Do you have a difficult time recalling some of your childhood memories? If yes, then you might not be alone. It is common for many people to forget or have only a faint memory of their childhood. This is because our brain tries to free up memory to store new experiences as we grow. However, this natural forgetting is not the only reason why people might find it difficult to remember childhood memories, sometimes traumatic experiences might also influence our childhood memories. In this article, we’ll explore the complex relationship between childhood memories and trauma

Decoding Trauma

According to the American Psychological Association, ‘Trauma is an intense emotional response to a difficult situation or experience like abuse, natural disasters, accidents, etc. However, anything that is emotionally or physically threatening can lead to trauma, as the experience of trauma is very subjective and varies from one person to another. 

Trauma can impact a person both physically and psychologically. Physical symptoms of trauma may include a racing heartbeat, feeling unsafe, headaches, etc, while psychological symptoms of trauma may include flashbacks of the event, anxiety, fear, feelings of shame or guilt, etc. 

How Are Trauma And Memory Linked?

While it is normal to have gaps in childhood memories, trauma can play a significant role in how we store and remember our childhood memories.

In 2022, researchers conducted a study to determine the impact of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) on memory in adults and found that the experience of abuse had indeed contributed to memory loss in adulthood. The extent of the memory loss depended on factors such as the duration of the abuse, the age at which the abuse occurred, etc. This shows that trauma can contribute to the loss of childhood memories.

Trauma And Repressed Memories

The concept of repressed memories was suggested by Dr. Sigmund Freud as part of the psychoanalytic theory. This theory suggests that psychological trauma can cause people to unconsciously block certain memories, as these memories are too severe and overwhelming to be kept in conscious awareness. 

Trauma And Dissociative Amnesia 

Dissociative amnesia is when our minds block out important information about ourselves, causing gaps in our memory. This happens because our minds generally want to protect us from any distressing or traumatic experiences. Experiences of abuse, natural disasters, accidents or any other traumatic event can lead to dissociative amnesia. 

All of the above theories and research studies point to the fact that trauma can impact how people remember their childhood memories. Having said that, trauma might not be the only reason why some people can’t recall memories from their childhood. A few other reasons are:

  • Physical Injuries

A physical trauma to the brain or physical condition like a stroke can directly impact one’s memories 

  • Other Mental-Health Conditions

Conditions like depression, and anxiety, can affect memory. Depression induces brain changes, leading to memory loss. Anxiety can impact short-term and long-term memory by causing changes in the hippocampus and amygdala, the parts of the brain associated with memory and emotion. 

  • Ordinary Forgetfulness

As mentioned earlier, our brains constantly create spaces for new information by removing old and possibly irrelevant information from the past. So not remembering a few memories from childhood may not be concerning at all.

  • Cognitive Issues
Cognitive issues such as dementia can cause deficits in one’s memory. In such cases, dementia causes structural changes to the brain’s areas responsible for storing memories. Dementia can worsen over time


In summary, not remembering one’s childhood may be a sign of trauma., however, it may not be the only reason behind the same. Other reasons, such as traumatic brain injury, dementia, ordinary forgetting and underlying mental health conditions, can also contribute to the loss of memories related to childhood. If you are concerned about not being able to remember childhood memories due to trauma, it is advisable to consult a trained mental health professional for the same.


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Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin