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  • Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS,

12 Questions to Help Recognize Childhood Trauma

Are there big periods of time you can't remember?

12 Questions to Help Recognize Childhood Trauma

  • Many survivors of family trauma and violence find that they struggle to acknowledge their history.

  • Acknowledging that history is the first step in moving forward and healing, if you choose to do so.

  • While not exhaustive, these questions can help provide some guidance and support through acknowledgment.



It can be difficult to admit to a history of childhood trauma, especially when it comes from your family of origin. In fact, it can be so difficult that many people find it easier to stay in denial. They adopt a common mentality of “So what? Everyone has trauma” which keeps them stuck somewhere between acknowledgment and denial.


In my professional as well as personal experience, I find that most people know whether or not they have a traumatic history, but admitting it brings guilt, remorse, grief, and a range of negative feelings along with it. Many people start to experience negative symptoms or emotions and feel the need to work through their traumas and heal. Others only feel the need to go back and work through their childhood trauma when their own children provoke insecurities or hidden trigger wounds.

Houston Childhood Trauma Appointment

These are some of the statements I sometimes ask clients to consider during their intake to assess for a traumatic history. The list is not exhaustive, nor exclusive for assessing childhood family trauma, but the way clients respond can let me know if these are areas we might want to explore.


If you are wondering if your past is possibly impacting your present life, reading through and completing the following statements with your responses can help. They may not be able to tell you about your history, or what to expect from the healing process, but they can give you an idea of whether or not you are in the right place to begin yours. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many different ways that childhood trauma can take place in one's family of origin. Rather, these questions can be used as a guide to shape your journey of awareness and healing.


Ask yourself:


  1. When I think of my childhood, I feel sadness or loss: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  2. I have difficulty getting along with one or more of my adult caregivers: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  3. I worry that people will leave or abandon me: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  4. I struggle with relationships (platonic or romantic) or feel like I can’t seem to have a healthy relationship: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  5. I worry that I am not worthy of love: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  6. When I think about my childhood, there are big periods of time that I do not remember: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  7. It is difficult for me to spend time with my parents or family for more than a short period. I need limited or controlled environments: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  8. I feel “different” or disconnected from others, or that others do not understand me: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  9. I have a history of unhealthy relationships with food, alcohol, or other substances: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  10. I find it difficult to trust or rely on others because I feel like people will end up hurting me in the end: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  11. I have been told that I “overreact” or respond with a much higher reaction than situations warrant: Never Sometimes Often Frequently

  12. I have been physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally mistreated by someone who was supposed to care for me: Never Sometimes Often Frequently.


Often, clients come to see me for other reasons, not yet recognizing their traumatic childhood experiences and how these experiences may have led to where they are presently. While some responses that might indicate that potential childhood trauma could be caused by or related to other conditions, like people who are neurodivergent or present with intellectual disabilities, if clients relate to more than a few of them, I know to further explore that direction.


Use these questions to guide your own self-exploration. If any statement made you feel uneasy or triggered something in you, this is a clue that it is a sensitive area. It is important to understand that trauma will manifest itself differently in each us, as trauma is not always about the events that took place, but also about the support and resources you had (if any) to help you get through the events that took place. Therefore, it is possible for someone who scores higher on the above test, yet who had good support, to feel that their life is less impacted by their history than, for example, someone who scored lower but perhaps did not have any support to make it through what happened. There is no requirement for how one should feel; it's okay if you do not feel affected by your history. Moreover, if you feel greatly affected by your history, but "only" answered affirmatively to a small number of questions, this is also okay. Manifestations of trauma, like the experiences that led to them, is personal. No two experiences are exactly the same.


Houston Childhood Trauma In Person and Online Appointment

When we start the process of healing, we naturally want to fast-forward through the difficult parts and get to the healing. As difficult as it can be, try to heal safely—even if that means healing slowly.


No matter where you are in your journey—only just uncovering or continuing the process of recovery—my hope is that you get support to help along the way. If you feel that you were affected by your history and want support in working through your experiences, please reach out to a therapist who can help. It is common for the act of revisiting childhood memories to be painful or difficult, and there is no shame in seeking therapy or additional support if it brings up difficult feelings.



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