How Developmental Trauma Impacts Us In Adulthood
Developmental trauma, also known as complex trauma, can have significant and long-lasting impacts on an individual's mental and physical health in adulthood. Exposure to chronic and severe traumatic experiences during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or violence, can lead to significant changes in the developing brain and impairments in cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. In this blog post, we will explore how developmental trauma impacts mental and physical health in adulthood.
Mental Health Impacts
Depression and Anxiety - Individuals who experience developmental trauma are at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders. The chronic stress and emotional dysregulation caused by trauma can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, as well as heightened anxiety and fear.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Developmental trauma can also lead to the development of PTSD in adulthood. Trauma-related memories and triggers can lead to persistent re-experiencing of traumatic events, avoidance of reminders, and hyperarousal symptoms such as irritability, difficulty sleeping, and hypervigilance.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) - BPD is a complex mental health disorder characterized by intense and unstable emotions, impulsivity, and difficulties with relationships. Developmental trauma has been found to be a significant risk factor for the development of BPD, as it can lead to difficulties with emotion regulation, impulsivity, and self-destructive behavior.
Substance Use Disorders - Individuals who experience developmental trauma are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders as a way to cope with the emotional pain and distress caused by trauma. Substance use can provide temporary relief from negative emotions, but can lead to addiction and further impairment.
Eating Disorders - Developmental trauma can also lead to the development of eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder. Trauma can lead to difficulties with body image, self-esteem, and emotional regulation, which can contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviors.
Dissociative Disorders - Dissociation is a psychological defense mechanism that can occur in response to trauma. Dissociative disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder, can result from severe and chronic developmental trauma.
Physical Health Impacts
Chronic Pain - Individuals who experience developmental trauma are at a higher risk of developing chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraines. Trauma can lead to heightened physical arousal and tension, which can contribute to the development of chronic pain.
Cardiovascular Disease - Developmental trauma has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. The chronic stress and dysregulation of the stress response system caused by trauma can lead to inflammation, hypertension, and other cardiovascular risk factors.
Autoimmune Disorders - Developmental trauma has also been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Trauma can lead to immune dysregulation and heightened inflammation, which can contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders.
Gastrointestinal Disorders - Individuals who experience developmental trauma are at a higher risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Trauma can lead to dysregulation of the stress response system and alterations in the gut microbiome, which can contribute to the development of gastrointestinal disorders.
Overall, developmental trauma can have significant and long-lasting impacts on an individual's mental and physical health in adulthood. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, BPD, substance use disorders, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders are all potential outcomes of developmental trauma.
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Disclaimer: This is in no way a replacement for a therapeutic relationship or mental health services. This is for educational purposes only and should be in used only in conjunction in working with a licensed mental health professional. Reading this blog or responding to it does not constitute a provider-patient relationship. If you are looking for a local mental health professional feel free to schedule a callback to request an appointment or search Therapy Den or Psychology Today for local therapists in your area. If this is a mental health emergency and you need immediate assistance please call 911 or your county’s crisis line to speak to a mental health professional.