Adults who suffer abuse as a child or are raised in dysfunctional or abusive families share many symptoms. By the time they reach adulthood, most adults have buried their symptoms because no one was willing to listen. Adults need help recognizing symptoms and healing them because symptoms often cause depression, anger outbursts, self-destructive behaviors, or codependent relationships. According to Robert Turner, recognizing symptoms of abuse is the first step to recovery.
All abuse, including emotional abuse, is a crime against a child’s humanity. The perpetrator of the abuse instills fear and shame in the victim through threats and actual violence or by withholding love and support. The emotional scars from this type of childhood torture often affect every aspect of a person’s life into adulthood.
When you were a child, did your parents:
- Constantly tell you that you were stupid and make fun of everything you did?
- Shame and humiliate you in front of the company or at the dinner table?
- Call you fat and ugly or make fun of your looks?
- Verbally abuse you by using cruel words that cut into your self-esteem?
- Physically abuse you in any way? This includes shaking, pushing, slapping, pinching, or biting.
- Isolate you from friends and family by yelling at them or threatening them?
- Was he always angry with you so that even little things made him yell?
- Did your father withhold love, support, or attention because you made him angry?
- Did he criticize all of your friends?
If any of these questions ring true in your life, then you may have been abused. The abuse lived only one generation away from where you are now because the abuser was a child at one time. It is important to understand that all of these behaviors are learned over a lifetime by the perpetrator. This means the abuse could have stopped with you, but it did not.
These symptoms can be overcome through treatment, support, and hard work by you for years, if not decades to come. Counseling, family therapy, and peer groups are the best forms of treatment to resolve deep-rooted issues. Many people seek individual therapy or attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon meetings because they need help with their life issues. If you did not grow up in an abusive household but live with someone abusing you, get out and find a support group for battered women and their children.
Dealing with Past Trauma
Adults who were traumatized in childhood often re-enact the trauma with other people. The old feelings, unresolved from when they were young, surface when triggered by a current event, such as a breakup or loss of a job. And when those feelings are stimulated, it can bring on a flashback that is similar to what your body experienced when you were young.
The abused adult carries the past abuse in his mind and body through intrusive thoughts, night terrors, “flashbacks” of painful memories, or physical sensations that feel like they are happening again. These feelings can be so intrusive that the person does not realize she is safe, except for these moments when she is triggered by something in her current life. It is very hard for the person to stop thinking about the painful past and get back to present reality when this happens.