About Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma disorder is a diagnosis focusing on trauma in adolescents and children in which a series of traumatic events in a child’s history leads to development delays. Developmental Trauma can include witnessing or being a victim of verbal or physical abuse repeatedly.

In some instances, adolescents with Developmental Trauma Disorder may have experienced the developmental trauma while still in the womb or during birth. The experience of this trauma can effect attachment development, cognitive development, neurological development, and psychological development and lead to developmental trauma disorder. Often the term complex trauma is used to describe the experiences of multiple or chronic and prolonged interpersonal trauma.

Often Labeled as Challenging or Difficult

Children exhibiting Developmental Trauma Disorder rarely have just one stress-causing experience. Rather, the developmental trauma from abandonment, neglect or abuse is experienced over and over again in their young life. Each time the child is confronted with a reoccurring trauma, it becomes harder for them to recover. Repeated developmental trauma can lead to more problems later in life and adolescents suffering from developmental trauma disorder are often labeled as challenging or difficult. Children displaying signs of developmental trauma disorder often have learning disabilities or behavioral problems and are often placed in Special Education programs. Both social and developmental delays are experienced by children with Developmental Trauma Disorder.

Reactive Attachment Disorder Similarities

Developmental trauma and developmental trauma disorder are also associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder, a condition that stems from a child’s inability to establish a bond with their parents or caregivers during the crucial years of their lives. Reactive Attachment Disorder focuses on the difficulty of children and adolescents in creating healthy relationships. With developmental trauma disorder, attachment development is just one of multiple areas of development that is affected.

Treatment Methods for Developmental Trauma Disorder

Treatment methods for developmental trauma disorder include group therapy, individual therapy and family therapy. Family participation and a systematic approach to treating adolescents with developmental trauma disorder is necessary to help them find a secure base of healthy relationships and long-term success.

Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Trauma Disorder

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Exhibits self-soothing behaviors
  • Distrustful
  • Nightmares
  • Poor eye contact
  • Child is described as “challenging”
  • Anxiety
  • Learning and attention difficulties
  • Developmental delays
  • Defiant to authority
  • Hyperactivity
  • Isolate themselves