Diagnosing Trauma: Developmental Trauma and PTSD
If trauma results from a specific event(s) it is generally identified as PTSD or Complex PTSD. If it is rooted in an overall unsafe and harmful childhood environment it is identified as developmental trauma. Developmental trauma refers to a series of chronic traumatic events, habits, and associations causing overwhelming stress during childhood. A primary component of developmental trauma includes the absence or ineffectiveness of a caregiver to help reduce the stress. This results in a disruption in basic attachment necessary for feeling a sense of safety and security that is critical to healthy brain and body development in childhood. This may include but is not limited to chronic abuse, neglect, unsafe home, bullying, drug or alcohol abuse by caregivers or other serious hardships during childhood.
Developmental trauma is often used interchangeably with Complex PTSD however trauma experts are working to clarify it as distinct in many important ways.
- Developmental trauma is not rooted in a traumatic event like PTSD or stacked specific events like Complex PTSD and does not always lead to meeting all of the criteria for PTSD.
- In fact, research shows over 50% of people do not show signs of trauma until they are adults. This can make identifying a specific traumatic event challenging and because of this, individuals with developmental trauma often feel shame, confusion, and frustration at understanding why they feel the way they do.
- Along with many of the symptoms of PTSD, individuals with developmental trauma may also experience a chronic history of serious dysregulation in their relationships/ attachments, attention, self-esteem/ self-image, body image, self-regulation and affect.
- Health issues are also a common complaint of individuals with developmental trauma. Brainspotting’s fluid and dual attunement approach makes it highly effective at treating both developmental trauma and PTSD. https://www.authenticityassociates.com/brainspotting