Developmental Trauma

Developmental Trauma

When you think of trauma I’m sure images of men at war come into your mind. Or perhaps a tragic car accident or sudden death. But what most people don’t realize is how pervasive trauma really is, and how much more it really encompasses.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a condition characterized by constant flashbacks of an acute trauma experience. And this is probably why you thought of a soldier on the battlefield or a fireman removing a person from a blazing car.

But what is less commonly discussed, is complex trauma – sometimes called Developmental Trauma. This can develop due to insecure attachments in childhood, emotional abuse or neglect, and even repeated sexual assaults.

It can manifest itself in multiple forms, including anxiety and depression, but even more so, it can show up as physical ailments. According to Kain. K. & Terrell S. (2018) common symptoms include:

  • Unexplained symptoms that don’t fit into a diagnostic category
  • Complex, unexplained combinations of symptoms or syndromes that may look like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or lupus
  • Having the opposite effect occur from a given treatment or medication
  • Experience side effects even with very low doses of medication or treatment
  • High sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smells
  • Difficulty connecting to oneself
  • Being considered a malingerer or hypochondriac
  • Get easily stimulated into high-activation states
  • Plunge into deep freeze states
  • Sudden increase of symptoms without warning
  • Worsening of symptoms after treatment or medication

Many people come to the clinic complaining of panic disorder, difficulty with relationships and issues with emotional self-regulation. And what we are seeing more and more, is how these symptoms can be traced back to the developmental trauma.

The good news, however, is that there are treatments available. A lot of therapists are beginning to train in body oriented psychotherapy and in modalities such as: Sensorimotor Therapy, Somatic experiencing, Heartspeak and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. All of these modalities include the healing of emotions that have been stored, and left unprocessed in the body, and help one achieve relief from his present day symptoms.

Although no one asks to go through difficult experiences, the truth is that we all go through difficult times. But if you feel your symptoms match the ones above, you may want to consider a second opinion from your mental illness diagnoses, and perhaps consider that what’s happened is that you’ve suffered mental injury.

Happy to chat if you have any further questions.


Leah Weisberg, RN BScN BC-NC
Nurse Psychotherapist & Coach
Director of Interprofessional Practice

Source: Kain, K. & Terrell, S. (2018) Nurturing Resilience: Helping Clients Move Forward from Developmental Trauma. North Atlantic Books: United States.

Free Consult
Skip to content