Different Types of Trauma

Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma is a term used to describe a broad range of adverse events that occur in childhood, such as being abandoned, rejected, betrayed, abused (physically, emotionally, or sexually), witnessing violence or death, being coerced, or having threats to bodily integrity. Experiences of developmental trauma can increase the risk of developing a range of mental health conditions, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It describes a set of symptoms that may be experienced after a traumatic event. These symptoms must occur for at least a month, and include:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event: This may involve nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories, and distress at being reminded of the event
  • Avoidance of trauma-related thoughts, feelings, or situations
  • Negative changes in thinking and feeling: This can include feeling "numb", blaming oneself or others, reduced interest in activities, difficulty remembering aspects of the event, lack of ability to experience positive emotions, or feeling detached from others.
  • Changes in levels of physiological arousal and reactivity: This includes symptoms such as feeling irritable or aggressive, being hypervigilant, sleep problems, reckless behaviour, and difficulty concentrating.


Acute Stress Disorder involves similar symptoms to PTSD, but is diagnosed when symptoms have been present for less than one month.


Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is a term that is often used to describe the consequences of multiple experiences of developmental trauma. Survivors of such experiences can have deeply entrenched negative beliefs about themselves and the world, and are accustomed to being in "survival mode". This means that individuals with complex PTSD are different to those with "regular" PTSD. They tend to be overwhelmed by their emotions, moving between intense emotional states and feeling numb, and often believe that others do not understand them. Unfortunately, those with complex PTSD are often misunderstood by health professionals, and benefit from finding practitioners with expertise in working with individuals like them.


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