Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD)

Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD)

While challenges provide opportunities for learning, they can, at times, also be overwhelming. Whenever this is the case it’s 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 for Developmental Trauma Disorder is highly increased.

History of Developmental Trauma Disorder

The diagnosis of Development Trauma Disorder 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.

PTSD & Developmental Trauma Disorder

While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be highly complex, in itself it is far surpassed by Development 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 setting 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 re-enact 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 comes into play after multiple and chronic exposure 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 neuro-biological 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, STD, liver disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes in adulthood.

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

Dive deeper into this topic by reading

The Trauma Essential Series

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  1. Shay  January 12, 2016

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

    • Roland  January 12, 2016


  2. Joanne  February 9, 2017

    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  February 9, 2017

      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  September 27, 2017

      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!!

      • Roland  September 28, 2017

        Good to have you here Sue.

  3. Mary  May 14, 2017

    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.

  4. Summer  May 20, 2017

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

  5. Trish  June 1, 2017

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

    • Roland  June 1, 2017

      Unfortunately it is not included.

  6. Jen  July 30, 2017

    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

  7. Shaun  September 27, 2017

    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.

  8. Jane  September 27, 2017

    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.

    • Roland  September 28, 2017

      In my book they are pretty similar. DTD does relate to childhood adversities while C-PTSD can also be caused by multiple traumatic events in adult life.

      • Kit  July 4, 2018

        So is it possible to have both?

  9. Vincent  September 28, 2017

    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.

  10. Jennie  July 28, 2018

    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.


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