Unlike PTSD, where the trauma is a single incident, with developmental trauma, the trauma occurs in childhood and is chronic, often occuring for years. In other words, people who did not experience a nurturing and welcoming environment where they were made to feel like they were wanted and special, will almost certainly carry some baggage from this into adulthood. Although the childhood environment may have been physically or sexually abusive, less extreme experiences can have even more severe consequences. Of all the types of abuse and neglect a child can suffer, studies have shown that the worse is emotional abuse. This is where the child is never made to feel loved. Perhaps the child was shamed repeatedly by a parent or the parent was consistently critical. These and other childhood experiences can have a lasting influence on the development of the person.
The signs of developmental trauma are:
Difficulties in regulating emotions: Uncontrollable mood swings, persistent sadness and depression, explosive or inhibited anger, being easily triggered by external events and not able to manage the emotions that surge up.
Chronic shame: A persistent sense defectiveness— the feeling that one is disgusting, ugly, stupid, or basically flawed. This may involve thoughts such as ‘nothing I do is good enough’, ‘there is something fundamentally wrong with me’, ‘I am bad and toxic’. Such extreme self- hatred may lead to suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviours.
Disconnection and isolation: Because people who experience early trauma had not felt welcomed into the world, connection (with both themselves and others) becomes a core struggle. They may feel a sense of isolation, of being completely different from other human beings. They simultaneously have an intense need for and an extreme fear of contact.
Feeling ungrounded and powerless:Many People who suffer from developmental trauma constantly feel ungrounded and un-centered in their bodies. They may feel like frightened children living in adult bodies. Many get overwhelmed easily; when things happen, they easily feel close to breaking down.
Hopelessness and despair:Chronically traumatised individuals feel hopeless about finding anyone who can understand them. Many lose a sense of meaning in life, struggle to sustain faith, and live with a lingering sense of despondency.
Nameless dread / hyper-vigilance: By being chronically traumatised, their nervous system remain in a continual state of high arousal, which reinforces the persistent feeling of threat. Many feel that they cannot relax, and have to always be looking out for danger. They may be irritable and jumpy, suffer from insomnia, and other anxiety-related disorders and obsessive- compulsive tendencies.
Numbness and emptiness: Because the repeated abuse or neglect was so painful, many have employed dissociation as a way of coping. This may involve disconnection from the bodily self, emotions, and other people. By keeping threat from overwhelming consciousness, they can continue to function in the outside world, but is left with a chronic feeling of internal deadness.
The main issue with developmental trauma is that is results in significant functional network dysregulation in the brain. The most effective starting point for this is ILF HD neurofeedback. Once this is in place, we would bring in Synchrony training and Alpha / Theta. EMDR and other methods may be brought in as needed. Although this work can take some time, the good news is that this is an area I specialize in. I feel very comfortable helping people safely navigate their way along this journey.