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Childhood trauma

Best 15 Books on Childhood Trauma

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Best 15 Books on Childhood Trauma

Picking books about childhood trauma is like going on an exciting self-discovery trip. But you will most likely get a box of tissues instead of cotton candy at this type of amusement park. But hey, who said everything had to be fluffy and light, right? 

Today, we are going to talk about how important books are for dealing with childhood trauma and share 15 must-reads of them. As well, I will share some tips you need to heal and thrive after reading them.

So, grab your favorite cozy blanket, settle into a comfy chair, and let’s dive into these transformative mental health reads.

How does reading books about childhood trauma actually help heal?

Let’s take a moment to understand what childhood trauma is before we discuss the healing power of mental health books. 

In a nutshell, trauma from childhood describes events that happened to us in the past when we were children and have a big effect on how we feel now. These events can range from being abused or neglected to seeing violence or losing someone close to you.

Experiencing trauma as a child can show up in adulthood in many forms, thus affecting our relationships, self-esteem, and overall well-being. 

Moreover, recent research from 2018 suggests that traumatic events in childhood are connected with a number of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and PTSD. 

You may already be aware that childhood trauma may be stopping you from living your best life if you are reading this article.

Following, your first thought will be, “How do you get better after a traumatic event?” It will be hard to move on, though, until you can find a direct link between your adult self and a certain moment in your childhood. 

You can take the Breeze childhood trauma test to help you with this step. This short, free test will help you learn more about yourself, go back in time, and find out how your childhood may have affected your life now. 

Bibliotherapy: healing through reading

After you take a test, you might find you have had a traumatic childhood, and then you ask what next. What about knowing more about causes and tips on how to get over childhood trauma? You can find the answers in books.

Yes, reading can really help your mental health, and it can make you feel better. But reading has more benefits than that. In fact, some mental health professionals recommend reading, along with traditional therapy modalities, as a way to treat psychological problems. The process is known as bibliotherapy.

And reading about childhood trauma is like having a heart-to-heart with your past self. It’s a bit like saying, “Hey, my inner child, I see you. I see what happened, and it wasn’t right.” 

This acknowledgment can be incredibly healing. It’s not about scratching at old wounds but understanding them. Like putting together the pieces of a puzzle or finding out why Ross and Rachel were on a break. 

Aside from that, it validates your experiences, makes you feel less alone, and gives you a roadmap for recovery. 

So next time you’re Netflix-scrolling, maybe swap an episode or two for a chapter of that trauma-healing book. Your inner child might just thank you for it.

15 Best Books about Childhood Trauma

Alright, buckle up! Here are fifteen books that are going to take you on a wild ride through the human psyche:

1. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

Or, as I like to call it, “The Bible for Trauma Buffs.” It’s packed with so much insight that you’ll need a mental forklift to carry it all. This book is a groundbreaking piece of work by van der Kolk, a renowned expert in the field of trauma and PTSD.

So, in this book, she delves into the science of trauma and suggests practical strategies for healing. At the same time, the book reveals how trauma can show up in the body and mind over time. 

This work is a great way to learn about and deal with childhood trauma, thanks to Van der Kolk’s extensive research and clinical experience.

2. “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman

Herman’s book “Trauma and Recovery” is an in-depth look at trauma and how it affects people. Now, if you’re thinking that’s a heavy title, you’d be spot on. 

Drawing on her experience as a psychiatrist, Herman looks at how trauma, including childhood trauma, can shape people’s minds, feelings, and relationships in adulthood. This book gives us a way to understand how complicated trauma is and how to recover by using real-life case studies and historical perspectives.

Here is a quote from Judith’s book: “Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative.”

3. “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine

Now, Peter Levine’s “Waking the Tiger,” another book, has a different way of helping people heal from emotional childhood trauma. Levine looks at the link between trauma and the body’s response to stress by using what he knows about biology and psychology. 

Among other things, he talks about somatic experiencing, a method for getting rid of traumatic energy that the body has stored. Meanwhile, this book also gives survivors of childhood trauma exercises and ideas they can use to get back in touch with their bodies and heal.

Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence”, once said Dr. Peter Levine, psychologist, trauma expert, and author of this book.

4. “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog” by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz

Let us move on to the next best book about childhood trauma. The authors, eminent child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce D. Perry and well-known journalist Maia Szalavitz, provide examples that shed light on the effects of trauma on the brain.

The title mirrors one of the ten captivating stories presented in the book, where a young boy, subjected to severe neglect, had to live in a dog kennel. The most essential thing in this book is that it shows how traumatized children can recover through the power of love and care from caregivers. 

5. “Toxic Childhood Stress: The Legacy of Early Trauma” by Nadine Burke Harris

A small intro about the author: Dr. Harris is the Surgeon General of California and the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco. Impressive.

In her book “Toxic Childhood Stress” Nadine tries to help people find, understand, and heal from childhood trauma. Also, in this fantastic publication, she brings together stories and results from her breakthrough research that show how trauma in childhood can affect health.

6. “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Karyl McBride

Dr. Karyl McBride dives into the complex dynamics of how growing up with a narcissistic mother shapes you.  

When children can’t rely on their parents to meet their needs, they cannot develop a sense of safety, trust, or confidence. Trust is a colossal development issue. Without the learning of trust in our early years, we are set up to have a major handicap with believing in ourselves and feeling safe in intimate connections.” ― a quote from the book.

Based on her professional knowledge and own life experience, she offers a three-step model for recovery: Recognizing, Recovering, and Reclaiming. With this model, readers can recognize narcissistic behavior, get over emotional trauma, and eventually take back their lives. 

Along with that, with empathy and guidance, Dr. McBride empowers readers on their journey of healing childhood trauma, self-discovery, and reclaiming their inherent worth.

best books about healing childhood trauma

7. “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)” by Philippa Perry

In this groundwork, Perry gives a kind and new perspective and presents an insightful exploration of the dynamics of parent-child relationships. She says, for example, that being a “good parent” is not about following a strict set of rules but more about knowing your child’s emotional needs and meeting them.

For example, parents constantly cross a child’s personal borders and provoke experiencing enmeshment trauma in adulthood.

Also, “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read” supports a kind way of parenting by encouraging talking, understanding, and mutual respect. By encouraging these traits, parents may be able to improve their kids’ emotional health, which will ultimately lead to better family relationships. 

Perry also says that you will definitely mess up as a parent. They can be used to get better and learn, though. And I agree with her on this!

8. “It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle” by Mark Wolynn

Okay, let’s move on to an excellent book about intergenerational trauma. Did you know that our parents’, grandparents’, and even great-grandparents’ experiences are stored in our genes and can affect our health, happiness, and relationships? The book “It Didn’t Start with You” explains these complicated ways. 

As a well-known expert in family constellation therapy, Wolynn uses powerful real-life examples and useful advice to help readers find and break the cycles of generational trauma. 

Because sometimes the ghosts in the family closet have a way of sneaking into our present lives 🙃

9. “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Nadine Burke Harris

With this book, Harris shines a much-needed light on the unseen wounds of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  And explains how this adversity can have far-reaching, long-term effects on health and longevity. 

This “trauma book” does not just describe the problem, though; it also shows how to get better. Harris supports a holistic approach to health that takes into account past trauma, medical intervention, and strategies that support mental health.

10. “A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

This one’s a doozy, my friends. The book tells about the author’s childhood, which was ruined by his abusive and alcohol-dependent mother. Despite enduring daily physical and psychological torment, young Dave shows exceptional bravery and willpower to stay alive despite everything. 

His story is a real tribute to the power of hope and determination in the face of adversity. As you journey through the pages of this deeply moving book, you’ll find yourself rooting for Dave, celebrating his victories, and sharing in his pain, all while gaining a profound appreciation for the strength of the human spirit.

11. “The Myth of Normal” by Gabor Maté

Maté challenges conventional notions of normality and explores the impact of childhood trauma on our lives. With compassion and insight, he encourages readers to embrace their authentic selves and cultivate deeper connections. Try this one out, too!

12. “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect” by Jonice Webb

This is not just a self-help mental health book that’ll make you go ‘Aha!’ more times than you can count. However, it is a groundbreaking work by clinical psychologist Dr. Jonice Webb that explores the often-overlooked issue of emotional neglect in childhood (when parents fail to respond adequately to a child’s emotional needs). 

Sharing personal stories and useful recovery techniques, Webb helps people who have been emotionally neglected understand their feelings, get over past traumas, and live happier, healthier emotional lives in adulthood. 

13. “Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents’ Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience” by Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline

There is no recipe for being a good parent, but this book is a pretty effective one for keeping your kids from being traumatized. These mental health authors underscore the importance of resilience, which they define as the ability to bounce back from adversity.

Levine and Kline write about how early intervention can stop the long-lasting effects of trauma on children’s lives. To do this, they include clear explanations, exercises, and stories from real life. 

For instance, they teach parents how to spot the signs of trauma and how to respond appropriately. They also provide some guidance to parents on how to build their children’s resilience, confidence, and joy.

Here are some exercises from the book that the authors suggest to parents, “Free Form: Give your child drawing paper and felt-tip markers in assorted colors. Ask him to pick a color to make some doodles (squiggly lines) to show how he feels right now. If he wants to talk about his drawing and/or feelings, listen attentively. If not, don’t push him. Ask him to draw some more doodles using different colors as his moods change.”

14. “What Happened to You” by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

My 14th pick is this powerful collaboration, in which Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey explore the long-lasting effects of childhood adversity and trauma. 

They reframe the question “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” highlighting the importance of understanding each person within the context of their experiences. Then, through personal stories and expert insights, they demonstrate a compassionate framework for understanding and healing.

15. “When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal” by Brianna Wiest

Last but not least must-read on my list is this empowering guide to self-recovery and personal growth by Brianna Wiest. 

The book “When You are Ready, This Is How You Heal” is about the journey of transformation and how it can change you. It stresses that it is not about getting rid of pain but about learning to live with it and grow from it.  

Wiest mostly talks about acceptance, resilience, and living with a purpose. She also says that self-love and mindfulness are important for healing. A touching quote from the book sums up its essence: “Sometimes the hardest part of healing is accepting that the pain may never completely go away.

Learning from childhood trauma books: self-care tips 

That’s true; to keep going with the process of healing from childhood traumatic events without therapy takes a lot of courage and strength. Besides reading the books on my list, it is very important for people who have been through childhood trauma to put themselves first, make self-care a priority, and seek support. 

As you go, here are some ways to pamper yourself on this path of healing childhood trauma:

  • Practice self-compassion and patience with yourself
  • Seek support from trusted friends, family, or professionals
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s journaling, exercising, or spending time in nature
  • Most importantly, make time for self-care activities that are good for your mind, body, and spirit, like 333 rule, deep breathing, and meditation

Final thoughts

Ultimately, dealing with trauma from childhood is a life-changing process, and books can help you along the way. Trauma survivors in adulthood face a long and winding road to healing, but the right literature can make the journey more bearable.

Through the integration of self-care practices, professional support, and these books, you are able to start the healing, growth, and resilience process. 

Lastly, remember that you are not alone on this path. Try Breeze and start your healing journey today!

Dr. Hanif is a practicing therapist sharing her opinion on bibliotherapy Reading books on childhood trauma can be a valuable resource for individuals who have experienced trauma, as well as for supporters who want to understand and help those affected. Books on childhood trauma provide valuable information about the nature of trauma, its effects, and its long-term consequences. They can help you gain a better understanding of their own experiences and validate their feelings and reactions.
It’s important to note that while books can be a valuable source of information and support, they are not a substitute for professional help. For those who have experienced childhood trauma, it’s essential to seek guidance from a qualified mental health professional who can provide personalized support and evidence-based treatment approaches.
Cimone Hanif, PhD, TLLP photo

Reviewed by Cimone Hanif, PhD, TLLP

Dr. Hanif is a practicing therapist and behavioral health writer/editor. She received her PhD in International Psychology from The...