover some basics, including what childhood trauma is, how it affects the body, and how one can heal from it. 

The Basics of Childhood Trauma

Unfortunately, childhood trauma is more common than we’d like to think. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports, “More than two thirds of children reported at least 1 traumatic event by age 16.” As if that wasn’t enough, there is abundant research that confirms the effects of childhood trauma, also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), continue to linger well into adulthood

The journal Clinical Medicine and Research explains that ACEs, “including emotional abuse, substance abuse in the household, separation or divorce, physical abuse, violence between adults, mental illness in the household, sexual abuse, or incarceration of a household member, have the potential to profoundly impact health and well-being in adulthood.”

Furthermore, SAMHSA also highlights the following:

The impact of child traumatic stress can last well beyond childhood. In fact, research has shown that child trauma survivors may experience:

  • Learning problems, including lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions
  • Increased use of health and mental health services
  • Increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
  • Long-term health problems (e.g., diabetes and heart disease)

Co-Occurring Disorders and Childhood Trauma

Because of the way trauma impacts the body, brain, and nervous system, “Trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders,” as stated by SAMHSA. This is especially true if the trauma goes unresolved or untreated. 

If the trauma is not healthily dealt with, it will cause mental and physical symptoms as well as contribute to the development of unhealthy behaviors. For instance, the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry explains, “High-risk behavior such as suicidality, self-harm and hazardous substance use including overdose and the use of psychotropic substances for self-medication of mental health challenges is a growing concern.” Similarly, “These symptoms are often related to early childhood trauma, substance use and complex concurrent disorders.” Moreover, when two conditions co-occur alongside one another, such as substance use disorder (SUD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they are referred to as co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders can pose complications for treatment, but lasting healing and recovery are never out of reach. 


A common result of unresolved trauma is the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As MedlinePlus states “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that some people develop after they experience or see a traumatic event.” 

PTSD can develop at any time after a traumatizing event has been experienced. For some people, they will notice symptoms within weeks, while others may not experience symptoms for months or even years. Therefore, if someone experiences trauma in childhood, they may experience PTSD symptoms later in life. 

It is important to note that not everyone who goes through a traumatic experience will develop PTSD. This is because trauma is subjective. If two people experience the same event, one person may view it as traumatic, while the other person may not. The person who considers the event traumatic may develop PTSD symptoms or develop other mental health conditions, while the other may not experience any symptoms. As explained by SAMHSA, “PTSD is often related to the seriousness of the trauma, whether the trauma was repeated or not, what the individual’s proximity to the trauma was, and what their relationship is with the victim or perpetrator of the trauma.”

Healing From Trauma With Sage Recovery

Though trauma is something that almost every person will eventually experience in their life, the good news is that healing is possible. Here at Sage Recovery, we know how hard it can be to heal from the hard things you’ve been through. Whether you’re healing from old wounds or fresh ones, we can help. 

Every person on our staff is extensively trained to provide trauma-informed care. That way, regardless of you who come in contact with at our facility, you can know that you will be met with empathy, dignity, and respect as you heal. In addition to providing trauma-informed care, we believe there are multiple pathways to healing. As a result, our licensed clinicians are experts in various therapeutic approaches. That way, we can help you build a customized treatment plan that will help you heal healthily.

Our masters-level clinicians are trained in a plethora of evidence-based techniques, such as:

We also offer innovative, holistic approaches, such as:

Desiring to heal from the hard things you’ve been through takes a lot of courage. Here at Sage Recovery, we understand how it may feel intimidating to begin the process. Luckily, we’re not going to let you go through it alone. We can get you the help you need and walk alongside you every step of the way. Whether you need outpatient care, an intensive outpatient program, a partial hospitalization program, or residential care, our empathetic and compassionate staff will help you create a custom treatment plan that works for you. Our goal is for you to heal as healthily as possible. Call us at (512) 306-1394 when you’re ready. We’re here for you.