The ripple effects of childhood trauma


Amanda Sellers, Contributing Writer

You hear those footsteps walking down the hallway. You can tell exactly whose they are. You know by the cadence that they walk; you know by the amount of pressure with which their foot goes down; you know by the rhythm of their steps. That door is open, but still, you stop whatever it is you’re doing and look in your peripheral as if you should be guilty for your actions. Should you have been doing something else instead? The dishes are done. The laundry is folded. Your room is clean and you’ve pulled out the frozen meat to thaw for dinner. What are you forgetting?

Unfortunately, I am not the only person who does this constantly, and even now that I’ve moved on from such traumatic experiences, I still do it in the comfort of my own home. I still try to make as little sound as possible, especially on the second floor. I still make sure that I don’t leave any remnants of evidence behind that could prove that I exist. I still hide wrappers in the trash can and keep food concealed from others. Not only is it deeply harrowing to have to minimize my existence every second of the day, but it is also a constant reminder that I lived through such a miserable time and will never be able to live any other way. My friends and roommates can’t understand it, and neither can I. 

A global study done in 2018 of more than 125,000 people from all backgrounds found that children who witnessed domestic violence had the same risk and incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as soldiers returning from war. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD affects about 4 percent of U.S. adults every year. 8 out of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with 4 out of every 100 men. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs states that about 15% to 43% of all girls and boys go through at least one trauma in their childhood.

The probability that the reader of this article will understand, in any capacity, what I mean is unusually high, and that is a depressing statistic. The possibility of reacting with fight or flight in any situation better hones your self-awareness, but is it good to be constantly on edge? Or are we needlessly wasting energy? 

Does enduring trauma make us more perceptually aware of the world? I think that those who experience trauma have no other choice in the matter. The reality for those who are still healing is that we may never fully be at ease. Most experience life and it’s complications differently, but a lot can be said about the way we all cope in the same exact ways. In hyper self-awareness of our surroundings, we are able to take back the control that was once lost to us before. The anxiety of those distressing events happening again festers in the back of our minds like flies, and no matter how mindful and healed you ever become, it is the lead anchor that holds you to your past.