Developmental Trauma Disorder or DTD

Keywords: Developmental Trauma Disorder, DTD.

While challenges provide opportunities for learning, they can, at times, also be overwhelming. Whenever this is the case, the overwhelm is typically characterized by structures involving resistances.

To a degree, everyone suffers from some form of developmental trauma; however, when a child is exposed to multiple and prolonged traumatic events, the likelihood of Developmental Trauma Disorder is highly increased.

History of Developmental Trauma Disorder

The diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) is relatively new. It seeks to clarify and identify a range of anxiety and dissociative disorders and place them under one umbrella, instead of attributing a variety of conditions to one person.

To a degree, everyone suffers from some form of developmental trauma; however, when a child is exposed to multiple and prolonged traumatic events, the likelihood of Developmental Trauma Disorder is highly increased.

PTSD & Developmental Trauma Disorder

While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be highly complex, it is far surpassed by Developmental Trauma Disorder in terms of depth, impact, and complexity.

Furthermore, persistent symptoms of PTSD are often related to Developmental Trauma issues.

The likelihood of Developmental Trauma Disorder to set in takes place mostly in and around the first decade of a person's life. It forms characteristics that include various protective mechanisms and the urge to reenact the trauma. Unless the tendency to repeat the trauma is recognized, the response to the environment is likely to repeat and replay the original traumatizing, abusive, but familiar relationships and incidents; hence the relationship between PTSD and Developmental Trauma.

Cause and Effect: Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD)

Developmental Trauma Disorder comes into play after multiple and chronic exposures to traumatic events. Most often the exposure is at an interpersonal level (i.e. family and community). Inflicted trauma presents itself as ongoing verbal, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, and compromised attachment bonds.

Early life traumatization interferes with neurobiological development and quality of information processing. Studies link adverse childhood experiences to depression, suicide attempts, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, domestic violence, cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, STDs, liver disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes in adulthood.

Does the diagnosis of DTD resonate with you? Leave your comment here below.

  • Shay says:

    At last I have found an answer to so many of the issues I have in life thank you!

  • Joanne says:

    Thank you fot putting into words an explaination of my life. Developmental trauma disorder, perfectly titled, why have I never heard if this before! So, how to recover?? What are the answers? Have you a book on this specifically?

    • Roland says:

      It is a relatively new name in an attempt to put many symptoms under one condition. A good start is education through books/videos. You can find my ebooks here: To shift on an emotional level what will work is therapy with the right person. Have a look here:

    • Sue says:

      So estatic that DTD is now being acknowledged. Even if there’s along way to go, before it finally gets recognised by Mental Health Professionals.
      It’s impossible to explain to yourself why you feel the way you do & why you are the way,you are. Particularly, if it’s your family who have contributed or caused it.
      Just having the access to Roland’s post’s has opened up, not only my skeletons, but those of my children’s & siblings & mothers’.
      I am not ashamed anymore & I refuse to feel guilty, too. After years of living in the past & repeating over & over, the same desasterous trauma, hoping I can gain approval & love. I am able to comprehend &:admit the truth, it happened & I can deal with it & move forward,one step at time. In doing so, my relationships have improved & my family & extended family, are benefitting from it too. Even if some have, fallen by the wayside.
      It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. But I survived the past & the information from these posts, has been a revaluation! Thank you to everyone who leaves comments on here, just knowing your Not alone really does make all the difference!!

  • Mary says:

    While this diagnosis resonates with me and the life I have lived, I also have a son that has been diagnosed with this and I was devastated when I looked up the diagnosis. I never abused or neglected my son however I also have two older sons that were misdiagnosed and unfortunately exposed to domestic violence so they had volcanic explosions and rages. These outbursts from my older boys coupled with my own mental health issues and strained new relationship left my youngest feeling unsafe in his environment. In other words he until about 5 yrs ago had a very chaotic and unpredictable home life. Thankfully a doctor that recognized what was going on with him and my family got him diagnosed properly and the supports we all needed. I still feel to this day when I divulge this part of my son’s multiple diagnoses I feel judged as soon as people look up the definition. I am happy to say that with a lot of work, persistence and love my son has slowly realized the world is not out to get him and he is improving every year. Out of all my boys (4 of 5) mental he lath diagnosis this was by far the most devasting and the one I have been judged the worst by. Thank you for your information and insights.

  • Summer says:

    This…….is me….
    Scary how it describes to a T my experience abd what I’m currently experiencing.

  • Trish says:

    Are we still waiting for acceptance into DSM. This is the area I will work in.

  • Jen says:

    Thank you, this is me. Still reeling from ended relationship with someone even more afflicted w DTD than I, plus Asperger’s I think….sure learned a lot, like where I end and others start, sort of…! Work in progress! I am super grateful for the words to understand something I’ve felt all my life; seems we need language to help us understand (never mind explain to others?!). Have felt for a long time there’s an emotional abuse epidemic going on, but we can’t see the forest for the trees. At times physical abuse would have been a relief, tells you where I’m at…. Establishing Boundaries and Speaking my Truth has led to alienation from my family and others, but I will no longer aid and abet in my own abuse or tolerate bullying.
    Want to share with everyone an author that has changed my life profoundly in the one and one half years since I first read her, Karla McLaren. The first book I read was the Language of Emotion. In a similar way to learning about DTD and PTSD so we can begin to heal, Karla helps us understand how emotions really work (we’ve been lied to!) and the underlying mechanisms, AND what to do about it. She also has a book on Chakras and Auras for those who are ready to go to that level. She’s awesome!
    Thank you Roland for helping us to find healing!!! It’s a lifelong pursuit…Love and Light

  • Shaun says:

    From going to a carefree child, I entered secondary school at 10 and most of my issues started then, extremely anxious, getting bullied and general low self esteem. Until having therapy I didn’t realise much of what I struggle with now came from my past.

  • Jane says:

    I was under the impression that Complex PTSD covered these aspects of early life trauma (as described by Judith Herman in her book Trauma And Recovery)
    Do you consider there to be a difference between C-PTSD and DTD?
    Childhood trauma (whatever it is to be called) needs to be formerly recognised and its implications in adult life understood.

  • Vincent says:

    I am a man from Holland and 59 years old. 10 years ago I found out that my youth was not very pleasant. In conversations with my younger brother I realised that I was physically and phychologically abused by my mother (she was a narcissist) and very conditioned from the moment I was born. He told me he had never felt welcome and was depressed for many years. However he had lots of memories of his youth and I had and still have none. From that moment on, my search began. What had happened to me, what was wrong with me and wich therapy could heal me? I began to read and after reading “the drama of the gifted child” by Alice Miller, I knew and became aware that had happened to me. I tried several therapies and alternative ways but none of them worked. Most of the therapists did not understand what was wrong with me.Then I read about somatic experiencing and I am with a very good therapist for 4 years now.

    To give you an idea, my surviving mechanism was not fealing and not thinking about myself and freezing. When this is done by your mother on a very early age, the message you get is “when you are yourself you are declined” ,so you leave yourself and stop living from within and only react to the outside world. Last year I did a test and with the questions where other people would get a higher heartrate, nothing happened to me. Conclusion: at an early stage my body learned itself to freeze at certain situations. Now I know I had 22 phychological parts and I dissociated. I had/have several adictions and I could not feel or had any emotons. I was like a robot although a sympathetic one 😉 . When you can’t feel, there is no thruth for you and you don’t know who you are and what you want. I have been living together with a woman who I never loved for 20 years and have done work I never really liked for 30 years. I am single now for 16 years but I am socially isolated. I still have problems with relationships. Our family has no bond ( I have three brothers and one sister). People say, forget your past and just go living, but I have no idea how, I have never learned.

    Nowadays I work in a hospital and found out I am very empathic and probably high sensitive. I am getting somewhat better now, but my progress goes very slow. 2 years ago I felt my heart for the first time. There are a lot of emotions coming out of it like anger, powerlessness and grieve but they all feel like pain. I have done TRE for four years now and my nervous system is stil not empty. The 22 parts I healed with Internal Family Systems but I think my soul had something to do with that. He left me when I was 3 month old and returned 2,5 years ago. Last week I realised it was possible that he was not in my body but somewhere in my aura. He was afraid to go in, but I could convince him to enter. Now I feel a little bit different. My feelings are coming back but this goes very slow, however I can feel energies going through my body and sometimes leave. Two years ago there was this energy building up in my belly and was getting very heavy. After some time it began to rise and within 5 minutes it left my mouth. This was my anger (the heart has a seperate system). When an emotion starts it only lasts for 10 seconds and then it stops like if a blanket has covered it up however I feel often grieve nowadays. It begins very slightly and lasts for half an hour but it is getting heavier by the month. I never have thoughts or memories or images with these emotions (I hardly have any images) and my youth is still a blank page for me.
    I don’t feel I am a victim.

  • Jennie says:

    I don’t know but this might describe me. I’m a mess right now and thinking it might not be fixable, there’s too much.

  • Emelie says:

    Is DTD now in the dsm?

  • Anne says:

    My beautiful 22 year old daughter has this I think. She was a very sensitive, bright child who was also very beautiful. She was emotionally bullied in school and online for about 10 years. When she was 16 she gave up the fight, and after several hospitalisations, has lived a reclusive life with myself and her father since. But she has not had a day’s peace in all this time. She has tried everything that has been asked of her , CBT,DVR, Psychotherapy. Depression has not responded to medication. Will she ever recover?

    • Roland says:

      Hi Anne. Sorry to hear about your and your daughter’s distress. Did she get help from trauma-informed helpers? Was she ready to go into and receive treatment? Those are two crucial factors for making any kind of intervention or therapy work. Would she be willing to read some of the resources here on this web or perhaps try the audio course I have set up?

  • Fiona says:

    Is this going to be acknowledged in the DSM?

  • Suzanna says:

    Im 60 yrs of age. The last 5-6 yrs more intensely had to go to foctors, hospitals for different treatments?! More and more autoimmune disease was diagnosed! Looking back my oroblem started from my early young adult age but got more severe in the last 5-6 yrs. have counselling and psychologist treatment for 20 yrs but seems not improving?
    This year I was treated by clinical psychologist for PTSD, anxiety, panick attacks and severe depression. She used EMDR technique but not sure it it helped. Somehow I feel Im getting better and in many ways I am but basecally Im not. Im more sick more unhappy, more scared, more fight and flight mode and more and more disconnecting from ppl. That is scary cause I am a social person but feel hopeless and helpless, dont know what next? What else I can do ? I am in constant pain from imflamation, gaining weight ( have extra 30kg) and nothing helped so far to lose it?! Trying all alternative healings, energy healings, herds and essential oils ( I don’t believe and don’t trust western medicine) so not very rosy , not very promising.
    And if I wouldn’t have kids and grandkids wouldn’t be bothered to stay alive. They are the one whi keeping me here and alive . And that is not fair . Im desperately want to be happier, healthier but font know how.
    In my childhood I experienced all type of abuse, now Im paying a prize for it, and this “bill” Im paying shouldn’t be mine !!! But nobody tought me or can help me how to transfer it or mor how to transform it !!!

  • Chasity Jack says:

    Liver disease. Ive never penetrated. Still in a continuum of Trauma. I’m paying for this though. And have filed suit. Because when i am finished bringing a landlord that mirrors the exact violent and intimidating and degrading tactics my handlers have done including breaking my things, pushing me and threatened my freedim by lying to an officer stating I hit him! How do I get my name cleared from criminal convictions that ive just been so nicely stamped with. These stat collectors forced me to attend rehab and gave all the power to my abusers. Noone of then have been arrested. I’m to assume that this is why my mind dissociates. It’s brutal to know what they do to women for just getting out from under your abuser. Its way too much to get into.
    But I will be bringing forth to the superior Court my story and truths regarding a civilization that punishes women whom have cptsd and complex traumas in continuum. I refuse to keep silenced regarding women born in cycle. I am not an addict. I hate conflict but because im in continuum and refuse to not stick up or jump into degradation and abuse of any kind to protect those and stop the silence. I have mixed symptoms of dissociation amnesia and other dissociation. My mind is numb. I’m not getting out of bed because I’m petrified to breath. Because my landlord has shown me my worth from the get go. Its been 7mos of continuous trauma. But 5 years in total.
    Point is…silmoutaneous trauma from every angle is not perceived. This is reality. I’m going to show that traumatized women can easily be just as abused in such an acceptable format in keeping man’s control always with them. It has the exact same effects as domestic slavery. The exact. I’m so tired of people saying dont surround yourself around those types of people. Lol. I didnt even leave my house.
    Incredible. This isn’t blaming either. This is a social problem. And in order to heal complex trauma with layers of did, cptsd, PTSD, mixed symptoms of dissociative disorders and dissociative amnesia.
    I need a rest but will not run through the last 3 year’s unqualified and in experienced stat collectors has drug me through. The centre for abuse and trauma in the hub of the military said she didnt have anyone to fit my unique needs. What does that mean for me up here in Canada? Please advise a city or a professional that is not in the USA and is committed and specialized in my unique case. But I need help please. So I can decide where to move to. And there is nothing in Canada except a rehab. Which ive done and also been forced to plea out at a trial here several times even though i didnt even leave my home because my abuser in another city i fled from can call anytime he wants and say i abused him. And because im on trial for getting out from underneath him (after he broke back in through kitchen window) they still refused to put me on the stand because of my ptsd. It was their scapegoat for the grossly mishandled trial that consisted of his predominant drunk testimony. DID DTD PTSD CPTSD OCD ANOREXIA AMNESIA ~ please help me. I have a somatic therapist in Kingston and I’m sure she can build a great team for me. But if there is residential treatment or retreats to relax nervous system to finally exhale in life 38 years later. I don’t care if its overseas…thnx in advance.

  • Karan says:

    Sometimes knowledge helps. But sometimes the more I learn the more I want to give up.

  • Summer says:

    Karen, I’m relieved I’m not the only one who feels like that. Thanks for your bravery in sharing. Much love and healing.

  • Nikki says:

    Yea this resonates very strongly with me and trying to get the appropriate treatment or understanding around this, is an up hill battle.

  • cPTSDiva says:

    I always thought complex-PTSD (or CPTSD) was a good descriptor.

  • Amanda says:

    When you talk about the prolonged trauma, you are talking about CPTSD. DTD is another name for RAD, or Reactive Attachment Disorder, which is developed in babies and infants caused by parent/guardian abuse/neglect, if they were in social services, or if they were adopted/in an orphanage. This is called Reactive Attatchment Disorder because the child fails to form an affectionate and appropriate relationship with their guardian(s), parent(s), or really lack thereof. The symptoms of DTD/RAD are: showing no affection towards parents (when parents show affection towards them), failure to make eye contact, uninterested in socialization, inconsolable crying, a chronic sour expression, an inappropriate attraction towards strangers, failure to be consoled when consoled, self-soothing, “by rocking…”-(Unknown), rapidly comforting themselves when others are around, and inappropriate social reactions to situations.When the children get older, they have trouble expressing their emotions appropriately, such as if they are angry, “they may have a tantrum, or give someone a socially appropriate high five, but it hurts” (pp. they are “defiant/disrespectful, out of control, explosive, does not respond to punishments given, may self-harm, anxiety, and may harm others,”. (pp also scream, curse/yell profanities, yell, and aim to BE IN CONTROL OF THE GUARDIANS/PARENTS AND THE OTHER ADULTS IN THEIR LIVES-they are irresponsible to discipline.Unlawful behaviors are common in people with RAD/DTD, such as “robbery”( pp DTD and RAD are “ the the biggest fear when adopting children” ( Children with RAD/DTD that is too severe/gets out of hand (destructive)/“harms self or others are often placed in residential facilities(” I wanted to explain what DTD really is because you got it, when you mentioned the ongoing trauma for many months, or years, mixed up with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or CPTSD. That has confused many people, including myself, thinking that DTD was the same thing, or another name for CPTSD.

  • Carla says:

    I’m 42 and how am I just now realising this. Thank you.

  • Adam Baines says:

    Thank you for helping me heal. I wont give up. Best Wishes to you.

  • Lauren says:

    More and more I feel like I have debilitating PTSD. Not only was my mom neglectful, one of my siblings abused me as well because they were taking their anger at my mom out on me. I have also dealt with abuse from partners, employers, co workers and doctors. I am with someone now who has done so many emotionally cruel things to me. He is trying to work on himself but the damage is already done and is so severe. I wish I could afford to leave. I can’t take anymore hurt from people.

  • Mel says:

    100% accurate, all of it,l was wondering why my cptsd is always so present now l see combined with Tdd makes sense.. info processing, replay the effects of the another layer to peel and heal…thank you for this information..

  • Cecilie says:

    Yes. This is clearly a part that is present.
    And it is interwoven, interlaced, with generational trauma patterns.
    Patterns of heritage.
    Very helpful; enlightening and expanding my perspectives. The manner of how I contain, widen and deepen my capacity to process the the emotional residue.

  • Margot says:

    yes it does, but writing more will be triggering so I leave it there. Even reading the articles can be activating at times.

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