Trauma itself did affect you at the time of abuse, on a neurological level. Trauma, especially childhood trauma, reworks brain development. Trauma changes the size and development of sections our brains. Knocks our neurotransmitters, endocrine systems and the sympathetic nervous system out of whack (other changes as well). Symptomatology can vary between people and throughout one person’s life. So it’s not like it never mattered till the symptoms became disruptive, but the abuse affected the brain at the time it just wasn’t affecting you the same way it does now.
Feeling like the trauma is normal is quite common with children. Kids often do not know abuse is wrong, not normal, traumatic. Children who have never known a healthy life process trauma really different from an adult whose brain can immediately red flag events. Normalized, rationalized and muddled through trauma is experienced inherently different than an event processed as trauma right off the bat. Longer term trauma also can make it handled differently.
Many ways children work to deal with trauma might not look like what we think of as traditional PTSD. For example being an anxious child, a rowdy kid, poor impulse control, fatigue, age-inappropriate, oppositional difference or being highly compliant, and trouble with proper bonding with others. All of these and other symptoms can be brushed off as multiple different problems or even “just being a kid”. Trauma is almost never the first thing people look for as a cause.
Another factor is dissociation. Dissociative episodes during trauma is a super common it affects how you process the narrative events of traumatic experiences and the emotional ramifications. Dissociative barriers within the brain can also result in repressed memories, the memories are there in your brain you don’t have access to them. This lack of active access to memories means they are not actively affecting you the way recovered memories might down the line.
Traumatic memories are also processed within the brain in general. It is more likely to be disjointed and visceral than other memories. This makes it hard for children and adults to understand what has happened. If kids don’t really understand what is happening while being abused and when trying to recall if it’s pain, and emotions but not a perfect narrative explaining it can be hard and so it’s never validated as abuse to the kid and they might stop trying to work it out even to themselves.
At an older age as repressed memories come back can cause stronger symptoms and new symptoms as trauma has to be dealt with. This disruption can seem to come out of nowhere or be brought back by new trauma. Realising what happened was sexual abuse can also worsen symptoms as you now have to deal with this.
One thought on “Symptom Explainer: Why Symptoms sometimes worsen overtime”
So many truths and parallels in my life…thank you.
LikeLiked by 1 person