How to Deal With Trauma in Adulthood

How to Deal With Trauma in Adulthood

Would you like to learn about how trauma in adulthood affects us? If so, keep reading! 

Trauma affects people in different ways.

People react to it differently. 

They may also have various resulting problems. 

If you are an adult, chances are you have had at least one traumatic event. 

Perhaps it was a single event or one that happened over time. 

That is chronic trauma.

Trauma in adulthood can involve either sexual violence or actual or possible death or serious injury. 

Traumatic events also include, but are not limited to: domestic violence, natural disasters, physical abuse, unexpected death, and house fires.

We cannot discuss trauma in adulthood, though, without touching on trauma in childhood. 

In adulthood, one may not feel right and wonder why. 

Could it be because of an adverse childhood event? 

That would be the concept of repression. 

That is when the brain has pushed aside traumatic memories, which in turn lets someone move forward. 

It is important to process trauma to lead to a healthier lifestyle as your emotions matter. 

Examples of trauma specific to childhood would include school bullying; if a parent goes to prison, dies, or divorces the other; if a parent has a drinking problem; or if the child is abandoned or neglected.

Trauma & PTSD Therapists in Colorado

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

Deja Howard, MSW, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Kelsey Motley, LPCC

Kelsey Motley, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Katie Bennett, LPCC, NCC

Katie Bennett, LPCC, NCC

(719) 345-2424
Chelsea Bruntmyer, MA, LPCC, NCC

Chelsea Bruntmyer, MA, LPCC, NCC

(719) 696-3439
Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

Bonna Machlan, Ph.D., LPC, CAS

(719) 452-4374
Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Jackie Erwin, LPC

Jackie Erwin, LPC

(719) 345-2424
Alex Wiley, LPC

Alex Wiley, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374

Identity Formation

Across the lifespan, identity formation occurs. 

In a broad sense, this allows people to figure out who they are. 

It also includes basic awareness of one's emotional state, feeling secure as an individual, and good self-esteem. 

What interferes with identity formation is that a person who has experienced trauma is busy practicing basic survival. 

People who had a secure and safe upbringing have an easier time with identity development. 

With trauma involved, children can turn into adults with behavioral issues, eating disorders and substance abuse problems. 

That is especially true for those who have not worked through their trauma (we will discuss this process later in this article).

Another problem in adulthood can be relationship avoidance, or isolation. 

People who have experienced trauma in adulthood, or earlier, seek to keep away from harmful relationships. 

However, people need healthy relationships with others for change and growth. 

Due to trauma in adulthood, many adults may feel they need to be "better" to deserve relationships, but the truth is that they can offer more than they think! 

Humans are social beings, and that's why it is so important to regularly interact with others! 

People may also neglect their own self care, or ignore any opportunity to reflect on themselves.

Trauma Responses

Again, various people have different responses to trauma in adulthood. 

One outcome is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

A professional may diagnose this mental health condition when a client or patient experiences particular problems as a result of the event(s). 

Adults may be easily startled, engage in risky behavior (such as excessive drinking or sex), or can't sleep.

Adulthood trauma survivors may think negatively of themselves. 

Perhaps they feel guilty about the event(s) or feel shame as if they are a bad person. 

It may be hard to feel happy. 

Instead, adults may feel anxious and/or depressed. 

It is even normal to feel distant from other people or to lose interest in things once enjoyed.

Aside from thoughts and feelings, one can have nightmares, intense reactions when they are reminded of the event, and/or flashbacks. 

People between ages 18 and 64 are most negatively impacted health-wise by trauma that occurs during those years. 

Examples of this include chronic illness and/or pain. 

There is also dementia. 

While trauma doesn't cause dementia, it may worsen memory loss. 

Another mental illness adults may find themselves with is borderline personality disorder. 

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms include suicidal ideations, self-harm, a chronic empty feeling, reckless behavior, distrust of others, a distorted self-image, extreme emotions, and dissociation.

Complex PTSD

Like PTSD, C-PTSD is also diagnosed by a mental health professional. 

It has many symptoms in common with PTSD. 

If one has issues trusting others, a poor self-image, or trouble managing their feelings, then C-PTSD is a possibility.

Risk Factors

To lead to PTSD or C-PTSD, before a trauma, one may have a personal or family history of mental disorders. 

Perhaps they also had other traumas. 

During the trauma, one may believe their life is in danger. 

They may dissociate, lose consciousness or have one or more physical injuries. 

After a trauma in adulthood, one may find themselves with a PTSD or C-PTSD diagnosis if by chance they have more life stress, avoid coping, have negative social interactions or less social support.

Trauma Recovery

A person needs to get themselves support. 

One needs to have someone they can call, text, email, or whichever form of communication is best for them. 

Be sure that these are caring people, who may even just listen.

Aside from support, it is important for one who experienced trauma in adulthood to stay in touch with friends, relatives, or others they may have been close to prior to the trauma. 

Keep a schedule–sleep, do chores, eat, and ensure you are on time for work or school.

One must not blame themselves for the event(s). 

Consider how you coped, and point out to yourself how you dealt with the situation well.


It is important to go to a mental health professional or primary care provider if, within one month of the event(s), symptoms are still present. 

From there you may head to talk therapy or be prescribed medication. 

Telling healthcare providers about your trauma in adulthood will help them better help you in your recovery.

It is also a good idea to search app stores if one believes they have a specific diagnosis, for those related apps. 

There is also the web for fact sheets. 

Remember that whether the suspected diagnosis is either PTSD or C-PTSD, or even borderline personality disorder, it affects everyone differently.


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June 18th, 2024

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