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What is Developmental Trauma?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

Developmental trauma disorder is a proposed diagnosis of a mental condition that some psychiatrists have aggressively advocated. The basic idea behind this diagnosis is to replace post-traumatic stress disorder in situations where the symptoms are affecting children. Many doctors favor this disorder classification because post-traumatic stress can have special effects on children and their long-term development. Many experts also feel that different treatment strategies should be used in cases where children suffer these traumas.

The cause of developmental trauma is sometimes related to growing up in some kind of war-torn environment or dealing with extreme poverty. These children may see horrible sights on a daily basis, and they might go weeks or months without things like proper nutrition. Children who experience these kinds of things tend to suffer long-term consequences that may follow them into adulthood.

Children who grow up in extreme poverty may suffer from developmental trauma.
Children who grow up in extreme poverty may suffer from developmental trauma.

Sometimes developmental trauma can happen simply because parents put their children through extreme abuse or neglect. Parents might fail to feed their children properly, or they may abuse them for months or years while they are still very young. Even though the circumstances are slightly different in these cases compared to children who grow up in war-torn environments, the results are generally very similar.

The symptoms of developmental trauma are very close to those associated with normal post-traumatic stress disorder. This means the children may have severe anxiety, mood swings, and problems in interpersonal relationships. The difference lies in the way these traumas can change brain development in children. It can be harder to treat the children because they may grow up with actual changes in the physical structure of their brains that make life harder for them.

Many of these children may develop new behavioral disorders as they get older. They generally have a greater chance of exhibiting criminal behaviors or having social problems in school. Doctors originally thought these were mostly emotional effects, but some experts think these may be consequences of brain developmental problems. Many doctors think that some of these problems could be dealt with easier if the medical community was able to anticipate them in advance, and a general diagnosis of developmental trauma could be useful for that purpose.

The treatment of developmental trauma generally varies depending on the symptoms the child is exhibiting. Many of them are given anti-depressants or drugs for attention deficit disorder. These treatment approaches can be useful to some extent, but they aren’t generally able to deal with all the long-term consequences of the children’s traumatic experiences.

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    • Children who grow up in extreme poverty may suffer from developmental trauma.
      By: Jasmin Merdan
      Children who grow up in extreme poverty may suffer from developmental trauma.