Family Trauma Survivors: 15 Personality Traits They ALL Share

Is there a connection between personality traits and family trauma survivors?

In the grand scheme of life, some individuals emerge as resilient heroes, navigating the complexities of family trauma with grace and strength.

So Psychology Diary wishes to shine a light on the incredible journey of family trauma survivors, exploring the most common personality traits that bind them together in their shared triumph over hardship.

Being a family trauma survivor is a badge of courage earned through facing challenges head-on and emerging from the storm with an unyielding spirit.

With its intricate layers, trauma can shape people in profound ways, and understanding the shared qualities of those who have navigated these tumultuous waters is both empowering and enlightening.

By recognizing and embracing these 15 distinctive personality traits of family trauma survivors, we hope to foster a deeper understanding of resilience, unity, and the incredible strength that comes from overcoming familial challenges.

Family Trauma Survivor
Photo by fizkes at Shutterstock

The need to over-explain

In an environment where emotions lead to punishment or lead to shame, kids grow up with the notion that certain feelings are wrong or bad. This drives the older family trauma survivor to over-explain themselves out of fear of not being believed.

Constant feelings of guilt and shame

Childhood family trauma survivors often carry around a strong sense of guilt and shame. Children have a natural tendency to self-blame, and they usually assume what happened or didn’t happen to them is their fault. Sadly, this carries over into adulthood.

Being an underachiever

Researchers from the University of Florida link family trauma survivors to many poor life results.

They’ve stated that for students, the consequences of academic underachievement reach beyond the educational setting, usually leading to fewer opportunities in life, destructive behaviors, and difficulty earning a living.

The research team also found a connection between traumatic stress and socioeconomic status. Individuals from a disadvantaged background are 65% more likely to have experienced trauma as children than someone with a middle-class background.

Jumping from one relationship to another or staying in a relationship past its expiration date

Just like avoiding relationships can mean dodging emotional pain, family trauma survivors who jump from one relationship to the next or stay in a toxic relationship are repeatedly trying to fill the void of their childhood attachment wounds.

If they can prove they’re worthy of love and affection, this heals the inner voice that constantly tells them they’re not.

Feeling unsafe

After a traumatic event occurs, our beliefs about the world being a safe and secure place are understandably broken. So, people may feel that any situation is potentially dangerous. This is most likely to happen in situations or places that remind someone of a traumatic event.

Both anxious and non-anxious brains are learning continually. Unlike the anxious person, though, a non-anxious individual can more easily “unlearn” the lessons that they encounter in life.

For example, suppose two people who received a poor review are scheduled to follow up with their boss. Unless they’re told otherwise, the non-anxious person is likelier to assume the meeting as a non-threatening event.

The anxious person, however, may begin to panic about receiving a second negative review. Worse, their anxious brain might not be able to concentrate on anything other than the upcoming meeting. They remain in a constant state of anxiety unless told otherwise.

Chronic tension

Trauma originating outside the body, meaning physical abuse, causes a person’s brain to activate the fight-or-flight response. Stress hormones like cortisol flood the body, which readies to defend itself.

During this period, our body automatically tenses up. The trouble is that tension doesn’t always go away once the threat is removed.

In this case, the brain’s neural networks maintains a state of hypervigilance, acting as if the threat remains and preparing the body to be on alert at all times.

Perfectionism or overachiever

Children who grow up in environments that are emotionally neglectful have a tendency to flourish under pressure. But these family trauma survivors are also inclined to be perfectionists. And they usually demand it from others as well.

Family Trauma Survivor
Photo by Lopolo at Shutterstock

Fears of social situations

When we grow up in circumstances where interacting with others is scary, it’s customary to grow up with a fear of repeating these exchanges. Studies show that childhood trauma contributes to Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD.

Parental abuse and emotional neglect directly relate to the onset of SAD. Victims of childhood trauma who demonstrate social withdrawal often act like this out of anxiety and fear.

SAD patients report feeling “an intense, persistent fear of constantly being judged by others and watched” and may isolate themselves to prevent this from happening.

Avoiding relationships or needing to “fix” others

If we were abandoned or hurt at some point in our childhoods, a fear of this happening again can keep us from getting too close to others.

And family trauma survivors who are raised in environments filled with dysfunction might harbor the need to heal and help others into their adult relationships.

Acting in unhealthy ways toward others

The most common telltale sign of abuse or violence is the experience of this behavior in childhood. Dysfunctional or destructive behaviors are on a spectrum, and we all exhibit some form of harmful manners at some point in our lives.

It doesn’t mean we’re bad people. This is not to excuse the behavior that provoked it but to help us shine a light on its basis and allow space to grow and heal.

People-pleasing tendencies

Children who had to fight for the attention of the people taking care of them unknowingly learned the art of people-pleasing. Rather than enduring the emotional pain of a caregiver ignoring them, they learn that making them happy makes life easier.

Inability to relate to others or being self-conscious

After being raised in a setting with unsafe adults, it’s standard to attribute unsafe demeanors toward people outside of the family. But it can keep family trauma survivors from ever fully trusting others.

Constant comparison to other people

A little comparison is a normal part of humanity. But if you notice yourself frequently comparing yourself with everyone around you, this could be a sign of low self-confidence or low self-esteem, which often comes from neglectful experiences as a child.

Difficulty expressing feelings

Growing up in an atmosphere where emotions were dismissed, frowned upon, or even mocked sets us up for a lifetime of misery, expressing uncomfortable emotions. This also explains why many crack jokes or give snide remarks when faced with serious conversations.

Family Trauma Survivor
Photo by fizkes at Shutterstock

Too harsh or not enough boundaries

Not having boundaries is a common trait of family trauma survivors from circumstances where their boundaries are not respected. Also, those who have boundaries that are too harsh, to the point of not letting others in, can also be trying to shield themselves.

To learn how to set better boundaries, we recommend this book from Amazon: Healthy Boundaries: How to Set Strong Boundaries, Say No Without Guilt, and Maintain Good Relationships 

Final Thoughts

If you feel as though you might be a family trauma survivor, it may be beneficial to speak with a professional. Ask your general physician for a recommendation. A therapist can provide support and help you understand the signs you’re experiencing.

Treatment will depend on your symptoms as a result of the trauma. It might involve medication, self-care, psychotherapy, or a combination of all these approaches.

But the treatment usually focuses on helping individuals incorporate their emotional response to the trauma and addressing any resulting mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Do you think YOU might be a family trauma survivor? And what are YOUR thoughts on the matter? Please feel free to tell us what you thought of this post in the comments section.

But don’t leave just yet! Psychology Diary has much more to share with its readers. For instance, we highly recommend you also read: Overcoming Parent-Child Conflict: 5 Easy Steps to Navigate

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