- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Note: The post contains mentions of disordered eating and abuse.
A little bit ago, we rounded up a Reddit thread where people shared habits or coping methods they developed during childhood only to realize later, as adults, that those habits aren't always considered "common."
A lot of people seemed to resonate with this topic. In fact, more than 200 people from the BuzzFeed Community shared their own childhood behaviors and habits, many of which were developed when they were little to help them feel "safe" in their own environments.
And since these answers were incredibly honest, we gathered a few for you to read below for Mental Health Awareness Month.
1."I am incapable of making major decisions because I grew up with a controlling mother. When I do decide to do something, I always second-guess it because she almost never let me choose what I want."
2."Being able to tell someone’s mood from their footsteps or how they close a door so you can prepare yourself."
3."One bad habit I developed in my childhood was to either lie to cover up when I made a mistake or did something 'bad' — or just not say anything at all to my parents and hope it would blow over. I guess I felt like I was expected to be perfect when I was a kid and when I fell short of this 'standard' I was afraid to admit it."
"Now, as an adult, I have accepted the fact that no one is perfect and all us humans make mistakes. Now, I don’t have any trouble admitting when I erred in some way (although I do try not to do things 'correctly') — and if someone doesn’t like it, then I don’t care nearly as much as I did as a child. It is also a lot easier to be honest, too."
4."I'm always the one ending a conversation because I don't want people to have the feeling they are wasting their time with me."
5."I'm a 'people-pleaser' to the point that the only thing I KNOW makes me happy is making others happy. Getting asked what I prefer is so strange — my preference is what they'd like because what makes me happiest is seeing someone else happy. It sounds nice, but it's a trauma response to make sure everyone else's needs are met and there is no conflict. I'm over here drowning in unmet needs because I don't have a way to even understand what they are."
"I am in therapy, but dang is this hard to unlearn!"
6."I over-apologize. My father used to shout at me and/or hit me if I cried because he didn't know how to handle people crying, even if I was genuinely hurt or scared. To this day, I can't stand people seeing me cry, it makes me ashamed of myself."
7."I go extremely quiet when I'm upset, and usually don't even feel the emotional reaction I have until a good bit later, when I'm alone. A lot of people think I'm cold or distant when I do that, or being intentionally passive agressive, but it was learned through a lot of toxic friendships growing up. I literally can't feel it until I feel safe enough and reassured that there won't be a screaming match or a retaliation."
8."I developed a compulsion for keep anything I'm doing for my own pleasure a secret, because as a kid usually if my parents found out about anything fun I was doing that wasn't their idea, they'd find an excuse to make me stop. It took a long time for me to figure out it was okay to tell my wife I was taking a half day off to go mountain biking (or whatever), because she wasn't going to stop me or guilt trip me about it."
9."My coping method is also being hyper-aware of everyone's mood around me. If my husband seems even a little bit off, I immediately think I'm somehow to blame. It's taken a long time to undo that thinking, it's still work. All due to an abusive father whose mood swings were breathtaking."
10."Taking care of everyone and everything. I get very stressed if I can't fix everything for everyone in my life. I even get upset about situations involving strangers. I was my mom's caretaker starting at four, and as I got older, it became full-time. 'You have to take care of your mother or she'll try and kill herself again.' I have a really hard time being passive."
11."I have a terrible shopping addiction, and I always feel super happy when I'm shopping and it's great. I shop way more than I can afford, but it feels so good. I recently talked to my therapist about how when I was growing up, anytime my dad lost his temper with me, he would always end up apologizing, say he'll never do it again, and then he would give me money or take me to the mall. I don't know how I never realized that that's probably why I love shopping so much, because shopping was a way to make me happy after I was upset."
12."Constantly questioning things I have experienced because my parents frequently told me that things I experienced as a child didn't happen. For example: My dad wasn't drunk last night. He didn't hurt you. No, we didn't have a fight; you must have been dreaming."
13."I have a problem where I feel like I’m going to be trapped somewhere, whether it’s in the car or the bathroom. I have a fear that I KNOW is not normal at all, but sometimes in a random place at a random time, I suddenly get the feeling where I’m scared that I will be trapped in that spot. It’s only happened once before when my bedroom door got stuck and I started freaking out cause I was home alone and needed to get downstairs, and since then this is a feeling I get all the time. This is SUPER embarrassing for me, but I know I’m a human being and everyone has problems."
14."Needing to be completely alone to poop. This was because in my elementary school, there was a group of boys who loved to kick open the door to laugh at anyone they found pooping. I ended up developing a medical problem from holding it in too long. And even now, like 35 years later, I still get anxious when I hear people outside the bathroom door."
15."I used to pretend I was sleeping A LOT around the house and in the car. I always felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, so I wanted to listen in on conversations in case they were about me. There were a lot of secrets and whispering in my family, so any inside information about what was happening or plans being made gave me time to prepare myself for 'the unpredictable.' I had no idea it was unusual."
16."I stopped letting myself get excited or look forward to things. It's hard to explain, but growing up as the youngest in a toxic/abusive household, my opinions and wants were bottom of the pile. After years of getting excited about something only to have it cancelled, taken away, or laughed at for being excited in the first place, my survival mode kicked in and just removed excitement. You can't be disappointed if you expect disappointment. Even now, when I start to get excited about anything I start talking myself out of it."
17."My sister was always my grandmother’s favorite because she was the 'pretty one,' and my sister bullied me for not caring about how I dressed or looked when I was young. I developed multiple eating disorders and when I started dressing 'better,' my grandmother started noticing me and so did boys."
"My grandmother has been dead for many years now, and my sister and I don’t live on the same continent. But my mood is still affected by the number on the scale: I body check, I deem my worth based on my popularity with men, I get cosmetic procedures done, and I’m afraid I may get addicted to cosmetic surgery when I’m older."
18."I’m a 'resource guarder' from not having my things respected as a child. I was messy as a kid (which I think is pretty fucking normal), and I’d come home to all my things thrown out because my parents would get tired of the mess. Or I’d buy a specific food I wanted and my family would eat it. Now, I absolutely lose my shit if anyone touches my stuff or eats my food. So I put things in a safe place so no one can touch them."
19."I dissociate a lot, but I only recently learned the term for it. I know it was my way of coping with an overly controlling and critical mother, but I would just blank my mind out when she would freak out at me. For instance, one time I got accused of being a 'sadistic gothic freak' because I wanted to change my room from being all PINK to dark purple and green."
20."My dad lost a child who I never knew because he was over 20 years older than me. I did see how sad it made him for a long time and was told, around the age of seven that I was the only reason he survived the loss of my half-brother. From then on, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure my parents were happy and always tried to be there to entertain them, do well in school, and not get in trouble. It developed into anxiety and guilt because I felt it was never enough."
"I realize now that kids don’t actually feel that responsible for their parents’ happiness. I don’t regret it because I just lost my dad, and we had a wonderful relationship, but I make sure my children don’t ever feel responsible for my happiness."
21."I'm sensitive to noise and I easily think people are guilty of things."
22."Smiling too much. I don't even realize that I'm smiling and it put me in awkward situations more than once (i.e. people sometimes believe I'm making fun of them). I guess that I grew up believing that no one should worry about me so I smile."
23."I'm very indecisive and loathe making decisions for anyone but myself because until about a year ago, my parents would ask what I wanted or thought and then completely disregarded it and gave me options they liked. They’re building a house now, and I’m still in shock they let me pick out the colors for my bathroom."
24."I was the youngest of six, and as a result, I pretty much don’t talk at all as an adult. I never tell stories or jokes. I rarely say more than one or two sentences in a row because that’s all I was ever able to get out."
25."I have problems with melting down anytime I have disappointed an authority figure (i.e. bosses at work, usually), or anytime I think I might disappoint them. I learned this is a trauma response, because my stepmom threatened to kick me out of the house over every little thing. And if I showed negative emotions, I was threatened with institutionalization and was called names and retaliated against in many ways."
26."When I was a toddler, my father would come home and eat dinner with us. This is where the normalcy stops. I had to eat as fast as my little toddler-self could so I could eat with him because he felt that he deserved food more than his children. And if I didn't finish my food before he finished his plate, he would take my portion, too and not let me have any. This caused me to develop a bad relationship with food, which then caused an unchecked weight problem and years of food anxiety and self-esteem issues. It took until I was in college on spring break with a friend that I finally got that relationship with food in the process of being under control."
"I was 21 at the time and my grandparents reminded me that I don't have to finish everything on my plate. It took anywhere from 17 to 19 years to deconstruct that, and my father hasn't been an active part of my life since I was 4.
I'm still working on a healthy relationship with food (now it's the opposite end of that where I won't eat but a couple times a day), but I'm not going through this process alone. I have an amazing husband who cares if I eat or don't and will give up his own plate for our kids if they say they're hungry (if I already haven't)."
27."When I’m super anxious, I tend to sit on the floor in a corner or, if there aren’t any accessible corners, against a wall. I do it the most in new situations outside of the house but I also do it at home sometimes. I feel safer getting small on the floor with my back to a wall."
28."I was about 13 years old when I realized that more than one good thing could happen in a day (or over several days). My parents were always fighting and drama was daily. The revelation happened when my mom let a friend stay over and we went to an amusement park one day and the next, we went swimming. I was BLOWN away that there were two fun things in a row! I still remember the feeling when I realized life could be more enjoyable than not. I'm 58 and I still feel spoiled and lucky when good things happen in close proximity to each other."
29."I used to have to duck down while coming from my upstairs room in the morning to see if my mom's bedroom door was open. If it was closed, that meant my crazy stepfather was home, plan on all hell breaking loose."
30."I am 'good at' ghosting people and drop them out of my life. I tend to approach everyone with an attitude of 'better I leave them myself than they leave me.' I caused tremendous pain and damage, I left behind good friends so I am now completely alone behind my barricade and walls. I am left with guilt, shame, and solitude as a reward for my actions, but I cannot stop myself."
31."My parents would get really angry when I got injured and needed to go to the doctor/hospital. I developed the laughing mechanism to decrease the seriousness of it all. Due to that, I have several locations of chronic pain because I never got them evaluated (i.e. torn hamstring, broken finger, etc.)"
32."I always keep snacks on hand in my room. I have terrible social anxiety, so even when I'm living with friends, family, or roommates that I really like, sometimes I just can't face going out to the kitchen where I might have to interact with other people. To avoid starving, I always have some kind of crackers or granola bars or something in my bedroom just in case, to get me through until I'm ready to emerge again."
"The only time I've ever lived alone was in studio apartments where the bedroom/kitchen were the same room. I wonder if I ever live alone in a place with multiple separate rooms, will I still feel the need to have snacks in my bedside table?"
33."My parents would never really let me have candy when I was little so now I overeat it."
34."I got bullied a lot when I was a kid, and I still really don't like having too many people paying attention to me. My guard goes up when people start trying to get too close to me, and I move really quickly and quietly when I'm out."
35."I’m too self-aware. I was told for so much of my life that I was 'too much' and treated like an inconvenience, so I over analyze all of my behavior and conversations and pick myself apart. I use that to fit in to my environments — I am so aware of myself that I make myself as small as possible for people’s comfort and second-guess literally everything I do. It’s exhausting, but I’m so afraid of people secretly hating me that I keep doing it."
"I also don’t trust compliments and kindness from others because my bullies used that as a ploy to mock me. I got diagnosed with autism a year and a half ago so I guess it makes sense."
36."I have to have food with me at all times. The fear of hunger is just too overwhelming."
37."My mother moved her and I around a lot. And when I say often, I attended 18 different schools before graduating high school. I went to three different 7th grades in two different states, and I never even attended 5th grade because we were following her guru around India. Because of this, I became a chameleon. My own therapist diagnosed me as a cocktail personality. I adjust and become whomever and whatever is in front of me: emulating mannerisms, reflecting speech patterns, and altering my clothing and stance all to blend in."
38."I always sit in the chair closest to the door. This started in middle school, where I was often badly bullied by my teachers. I realized that the closer I sat to the door, the sooner I could get out of the classroom."
39."I got kicked out of the house at 15, and when my parents let me come back, I developed this need to be completely self-sufficient. I got worked 40 hours a week so I didn’t have to be home. I paid for my own hygiene items, laundry soap, clothing, food, everything. It’s carried over to my adulthood where I’m overly adamant about being the provider, not relying on anyone and always having some type of safety net. I have a hard time letting people pay for things for me or letting other people do things for me."
40."Not taking my own feelings seriously, like not believing that they were legitimate, acceptable, and maybe not even real. It took YEARS AND YEARS to fix, partly because some of that therapy in childhood was REINFORCING emotional abuse."
41."I learnt to bottle things up so as not to add to my parents' emotional load. My brother had severe emotional/behavioral problems while we were growing up, which meant that there was a lot of conflict in our home, and my parents were always stressed out dealing with my brother. The few times I did go to my parents with an issue (e.g. being bullied at school), they wouldn't believe me because I'd been so good at hiding it previously, and they'd tell me I was just having a bad day. I still struggle to express my emotions or ask for help when I need it."
42."When asking a question to someone or asking someone to do something, I think of every single situation and scenario that could come from it so that I’m not disappointed when it actually happens."
43."I have terrible, terrible misophonia, and my sister thinks I developed it because my mom would always scream at me about school and grades at the dinner table. I honestly don’t even remember this and have very few memories at all of eating dinner as a family. By the time I was 16 doing so was impossible without me shaking and crying, which made my mom yell at me more. It developed into not just serious misophonia but also insane social anxiety around having people know when I was upset or in mental pain."
44."As a kid, I would fantasize about being so sick or on my deathbed because I thought that would surely get my family around me to show they care and they’d realize how special I was. Now, as an adult, it makes me really sad that little me wished to be ill just to have the chance of finding out people did actually care about me because I never felt loved or wanted."
45."When I find myself stressed or impatiently waiting on a moment/event to pass, I end up plucking my eyebrow hairs with my fingernails. It gets to the point where I’ll have actual bald spots on my brows, and either pluck more hairs, or use a brow pencil to make them full and even again."
46."I think it's like maladaptive daydreaming, because *I know* it's not real. But stemming from childhood stuff and escapism, I would go to bed and I would think in my head about a different identity/person/life — and act it out like a movie but imagine it was me. I was always very embarrassed about it even in childhood and it has extended into adulthood. Again, I know it's not real, but it's like a daily vacation from my crappy life and an amazing break from the chronic and debilitating insomnia I have/had when not doing this."
47."I HATE when a man speaks more than a few sentences without inviting a response or asking a question. My dad was a VERY smart but cold and arrogant man. He used to sit at the dining room table, at dinner or random times, chain smoking cigarettes and talking (pontificating) about whatever boring-ass thing he wanted to for hours! My brothers and I were a captive audience and felt we couldn't leave."
"I know this is extreme, and I rarely allow for different situations, but I just can NOT. I'll just walk away. Admittedly not a super healthy coping mechanism."
48."My brother was hit by a car when he was about three, and I saw it up close. I was with my little sister when it happened but she couldn’t see everything like I did. So it was just us two with my brother and no adults anywhere around. After that, my whole personality changed and I started to become terrified of losing family members, especially if they’re driving somewhere. I’m 29 and this happened 20 years ago, and I still get severe anxiety when someone around me is not in my direct line of sight."
49."I recently found out through an exercise done in one of my psychology courses that I have secure attachments with parents and friends but an insecure-anxious attachment style with romantic partners. I realized it’s because I felt ignored my whole life by the opposite gender and my first relationship with a boy who acted like I didn’t exist. I have an inferiority complex because of it and makes me terrified of messing up my current relationship or doing something to make him leave me. Whenever we have fights (not real fights just hard discussions), I cry because I’m so afraid that what he is upset about could break us up."
50."I feel awkward when friends or extended family want to hug me. My parents didn’t show love or say the words 'I love you,' growing up but on a handful of occasions. I know they love me but it’s nice to hear it. I’m trying to break that habit but it’s hard. I’ve realized they learned this behavior from their parents."
Did you develop any long-held childhood coping mechanisms? If so, what are they, why do you believe they developed? Let us know in the comments below.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.