Trauma can affect different people in different ways. For some, it will impact their relationships, professional lives and mental well being for years after the event itself. We have all heard and read about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which delineates the psychological effects of trauma. While PTSD is a very helpful and accurate diagnosis for some, there are other trauma survivors whose symptoms do not fit underneath the PTSD umbrella: included are those who have experienced traumatic events throughout their lives and those who have experienced early childhood trauma. Brain development starts after conception and continues well into adolescence and the early twenties. The question that follows, then, is: how does trauma influence brain development? If a person experiences trauma during critical periods of development, how will his/her psyche be affected?
As the psychological community continues to see the specific impact of developmental trauma, the above questions have become more and more relevant. In fact, many argue that Developmental Trauma Disorder should be included in the DSMV. The effects of trauma, such as abuse, neglect or abandonment, will vary based upon the age of the victim. Because brain development in infancy and early childhood determines future development, trauma in this stage can have very serious effects, influencing a person’s ability to attach and form healthy relationships, regulate his/her emotions, control his/her behavior. Developmental trauma even impacts the areas of the brain that process new information, learn language and develop sensory-motor control. Trauma that occurs in the teen years can affect a youth’s ability to build and maintain social relationships, his/her connection with family and his/her performance in school.
One unifying trait in the symptoms of developmental trauma is its repetition later in life. Studies have shown that the brains of those who have experienced developmental distress are conditioned to find themselves in situations in which they will again be abused or traumatized. For example, if a child was abandoned by his parents early in life, he may find himself being abandoned over and over again in his adult years. The initial trauma will create a pattern in the victim’s life; she is conditioned to unconsciously seek out the very behavior that traumatized her. One way in which this can happen is due to insecure attachment styles traumatized individuals may have either rigid boundaries or blurred boundaries. Trust is often a problem for these individuals and may make it difficult for these individuals to trust in the therapeutic relationship.
At Insight Treatment Programs, we believe that treatment of developmental trauma takes time. Our treatment team has been trained to recognize and treat Developmental Trauma in adolescents and family members. Healing from this type of trauma allows teens to begin seeking healthier relationships, develop increased self regard, and decreases the need to self medicate through drug or alcohol use or other unhealthy stress decreasing behaviors.