The Effects of Stress and Trauma in Adulthood
Trauma is incredibly difficult to process at any age. While childhood trauma can continue to impact an individual into adulthood, new trauma can also occur later in life, carrying with it just as many difficulties and hurdles. Adults also have a unique set of potential traumas to face that can be difficult to prepare for, potentially filling one's adult life with unforeseen traumatic experiences and little idea of how to navigate the complex, difficult feelings that come with them. However, while trauma can occur at any age, it is also never too late to begin healing, and there are always ways for adults to tackle the effects of trauma at any age.
The Unrealistic Expectations of Adulthood
There purports to be some notion dictating that adults should know how to conduct themselves and handle their stresses at any age. Adults are expected to manage stress and balance their time properly between work and family life – if there are any shortcomings or if one hasn't achieved their goals, it is somehow seen as a personal failing.
This mentality, while pervasive, is also entirely based in fiction. Not only do stresses continue to increase as one delves into adulthood, but the number of outlets available to process these stresses also becomes limited.
Trauma is no different, and the expectations that an adult should simply know what trauma is and how to process it without support can create dangerous assumptions. Learning to manage one's emotions, process trauma, navigate anxiety and depression, all while balancing one's personal and professional lives is an incredibly tall task, and expecting oneself to manage all of these aspects without support is unrealistic. Not only is reaching out for help to process trauma encouraged at any age, but it is also necessary as the ability to process trauma, balance financial obligations, and care for a family are not skills typically gleaned during childhood.
The Unique Traumas of Adulthood
Adults are no strangers to stress. However, there can also be an increase in traumatic experiences as one moves through life. Financial trauma can be harrowing as one is tasked with supporting themselves and their families, and the loss of a job or being underemployed in a job that can't cover bills can lead to many traumatic experiences. Losing a job can cause one to have to pick which meals they can afford to eat, decide between necessities such as a vehicle and a home, and many other decisions that can all leave lasting impressions on how an individual views the world around them. Even being without a job for a short time can change one's perspective.
As adults age, it is also common that one is exposed to more trauma involving injury or illness. Medical emergencies, from physical injury as the result of a car crash, to disease, can all be traumatic experiences. However, one does not have to experience these illnesses themselves to feel their dramatic effects. One's parents developing Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, or losing motor skills and muscle mass can all be traumatic experiences, not only changing one's relationship with their parents but also causing an individual to question their own health.
Lastly, the trauma of death is also incredibly difficult to navigate. The loss of parents, grandparents, and friends, can all be incredibly traumatic, and it is not an experience that all children must face – leaving adults unguided on how to process the resulting feelings.
Abuse Is Ageless
Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can occur at any age, and it is equally possible for the abuse of a parent to extend into adulthood as it is for abuse to come from one's spouse. Even bullying, which is typically a term that evokes images of childhood primary or secondary schools, isn't something that is limited to a certain age group. The bullying of coworkers is not only possible, but it is also something that can be more difficult to overcome as an adult, and one is expected to simply be able to “deal with it” without having been taught how to do so.
The Importance of Peer Support in Adulthood
Navigating traumatic experiences is trying at any age, and having professionals who understand how age and adulthood can alter one's perceptions of traumatic events to better cope with their implications is essential. However, having a community of peers is just as important in being able to understand and destigmatize the idea of traumatic experiences in adulthood.
Not only does adulthood bring new traumatic hurdles, but they can also be very common, and meeting with others can provide a powerful perspective that encourages coming together in solidarity against the trials adults face while navigating trauma and balancing professional, personal, and familial obligations unique to adulthood.