Complex & Developmental Trauma


When someone is exposed to ongoing and numerous traumas over a period of time, they can experience Complex and Developmental Trauma. 

Both of these types of trauma result in prolonged exposure to toxic levels of cortisol (a naturally occurring human stress hormone) resulting in ongoing chronic stress and a feeling of being constantly overwhelmed. 

In this way, Complex and Developmental Trauma differs from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which occurs following exposure to a single traumatic event.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma can occur at any stage in life. It results from spending an extended period of time in a dangerous environment or being exposed to multiple traumatic events or stressors, for instance; living in a warzone, being in an abusive relationship / domestic violence situation, working as a first responder or becoming a refugee. 

Complex trauma can lead to a number of physical and mental health problems, as well as difficulties with trust, self-esteem, shame, identity and regulating emotions.

Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma, on the other hand, occurs during childhood and often involves both exposure to traumatic events as well as significant attachment ruptures / trauma with a primary caregiver. 

Developmental trauma is typically perpetrated by a caregiver or someone close to the child, interfering with their potential to form a secure attachment. While complex trauma is most commonly due to exposure to actual events (e.g. psychical, emotional or sexual abuse), developmental trauma can also occur as a result of innate developmental needs not being met (i.e. neglect). Research suggests that neglect can be damaging to an individual’s psychological development, as the lack of care and support goes unnoticed. This leaves the victim with no clear perpetrator and therefore no awareness of the trauma occurring. With no knowledge of what’s causing their psychological distress, the victims tend to blame themselves and / or feel defective. 


The psychological approaches that we use to help clients with Complex & Developmental Trauma include

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