Rejection is a normal part of human life as not every relationship is good for us and may end abruptly. We have all felt the sting of being fired from a job or parting from someone who didn’t wish to date us anymore.

Rejection trauma is different. It begins in childhood with maltreatment and haunts us in adulthood. What is rejection trauma? What are its symptoms? Who is affected by rejection trauma? This piece will seek to answer these questions and more.

What is Rejection Trauma?

The word rejection comes from the Latin word meaning to throwback. Rejection is a judgment of worthiness; deciding that something or someone is not worth any value. Judgment happens first and is chased by the opinion that concludes that something or someone is not worth the price and isn’t significant.

Unfortunately, many of us grew to adulthood in homes where we were rejected, meaning we were considered worthless and not worth our parent’s time. Perhaps the rejection was obvious with our parents telling us we were worthless and treating us with disdain. Or maybe the rejection was harder to see as when our parents gave us what we needed but with no compassion or loving.


The result of having no support or someone to believe in us is that we grow up full of fear of rejection and it infiltrates every aspect of our lives. Rejection from childhood affects our adult relationships with our friends, intimate bonds, and professional lives.

Those of us with rejection trauma often find we feel unsure of ourselves which leaves us afraid to use our voice responding instead with a freeze/fawn response.

When Does Rejection Trauma Happen?

Fear of rejection is caused by complex post-traumatic stress disorder that began in childhood. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that forms when children are abused or otherwise traumatized during their formative years.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a response to chronic traumatization that occurs for months or even years, including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. The sense of being in an inescapable position and unable to meet their basic needs break down children’s psyche affecting the survivor’s sense of self.


The brains of these lost and hurting children are still developing and they are learning during this time who they are as individuals and understanding the world about them. Severe trauma interrupts a child’s natural course of psychological and neurological development.

There can be no crueler maltreatment of a child than to reject them, robbing them of their feelings of safety and worthwhileness.

How to Tell If You Experienced Rejection Trauma

The last person to recognize trauma experience is ourselves, as we have worked hard down through the years to accept or forget what happened to us as children. However, it is vital that we see the rejection in our past and find ways to help ourselves to heal.

There are at least five signs that show we experienced rejection trauma as a child.

  1. We have negative thoughts about what others are saying or thinking. Automatic thoughts, things we immediately say to ourselves, tell us a lot about our upbringing. Perhaps you meet a new coworker or possible partner, and you immediately question why that person would even bother with you. Negative assumptions about other people come directly from how you were treated as a child. Rejection in childhood is affecting you.
  2. Avoidance. Childhood rejection can affect your adult relationships by making it virtually impossible to accept others and open up to them. You may avoid close relationships to protect yourself from more rejection. This fear of allowing others keeps us feeling rejected without even giving the other person a chance to know us.
  3. People-pleasing. To get more recognition and acceptance when we were children, we often went beyond the call of duty in taking care of our parents. We tried to please them in a myriad of ways, but it didn’t change the outcome. Rejection trauma involved not only parents, as it is likely that you experienced rejection from your peers as well. It is easy to see how these people-pleasing tendencies carried into our adult lives.
  4. Trust issues. Having been rejected by our parents, we formed an avoidant personality where we reject others before they can reject us. As adults, we have trouble sharing our feelings with others and avoid uncomfortable feelings that are brought on by interacting with others.
  5. Not feeling good enough. Rejection trauma in childhood leads to low self-esteem and self-doubt, which leads to having difficulty remaining in secure relationships. We often feel not good enough because our parents rejected us.

All our symptoms can do something so devastating as to kill our self-identity; we fail to accept ourselves. We live in a sewer of self-incrimination believing we are not worth the skin we inhabit and rejecting people who could be the relationship we were longing for.

Rejection is Good for Us


The rejection we experienced in childhood was in no way helpful. Indeed, that rejection harmed us in innumerable ways. However, rejection in adulthood aids us in changing ourselves for the better. Rejection is a stepping stone that leads to more success.

For instance, you have a project that you are doing for your employer. You work on the project not putting your whole thought and attention to detail and upon presenting it to your CEO; it is rejected. Here, rejection by the CEO of your company can be taken two ways; it with devastate you or it will encourage you to do better.

No one likes rejection, but how often do we set ourselves up for it? How often do we think badly about ourselves and expect others to accept us?

Bottom line, we sometimes bring rejection down upon ourselves by thinking badly about others’ reactions to us, and instead of looking for a solution in our own actions, we blame them.


Ending Our Time Together

Rejection trauma occurs in childhood and is an offshoot of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. When children are severely maltreated via abuse or neglect, they often respond in the only ways they know how.

While it is not your fault that you were treated so badly in childhood, the only one who can change your defeatist habits and beliefs is you.

“Then again, he supposed the healing process, in contrast to trauma, was gentle and slow… The soft closing of a door, rather than a slam. –  John” J.R. Ward

“Sometimes, our home is where we find the deepest heartaches.” – Dana Arcuri



 CPTSD Foundation Awareness Wristbands



Official CPTSD Foundation wristbands to show the world you support awareness, research, and healing from complex trauma.


The official CPTSD Foundation wristbands were designed by our Executive Director, Athena Moberg, with the idea that promoting healing and awareness benefits all survivors. We hope you’ll consider purchasing one for yourself and perhaps one for a family member, friend, or other safe people who could help raise awareness for complex trauma research and healing.


Each purchase of $12 helps fund our scholarship program, which provides access to our programs and resources to survivors in need.


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The Healing Book Club



Today, CPTSD Foundation would like to invite you to our healing book club!


Led by Sabra Cain, the healing book club is only $10 per month. The fee goes towards scholarships for those who cannot afford access to materials offered by CPTSD Foundation.


Should you decide to join the Healing Book Club, please purchase your books through our Amazon link to help us help you.

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As always, if you or a loved one live in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please come to us for help. CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services, including:



All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up; we will be glad to help you. If you cannot afford to pay, go to to apply for aid. We only wish to serve you.


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