If you do these 6 things you might be bottling up emotions from an unhappy childhood

Have you ever wondered if some of your current habits or reactions are more than just quirks?

Could they be signs that you’re still dealing with unresolved feelings from your younger days? 

It’s easy to think we’ve left our childhood far behind. But the truth is that sometimes, the echoes of our early years are more present in our lives than we realize. 

With this in mind, we dive into six things that you might be doing because of your upbringing. 

This post is not about pointing fingers or dwelling on the past, though. 

It’s about recognizing these signs so we can understand ourselves better and start leaving behind the feelings that are causing them. 

Let’s get to it. 

1) Struggling with expressing your emotions

Do words often fail you? 

You’re definitely not the only one. And it could be a result of your younger years. 

Many of us unknowingly lug around our childhood communication baggage well into our adult lives.

Psych Central emphasizes this, too. The way we articulate our thoughts, our listening habits, and our reaction styles are often replicas of the communication patterns we were exposed to in our early years.

For example, if your upbringing was in an environment where sharing feelings was discouraged or where conversations frequently turned into disputes, it’s likely that these dynamics are replaying in your adult life.

You might shy away from confrontations, haunted by the fear that they’ll spiral into the intense arguments you witnessed as a child. 

Or, you may struggle with voicing your needs and emotions simply because such expressions weren’t nurtured during your formative years.

These instances are just a few examples of how our early life experiences subtly influence our present-day communication. 

Rack your brain, and you might just find some similarities you weren’t aware of. 

2) Feeling depressed

Addressing a subject like depression is never easy, yet it’s essential for understanding ourselves better.

The link between depressive symptoms in adulthood and a challenging childhood is often strong. Particularly, emotional neglect during our formative years has been repeatedly associated with depression in later life.

So, if you find yourself frequently battling low moods, it’s worth pondering whether these feelings might be coming from your past experiences.

This symptom of an unhappy childhood is often not an isolated phenomenon, though. It often appears hand-in-hand with other signs, like the one we’re about to explore next.

3) Unconsciously sabotaging your own happiness

We all chase the dream – the perfect job, a healthier lifestyle, maybe that dream vacation. What’s driving us? 

The quest for joy, contentment, happiness, or however you want to put it.

But here’s a twist: could you be subconsciously running away from happiness?

It’s a strange concept, but it’s a genuine phenomenon, particularly for those with a turbulent childhood. This subconscious resistance to happiness, often called cherophobia, has roots in those darker early years.

Research has revealed that individuals with unhappy childhoods often unconsciously avoid happiness in adulthood.

But here’s what’s truly eye-opening: this tendency persists, even if we have fulfilling adult relationships. As noted by study author Mohsen Joshanloo:

“…experiences as a child may have a long-lasting impact on the person’s perception of happiness, independently of the individual’s satisfaction with current relationships in adulthood.”

Struggle in relationship If you do these 6 things you might be bottling up emotions from an unhappy childhood

4) Exhibiting traits of anxious attachment

Do thoughts of your partner leaving or not being as committed as you are frequently occupy your mind?

Are you constantly seeking reassurance and validation from them, or do you feel anxious when they’re out of reach?

If so, you might be demonstrating signs of a fearful attachment style in your relationships.

This means you might frequently face a deep-seated fear of abandonment, require ongoing reassurance, and perhaps rely heavily on your partner for emotional support.

But where does this attachment style originate from?

As noted by Business Insider, a fearful attachment style can often be traced back to childhood, particularly if one experienced inconsistencies or had emotionally unavailable parents.

This attachment pattern forms when a child’s emotional needs are not met reliably, causing them to be overly cautious and insecure about their relationships in later life.

This next one is a big one. 

5) Using substances as an escape

It’s a sensitive question, yet an important one: do you often turn to alcohol or drugs more than you believe is healthy? 

Be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes, this tendency could be deeply rooted in your past, particularly your childhood.

This connection isn’t really surprising. It’s widely accepted that many people use substances as a temporary refuge or a means to dull emotional pain. 

And it’s well-accepted that these emotional struggles often stem from childhood experiences. Healthline, for instance, points out that turning to substance abuse is frequently a sign of emotional neglect during childhood.

A 2022 study provides further insights indicating that these individuals often deny the negative effects of past adversities, especially those inflicted by parents. So dig deep, many suppress these feelings. 

We’ll not sugarcoat this one. If you’re grappling with substance use and suspect it’s connected to deeper, unresolved issues, considering professional help could be a vital step.

Engaging with a therapist or counselor can be a transformative part of your healing and recovery journey, helping you to address these deep-seated challenges.

6) You don’t allow yourself to trust others

This is the final one on this list, but perhaps, one of the most important. 

A struggle with trusting others may well be another lingering effect of your childhood experiences. Among others, Healthline highlights that a notable consequence of childhood neglect is the development of a profound “difficulty in trusting others or relying on anyone else.”

This distrust is likely a defense mechanism. When the very people who should have provided care and support during your early years fail you, erecting emotional barriers becomes a natural response. 

It’s a self-protective measure to prevent future hurt.

However, these protective walls can inadvertently shut out potential friendships, romantic relationships, and meaningful connections. That is, while they may offer a sense of security initially, they also limit the depth and authenticity of relationships you could enjoy.

Tearing down these walls and learning to trust again is challenging, but it’s a crucial part of the journey towards healing and forming deeper, more rewarding relationships.

The bottom line

Childhood experiences, more often than we realize, deeply shape our adult behaviors. 

Acknowledging that some things that we do in adulthood are a reflection of these experiences isn’t always easy, but it’s the first step toward healing and personal growth. 

Embracing this understanding is key to breaking free from the past’s hold and building a healthier, happier future.

As always, I hope you found this post has given you some food for thought. 

Until next time. 

Picture of Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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