Domestic Abuse, Childhood Trauma and The Long Term Repercussions

Keywords: Domestic Abuse.

The variety of adversities in life that we can go through is staggering. What appears to have the deepest impact on us seems almost invariably to be trauma experienced in childhood and through child domestic abuse.

The impact of child domestic abuse can vary greatly depending on the intensity, duration, and support or lack of support when we go through neglect, abuse, misattunement and relational/attachment trauma.

How Trauma Involves the Nervous System

What makes child domestic abuse so pervasive is that it affects the developing nervous system and sense of self at such a primary level. Children are vulnerable because they are dependent for their survival on the emotional and physical support of adults.

When that sense of trust and vulnerability has been dishonored, it can create very deep and consistent patterns. These patterns can be withdrawal, distrust, hyperactivity, shut down and depression. To name a few.

What appears to have the deepest impact on us seems almost invariably to be trauma experienced in childhood and through child domestic abuse.

When this happens, it is as if the foundations haven't been laid correctly; then, the rest of life's experiences are stacked on top of the flawed foundation, the results of which become crystal clear from the natural, very revealing perspective of the nervous system.

The developing brain successively grows through different developmental stages. From the more primal-survival impulses (i.e. limbic system and brainstem) that, among other things, regulate fight, flight, freeze, breathing and swallowing; to the greater complexity of the thalamus or mid-brain which manages emotions and relationships to self and others; and finally, as the icing and cherry on the cake, the neo- and pre-frontal cortex where language, anticipation, communication, and imagination are organized, harmonized and become focused.

This is a rough roadmap, of course, but you get the gist. When no security has been established from an early age, too much of our energy becomes invested in our very early, more primal brain structures—fight, flight and freeze for example—and we become deficient in other areas like communication, relating to self and others, and possibly even motor coordination.

Neuroplasticity and Recovering from Childhood Trauma and Domestic Abuse

Not all is lost, however. Our brains and nervous system, thank goodness, have a fair bit of neuroplasticity.  In other words, we can have experiences that are corrective. Experiences that can rewire our nervous system, which in turn can change how we relate to ourselves and others.

A lot of this work will consist of re-establishing healthy boundaries by working with anger and changing the pattern of our experiences and perspectives to do with trust and vulnerability. Your best advice would be to work with an experienced therapist who can guide you through all of this with the appropriate, necessary sensibilities.

Did this article on childhood trauma and domestic abuse resonate with you? Leave your thoughts and comments here below.

  • Daphne says:

    I would like to add that Nero plasticity is definitely the way of the future for the treatment of the population of war veterans police and everyone else who suffers from PTSD.

    • Vanessa says:

      I have recently started strong anti depressants and anti adult nightmare disorder pill. And some others I don’t vendors know. .. my passed is so long and wide and vast and sad and hectic. Yesterday was the 1st time in 36 years I thought of drinking all the pills at once. .. and I am blessed and I have a good life feeling and 2 perfect kids. And a husband who is amazing .. but I am broken

      • sheri says:

        Vanessa, I am heartbroken reading your honest words. Life is a struggle. Hard for some always. Shitty at best for others. You are doing well in apreciating what you have, with your kids and husband. Have you tried writting about your trauma? Trying to understand therefore releasing its hold over you. Please know someone in Canada is rooting for you. 💙

      • Connie says:

        You don’t give up you were meant to be here you have alot to live for ❤

      • monica says:

        Vanessa…I have the same…loving husband.2 x amazingly stunning daughters..I am so blessed…sometimes I realize that this All is the blessings I have for my struggles as a young girl growing up with an alcoholic mother…she has passed…bless her she tried to give the support and love that she did not give me to my 2 daughters….I know im blessed and lucky to have survived…being a decent strong woman in society…I feel I could have evolved into a very bad and lost person which I did not….but Inside of myself…when Im alone….Im nothing more that that vulnerable little girl lookibg and searching for something that is lost out of my childhood, my life, my world…I can feel her screaming sometimes…I want to save her but then I remember I have a life and daughters and a husband and need to be strong….but the Broken little girl will always stay….:(

        • Annie says:

          Please, the next time your inner child screams at you, stop, embrace her like your own daughters. Tell how loved she is, how worthy and beautiful she is. How the things that happened were not her fault. Wipe her tears and tell it’s ok we’ve got this. Every time you squash all those feelings away they will come back, and stronger until you can no longer live with the emotional pain. And you are forced to put yourself first and heal the pain of your past.💕

          • Helena says:

            Lovely words , I often feel like a frightened little girl because of my horrific childhood , I am so proud I had the strength to raise 3 beautiful children and they keep me going I feel all your pain 😞😞😞😞❤️

      • Barbara says:

        You aren’t alone… I’ve had those thoughts a few times myself but then I’m reminded how beautiful and unique broken can be… You can overcome your past… You’ve already come this far… Live and enjoy the love and support that surrounds you and create a better life for your kids! If you could only see yourself through the eyes of your loved ones you will know how cherished you are… Stay strong Vanessa!

      • Kimberly says:

        I get it. Some days I wish I could wash down a bunch of pills with some vodka. BUT I have 2 beautiful daughters who are my life, the 2 reasons I’m still here. I wish there was a pill that could fix us. Reading these comments feels good. I love you all. We can make it. Look how far we’ve come. ❤️

    • doni says:

      Neuroplasticity … Nero plasticity would be named for one of the most psychotic of the ‘Caesars’ lol….Although you are not far off from that!

  • Julie says:

    Love this clear and simple explanation Roland.

  • Julie says:

    Best explanation I have seen on childhood trauma and how it effects the developing nervous system. Very well written.

  • Breakthechain17 says:

    What a great article! Thabks for putting words on such a huge and deep reality. I call my brain “wired by the trauma”. I am fighting everyday – and it’s becoming easier- to reprogram it.
    Thanks also for telling outloud that we can make it, we can modify those paterns. I am biking 4400km through Canada to proove it and to inspire adult survivors of child sex abuse (we can suffer from PTSD too) to get better.
    Thank you, i needed to read this kind of words after a stressfull day : bad news on the adventure BUT i didnt freakout completely (while i would have burst ibto tears and self destruction coupls of years ago…).i am putting brand new wires in my brain and that feels GOOD!!!

  • Juhlene says:

    Thank you for insight and hope. Will you please tell us who the artist is of the above image where the mishmash leaves the girl’s chest?

    Thank you ~ J

  • Jules says:

    Is there a particular type of therapy or specialist approach we should be seeking in order to specifically address neuro ‘re-wiring’? Or just standard counselling or CBT or…?

    • Roland says:

      Hi Jules. It really depends on the person you work with and I would say if he/she can think/work outside of the box. On a personal note I believe in a synergy of a cognitive and somatic approach in dealing with trauma. Best.

      • Dennis says:

        I’m a little confused about what you mean by your statement Roland. A “synergy of cognitive and somatic”. By “cognitive”, are you referring to the mind and senses? And by “somatic”, are you saying that the healing of past injuries are stored in the body as well? In which case, perhaps massage work would help, in addition to whatever positive effects can be garnered with the help of neuroplasticity (for the mind and senses).

        • Roland says:

          You need the cognitive part (our thought capacity) to create a healthy frame work to address trauma and not fall back into old patterns and one needs the somatic part to really work through the emotional residue that is stored within the body/nervous system. Massage can help for some, can also be triggering for others. In itself it is not enough to resolve deep seated trauma but it is a good addition to one’s effort to heal.

      • Dave says:

        I put myself into a psych ward a few years back to start actually dealing with my shit. I have been in therapy for at least 5 years. Talk therapy is useless. I can say what my issues are over and over, but, repeating it doesn’t make it go away. Also, I live in rural Ohio, so, every counselor I talk to, I have to FIGHT with because they want to insist on putting my in “christian” activities with other men. I hate christians, and I hate men. No thanks.

  • Hendry says:

    Thank you for such an interesting article, it is plain and simple to understand and many many people out there can relate to the damaging affects of childhood drama. I was brutally abused by an alcoholic aggresive abusive real dad and stepdad and today i have many shortcomings and suffer from depression and withdrawal from Society and family and friends and I know it all stems from the very violent primary years of my life. Let us learn from experience and protect our beautiful and vulnerable children.

  • Willow says:

    A very well written and comprehensible article. It is a long hard road, and if I am still here then there is hope for everyone suffering the effects of all kinds of trauma. It is important and helpful to have a basic understanding of the physical dynamics, and this encapsulates it.

  • Vanessa says:

    I’m a 29 year old warrior of childhood sexual abuse. My life has been a rollercoaster with alot of sudden drops. I didn’t understand myself until recently, I didn’t know why I reacted to things the way I did, I didn’t know why I kept hurting myself and others I care about. Then, after a bad bout of PTSD (a new trauma which in effect brought up everything from my past) my doctor and counselor got me into a self-esteem group therapy class held at our local hospital. In just 8 weeks it changed me, it helped me understand myself and my past and how it correlates to my life now, raising a daughter on my own, terrified that the same things would happen to her. I’m happy to say I’m changing the way my brain was wired in childhood and in effect improving my daughter’s life. She deserves to have a strong, fearless, warrior of a mother, and that’s what I’m becoming! Thank you for this article!

  • Sam says:

    I had been suffering for years of something I couldn’t identify. Toxic relationships in all forms since childhood and health issues which were never addressed. The constant ignorance and denial of those around me and myself had caused my ultimate nervous breakdown and 3 suicide attempts. I am currently receiving treatment to keep my Bipolarity.manic depression and epilepsy in check. I need to do this research. Maybe understanding how a life long journey of different trauma, injuries and abuse has a physiological affect on the brain will help me in implementing new healing techniques and a certain sense that it’s ok to be the way I am

  • Jackie J says:

    I was adopted at birth and agree wholeheartedly with this description of the effects of early trauma. Babies are born knowing their mothers; so when we’re taken from her at or shortly after birth, it causes a deep wound. Before anyone feels the need to shout me down with “aren’t you just grateful you weren’t aborted?”, “I guess they should have let you rot in an orphanage!”, “What should we do with all the ‘unwanted’ babies?”, “What about those precious infertile couples? Shouldn’t they be able to buy a womb-wet infant?”, or some other willfully ignorant comment designed to silence any adult adopter who dares to speak of loss, know this. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary for a child to be raised apart from his natural family. I would never advocate for children to remain in an abusive situation, but even then there is loss that needs to be acknowledged. Sorry to go off topic, but I wanted to preempt any attempts to claim breaking the mother/child bond is inconsequential.

  • Michelle says:

    Hi, my abuse started the min I was born my parents tried to kill me more then once. I was also sold into prostitution. I don’t trust anyone and never have. I have been abused for 22 years. I am 50 and in therapy and have started to remember all of my torture, sexually abuse, rape and trauma

  • Doni says:

    My parents wouldn’t bother selling me…they were so self-involved, if they heard or saw me I got the crap beat out of me. My dad had enough and found a good wife, left us with the nazi hateful mother…I’m 54. A few weeks ago she gave me money (I’m disabled-applied for disability in 2013-and have spent every dime of my $100,000 savings/investments because [according to my doctor] Disability tries to ‘wait’ sick people out….If they aren’t dead in 3-4 years, sometimes they will approve it, other times they give you $500/month …. that doesn’t even cover medical insurance….that I do not have), I was so shocked mom gave me money out of the ‘blue’, I thanked her saying, ‘this is the only time you’ve ever given me money without putting me down (did I mention I’m blind in my left eye because of her, and can barely walk)….Her response, “Oh you are fine, you can always go live with your step mom.”

    So you see, i have nothing to live for…When I had money i lived to help my friends, and people I didn’t know that well, but that i saw needed money. I’m not evil, so why is this happening and how can i leave this family i can’t bear to know are walking around sanctimonious when they’ve killed my soul?

  • Ben says:

    I am survivor of a child abuse & had finally accepted that even after 35 years, it will be never the same. When I read the above article, I can relate more of physical abuse, what about sexual & verbal abuses ? I had gone thru all above when I was a kid & it’s not easy even for a matured guy like me. Thanks for this great article, you had explained it in simple words which I had struggled all my life to express

  • Gina says:

    This article did resonate with me— greatly. I’ve known that those of us with these types of childhoods don’t develop in the same ways that normally nurtured children do. I have been in therapy (as I have stated before) for 25 years seeking answers for the hell that I went through. It’s just now, with my current psychologist that I am gaining and achieving healing. I am doing EMDR therapy — and re-mapping my traumatic memory brain strands. It is not fun to go back through these events — yet I know that this is a necessity. It has brought me to a place where I finally believe that healing is possible and I no longer am predominately “fixed” on what happened to me. I know that I will one day finish – and I can now envision it. I realize that I will always have issues, of course, however, one day they won’t dictate every aspect of my life. : )

  • Jacqueline says:

    Very healing and supporting to read this. Thank you.

  • Doug says:

    I too was adopted. My parents could not have children. Four months after they adopted me my mother was pregnant. Two natural children. I was neglected and shamed. I was physically beat by my father and psychology abused by my mother. It took me years to get over the brainwashing. Or so I thought. A couple of years ago at about 60 years old I was in a accident at work and got burned very badly. 60%. The PTSD and somatic pain reactions have started to show the foundation my core beliefs were built on. I am still trying to find a way out. It makes me feel very small. I will find a way though.

  • Joanne says:

    Am nearly 51 years old.
    Your post regarding childhood development evokes exactly my experience of life.
    Until recently, when I have come to acknowledge I feel about two years old.
    All my life I have functioned truly embodying adrenal emptyness. Contact with others was beyond reason .. so scary. I used alcohol in order to ‘bring myself up to’ what I witnessed as the way other people managed to be human.
    Alcohol and the years and years of talking therapy, psychiatric support, social services, etc did nothing because whilst I accept all had good intentions, nothing, and I mean Nothing helped because contact did not exist for me as a safe natural function.
    Slowly, slowly am beginning to give space to adrenaline and panic and fear and bodily blood going all pumping pushing against the walls of my skin .. so that touch, sound, sight, my sense are in an impossible to process state.
    Slowly, am wanting to understand why I live like this .. and that surely there has to be more to living than just being chaos in nerves, frazzled in fear .. fear of teachers, postmen, supermarket assistants .. slowly, I have fallen into myself .. .. I feel so very overwhelmed, but real .. but upset that I didnt see it sooner .. that I didnt know there was no point in destroying myself for no reason .. because my children were little .. and ..
    Sorry for long post.
    I am finding even this knowledge .. and your kind truths hard to process Roland, because if I wasn’t who I was .. then how can I forgive myself for all those times upon times when I was so frightened, so so loathed every cell in my body day in day out .. for years ..? so unfathomably a being of disgust and vile, I believed I was disgusting totally without question, and couldn’t understand why if I weren’t rotten filthy to the core, a disgusting worthless human being and non existent enough, I couldnt even parent my two beautiful lovely children ? if that wasn’t me but it is how I lived, then where do I put my responsibility please ?
    I love your writings Roland, I feel them .. am trying to wonder whether to try your audio help and support as I have tried listening to you on the sample and find your voice very soothing and .. so gently slow and safe.
    Thank You.
    So grateful for your voice, to everyone here .. my heart goes out to you all.

  • Julie says:

    Sadly, I have never started knowing my true self and the true battles of my life until in my early 40s when I remembered the incest. It took a lot to allow the memories to surface. I’ve worked daily on recovery for decades but still, find Christmas (December really) to be the worse time of the year for me. I have extensive chronic illnesses after a whiplash. That was back in 1996. I’m learning more through your blogs and am so grateful.

  • Summer says:

    Annie, excellent advice. We all must learn to nurture the broken child within. Sending out tons and tons of love, light, hope, positivity, and encouragement to all who are hurting. We’ve made it through what is most likely the most torturous time in our lives; that makes us pretty daggone special people who understand the melancholy more than most. We are resilient. We are blessed. We will survive. We will not give up, but push forward for our families, friends, and most importantly, ourselves. Brightest blessings to you all. Much love.

  • paula says:

    unfortunately, how much a child is loved, if they are not sexually identified by a parent as what their gender at birth is obvious, any kind of ‘normal’ upbringing in which the child at puberty can decide for themselves, has already been preprogrammed as a different gender.

  • Stan says:

    Every bit of it.At 62yo,a 19yr sober alky with a clear view of myself I know I’m broken,broken badly.5yrs ago,after working hard to trust,un-isolate and forgive events occured to destroy all of that.And now I find myself alone,really alone not self pity alone and without a life or a living.Throw in bad health and I struggle to not give up.

  • Dave says:

    I’m a 42 year old father of 3. I am also a bi-polar recovering alcoholic with severe PTSD related to childhood trauma. My childhood was full of everything you can think of that most people wouldn’t want for their children. I was beaten, molested, neglected, went hungry, stopped going to school so I could care for my younger siblings. I was raped by a man when I was 14. After all of this, even with the 5 psych meds I take, every single day is a struggle. Even keeps asking me what I need to be happy. Problem is, happy is a relative term. I don’t know what that means. Does it mean I don’t want to die? Because, I’ve been suicidal since I was 6

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