Developmental Trauma and the Path to Healing
Developmental trauma refers to psychological and emotional harm experienced during a person’s formative years (generally from birth to age 8). Developmental trauma typically occurs as a result of abuse, neglect, or exposure to a traumatic event.
While most people are aware of how trauma later in life can have lasting effects, people often forget about or underestimate the impact of trauma that is rooted in early childhood experiences. They may think that so much time has passed that someone would have “moved past” an experience. The truth is that these early experiences can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.
In this blog post, Reconnect explores what developmental trauma is, how it affects individuals from childhood to adulthood, and the various treatments available to support healing and personal growth.
What is Developmental Trauma?
Developmental trauma occurs when a child experiences chronic or repeated traumatic events, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence. These adverse experiences can disrupt the child’s sense of safety and security, leading to difficulties in forming healthy attachments, emotional regulation, and coping skills.
The Impact of Developmental Trauma
The effects of developmental trauma, which originates in childhood, can be far-reaching and persist into adulthood. Some common reverberating effects include:
- Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy personal and intimate relationships due to trust issues or fear of abandonment.
- Difficulty in managing and controlling one’s emotions, leading to intense, unpredictable mood swings and disproportionate emotional responses to situations. This is called emotional dysregulation and can also include anger outbursts or feelings of numbness.
- Low self-esteem and a negative self-image, which often results in self-sabotaging behaviors. Examples of self-sabotaging behaviors include procrastination, self-criticism, and avoiding opportunities for growth.
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders that the person may not recognize as stemming from the original trauma until/if this is revealed during treatment
- Substance abuse, addiction or other self-harm as a means of coping with emotional pain, which they have been unable to find healthier ways to process.
How is Developmental Trauma Treated?
At Reconnect, we treat developmental trauma and its resulting symptoms by getting to the core of the original trauma, helping the individual process it, and reconnect themselves emotionally and spiritually. There are several therapeutic approaches that may be used to help people heal from trauma. Some of the most effective treatments include:
Somatic Therapies: At Reconnect, we utilize two types of somatic therapies for trauma. Somatic Experiencing is based upon the realization that human beings have an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy approaches the body as central in the therapeutic field of awareness.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a specialized therapy that targets traumatic memories and helps the brain reprocess them in a healthier way. This can reduce the emotional distress associated with these memories and promote healing. EMDR is proven to be highly effective and relatively fast-acting compared to other treatments for trauma.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on teaching individuals skills to regulate their emotions, tolerate distress, and improve interpersonal relationships. This therapy can be particularly helpful for those who struggle with emotional dysregulation as a result of trauma.
Trauma-Informed Psychotherapy: This approach recognizes the impact of trauma on an individual’s mental health and incorporates trauma-specific interventions to address the underlying issues. Trauma-informed psychotherapy may include techniques from various therapeutic modalities, such as psychodynamic therapy, attachment-based therapy, or mindfulness-based approaches.
Group Therapy and Support Groups: Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas can provide valuable peer support and help individuals feel less isolated in their healing journey.
The treatments listed above are all different approaches to help a person access and process past trauma. Every individual is different, of course. Some will respond more favorably to one treatment than another. Progress also happens at different rates for different people. The small population and intimate environment we offer in our programs at Reconnect make it much easier for us to tailor treatment to individual needs for the best results.
What to Expect from Treatment
The outcome of treatment for developmental trauma depends on the individual and the specific therapeutic approach used. Generally, individuals can expect to gain a better understanding of their traumatic experiences, develop healthier coping skills, and improve their overall mental health and well-being.
Resources and Support for Trauma
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of developmental trauma, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional who specializes in trauma-related issues. Additionally, consider reaching out to local support groups, community organizations, or helplines for further assistance:
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN): Offers resources, support, and information about childhood trauma and evidence-based treatments.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): Provides a national helpline (1-800-656-HOPE) and online chat support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Reconnect Can Help You Recover From Trauma
Developmental trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s life, but healing is possible with the right support and treatment. Remember that you are not alone unless you choose to be. The team of compassionate professionals here at Reconnect is ready to help you or your loved one rise above their trauma and heal. All it takes is one phone call to begin. Reach out to us at (310) 713-6739 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org