People who are constantly anxious and worry over nothing usually have had these 4 childhood experiences

When it comes to anxiety symptoms, we can most often point out childhood experiences as the catalyst. 

Of course, trauma can happen at any point in our lives, but childhood trauma can impact us for years, and for some people, it’s even harder to pinpoint. 

When people experience childhood trauma, they can develop panic symptoms, anxiety, and other disorders in different ways. 

As a rule of thumb, overly anxious people usually experience these 4 things in childhood.

1) Unstable or unpredictable environments 

Unstable environments is one of the most influential factors when it comes to developing anxiety disorders, especially if the person grew up in one. 

Kids in these situations might not have known when or if their parents would be able to care for them, so they learned to anticipate the environment and provide for themselves or their siblings. 

This happens very frequently in households where one or both of the parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but it can also happen when one or both of the parents are abusive or neglectful. 

Sometimes, they can behave like loving, present parents, and sometimes they can be under the influence or in an especially bad mood. 

Children are very susceptible to these changes.

2) Financial issues or unstable income

Money worries, whether it’s savings, paying rent, or even buying groceries, can be a source of anxiety for children who grew up with unstable financial income. 

The parents might be stressed out, and the kids can tell when this happens and why. 

When food insecurity is added to this mix, it’s even easier to develop an anxiety disorder. 

Hours of hunger or uncertainty about when the next meal will be available can be sources of deep stress, not to mention the consequences for growth and development. 

Eating balanced meals is important for many reasons, but it’s crucial when it comes to kids and young adults. The nutrients and energy provided are essential to their health and their mood.

If food security didn’t exist as they grew up, they might be anxious about it for years, even if they make a stable income that allows them to eat whenever they want. 

Problems with eating too little or too much and worrying over food can become a constant.  

3) Health issues or chronic diseases

A health diagnosis can trigger anxiety in an adult, but in the case of a child, it’s even more difficult to deal with because they don’t have the emotional tools or capacity to deal with it without adults around to help them during the process. 

Over time, this can also become a source of anxiety over their loved ones’ health or their own. 

In cases like these, professional help is essential to overcome health anxiety and other psychological problems. 

4) Abusive parents

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Abusive parents can impact their children’s mental health forever. 

Imagine that, growing up, one of your parents was volatile or downright abusive. As a kid, you might become hypervigilant about your moods so you can anticipate what to do. 

As an adult, you can have problems with others because you come across as controlling, or you might be riddled with anxiety over someone else’s reaction to whatever you’re doing. 

According to research, children who grew up in conflictive environments have a higher stress reactivity in adulthood, and they can develop anxiety disorders later on in life. 

Impact of this instability can be profound and lifelong.

What other experiences can trigger anxiety disorders?

Anxiety can be passed on to other members of the family. 

Kids can pick up anxious behavior from their parents or other people around them, and they can imitate it. Other experiences that can trigger it are things like:

  • Moving places and having to change environments a lot. 
  • Parents who argue or fight between them all the time. 
  • The death of someone close to them, like a relative or a friend. 
  • Injury or accidents. 
  • School-related problems, like an exam, an abusive teacher, or bullying. 

How to identify your triggers

When you can pinpoint your triggers, you can start to cope with them in healthy ways, and over time, you can understand why they happen. Here are three ways to start this healing journey:

  • Write down the moment your anxiety levels start to go up. Journaling is a great way of processing your emotions. 
  • Work with a professional. 
  • Be honest with yourself and acknowledge when something triggers you, no matter how “small” or “inconsequential.” 

Does trauma cause neurological changes?

The short answer is yes, and this is backed up by several studies. Some types of childhood trauma can change the structure and the neurological pathways of the brain. 

For example, a study conducted in 2014 pointed out the differences in the brains of young adults who hadn’t suffered from psychological trauma versus those who did. Some of the most affected regions of the brain were:

  • Emotional regulation;
  • Self-awareness.

In 2017, another study directed to people who’d died by suicide concluded that childhood abuse can have impaired connections in the areas of the brain involved in cognitive function and emotional processes. 

Moreover, in 2019, research concluded that young adults who’d suffered childhood abuse or were neglected had a more active amygdala (the brain’s emotional center), which included a lot of activity when they perceived a threat. 

A year later, this activity explained the symptoms of anxiety and depression in the study’s subjects. 

In 2020, a literature review of 54 studies and the systematic analysis of another 25 studies concluded that kids who had experienced violence or abuse aged faster than those who didn’t at a biological level. 

Treating anxiety rooted in trauma: where to begin?

struggling with childhood trauma People who are constantly anxious and worry over nothing usually have had these 4 childhood experiences

Childhood trauma can have serious and life-changing effects, but you’re not hopeless. Mental illnesses can be treated successfully with the right professionals. 

So, if you think your anxiety stems from childhood experiences, it’s okay to seek help and address these traumatic events. 

Find a professional who specializes in treating trauma and consider how they approach the therapy to see if it helps your quality of life. Here are a few examples of therapies that can help:

1) CBT, or Cognitive behavioral therapy

Experts, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), often recommend CBT to treat certain kinds of trauma. 

People who specialize in this therapy understand that certain behaviors and patterns are learned, and these can be changed with the right work and through therapy sessions. 

You can identify and challenge all those unhelpful thoughts and process them into something that brings something positive into your life. 

2) Prolonged exposure (PE) therapy

This is something that we’ve all gone through: the more we avoid a task, the more daunting it seems. 

It can happen with small habits, like doing the dishes, but it can also happen after a traumatic event. 

That’s why this kind of therapy can help you face a traumatic memory or event gradually, at a rate that you’re prepared to deal with. 

3) Mindfulness-based therapies

Meditation and all its variants are as old as humanity. From mindfulness to body scans to traditional Buddhist techniques, these practices are useful for staying grounded in the present. 

There is some promising research to back up this popular knowledge: a review conducted in 2018 concluded that mindfulness-based therapy can reduce PTSD symptoms over time

More research on this is needed, but the information looks promising. 

What happens when you feel anxious for no reason?

Some people feel anxious, and they don’t know where it’s coming from, but it can be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. Here are a few more reasons why you might be feeling anxious:

  • You have a genetic predisposition to this disorder. 
  • You have a medical condition.
  • You’re processing something that happened in the past. 
  • There’s been a recent change that you haven’t acknowledged, and it’s stressing you out. 

In all these cases, talking to a therapist can help bring about the solution and manage the symptoms in healthy ways. 

To sum up

Feeling anxious from time to time is common; it’s a normal response to triggers in our environment and changes in general. 

However, not being able to rest or relax due to anxiety, worry, or fear might indicate a deeper issue that you need to deal with. 

The good news? 

Anxiety is a highly common, highly treatable problem, and you can change for the better. 

Mental health specialists often have a very deep knowledge of this condition, and they can help you navigate these overwhelming symptoms. 

Some therapists refer to trauma as Big Ts and Little Ts. Big T are those experiences that we can almost universally agree are traumatic, like a war or physical and sexual abuse. These experiences can trigger disorders like PTSD. 

Little Ts can also be the starting point for mental illnesses, but they’re harder to pinpoint in someone’s personal history. I am talking about experiences like bullying, insulting, humiliation, and even scapegoating. 

They’re equally traumatic but not as obvious. But once you know where your anxiety comes from, you can live your life in peace again!

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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