When something bad happens, it can sometimes take us a while to get over the pain and feel okay again. And the worse that it is, the harder it will be to do. That’s why it’s so important for us to let go of whatever emotional baggage we may still be carrying from our past and allow our psychological wounds to finally heal. But like a lot of things in life, healing from past trauma is often easier said than done.
Hence, a lot of people mistakenly believe that it’s better to just keep all those feelings shut tight and shoved deep down inside of ourselves, never to be looked at or thought of again. But no matter how good you think you are at denying your problems, unhealed trauma can still have a lot of devastating effects on our lives even in the present day. Don’t just take our word for it. Here are 8 psychology-backed signs that your unhealed trauma is affecting your relationships:
1. You feel drawn to people who are bad for you.
What we look for in our partners and our friends is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and what we think we deserve. But if someone has traumatised you enough in the past to have you questioning your value and self-worth, into thinking that you did something to deserve the horrible way they’ve treated you, then it’s likely to make you more drawn to the same kinds of people again, those who are bad for you (Amstadter & Vernon, 2008).
2. You’re always looking for the first sign of trouble.
Ever heard of the phrase, “constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop”? If you’re still struggling with unhealed trauma from the past, then it’s a feeling you’ll no doubt be familiar with. In all your relationships, be it romantic, familial, or platonic, you’re always going to be looking for the first sign of trouble. Why? Because toxic relationships don’t always start out that way, and if you’ve already fallen victim to it once, you’ll constantly be on the lookout for signs or risks of it happening again (Bower & Sivers, 1998).
3. You have a hard time trusting others.
Another sign you may still be struggling with unhealed trauma that’s affecting your present relationships is if you find it hard to trust even the people you’re closest to. You’re always reading into every little thing they say or do. You do everything yourself, if you can help it, because you don’t want to depend on anyone else. You keep your secrets to yourself and don’t show them the depth of your true feelings. Which brings us to our next point…
4. You struggle with emotional intimacy.
Similar to the earlier point, not only do you have trouble trusting people enough to let them in, you keep them at an emotional distance, too. And of course, you’re not to blame for this. You’ve probably been hurt, manipulated, and betrayed by someone you once cared about deeply in the past. But until you make your peace with that trauma, it’s always going to keep you from making meaningful emotional connections with those around you.
5. You struggle with physical intimacy.
It’s also common for people with unhealed trauma to struggle with physical intimacy just as much as emotional intimacy. Why? Because they go hand-in-hand. Hugging, kissing, hand holding, and other acts of physical affection are all invitations for someone to enter into your personal space and get closer to you. And for people who still haven’t healed from the pain of their past, this can all seem too scary or too difficult to do (Herman, 1998).
6. You socially withdraw at times.
One of the most telling signs that someone is still struggling with the trauma of their past is if they become socially withdrawn at times. They might not want to go out as much or spend as much time with their friends as they used to. They might also seem to be losing interest in their hobbies, especially if it requires social contact (like playing a team sport or being a part of a club). Sometimes they might even go days without a single text, chat, phone call, or social media update (Everstine & Everstine, 1993).
7. You sabotage your own relationships.
There’s an irony to being in a toxic relationship. Again, it doesn’t always start out that way, and most people stay for as long as they do because they’re either still waiting for things to get better or they’ve just gotten very good at convincing themselves that everything is fine. But the problem with that is, you might start to internalize that mindset and subconsciously sabotage your own relationships (Hansen, 2010). You expect every relationship from now on to fail and so, the moment you encounter a conflict or a difficulty, don’t even bother to fix things because you feel it would be useless.
8. You can’t let yourself be happy.
Finally but perhaps most importantly, all of the things we’ve talked about so far really all come down to this: people with past trauma that they are still yet to heal from struggle in their present relationships because they don’t know how to let themselves be happy. To be happy now seems like an uncomfortable and unfamiliar feeling to them. And to have genuine love, friendship, and healthy positive relationships seems almost too good to be true. On some level, maybe you don’t think you deserve it. But you do. Of course you do. Everyone deserves to be happy, and whatever the cause of your trauma or however long ago it might have been, know that help is always available.
So if you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here, if you still have unhealed trauma that’s hurting you and your relationships even now, in the present, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional today and get help.
And if you’re interested in learning more about this topic, here’s what you should read next: 6 Things Unhealed Trauma Makes Us Do, 7 Signs You’re Not Broken, It’s Your Unhealed Trauma, and 8 Signs of Unhealed Childhood Trauma.
- Amstadter, A. B., & Vernon, L. L. (2008). Emotional reactions during and after trauma: A comparison of trauma types. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 16(4), 391-408.
- Bower, G. H., & Sivers, H. (1998). Cognitive impact of traumatic events. Development and psychopathology, 10(4), 625-653.
- Everstine, D. S., & Everstine, L. (1993). The trauma response: Treatment for emotional injury. WW Norton & Co.
- Hansen, D. E. (2010). Intimacy, loneliness, and social withdrawal as a result of emotional trauma. Journal of Behavioral Psychology, 19(22), 114-120.
- Herman, J. L. (1998). Recovery from psychological trauma. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 52(S1), S98-S103.