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Learning to Communicate After Developmental Trauma

When we are children, our minds are like sponges, easily absorbing the experiences and feelings around us. When children are exposed to trauma, it can leave a lasting imprint with disastrous effects. Trauma exposure can even affect a person’s ability to communicate. The first step towards learning how to communicate after developmental trauma is to choose the path of healing.

What Is Developmental Trauma?

According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, developmental trauma refers to “exposure to multiple, cumulative traumatic events” during childhood. These events are usually of an “interpersonal nature” and result in “developmentally adverse consequences.”

Developmental trauma can include experiences such as:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Child neglect
  • War and community violence
  • Traumatic loss, grief, or betrayal
  • Chronic emotional dysregulation of caregivers

Developmental Years

The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council says that even children in infancy will respond to cues that convey the “communicative intentions of an adult.” In fact, young children rely on communication so much that they will be able to distinguish adult speakers they can trust from ones they cannot.

However, if a child is exposed to trauma during these early years, that line of communication becomes frighteningly blurred. These children may not even be able to comprehend true safety. The developmental stage is the most important part of human growth. When a child experiences trauma during these years, it can have lasting effects on their personality, health, or habits without proper treatment.

Effects of Developmental Trauma

A 2022 study in Frontiers in Psychiatry mentions that children exposed to trauma can have a “significant shift in their developmental trajectory.” This shift can affect a child’s social skills, psychological health, behavioral stability, and parent-child attachments.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After Developmental Trauma

For children who are in the most sensitive periods of development, trauma can often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms. According to the aforementioned study in Frontiers in Psychiatry, a new “conceptualization of trauma” was developed for “repeatedly traumatized children and adolescents who often have high comorbidities between trauma and other disorders.” This new conceptualization is called “complex trauma,” and it can lead to complex PTSD (C-PTSD).

Frontiers in Psychiatry also notes that children who have experienced complex trauma will often demonstrate the most severe health, developmental, medical, and psychiatric problems. Later in life, they may even experience social and economic adversity, like poverty, homelessness, and incarceration.

Social and Communication Issues After Developmental Trauma

Emotional dysregulation is often present after developmental trauma. The Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health mentions that this dysregulation can affect a broad range of emotional health and may lead a child to emotional “numbing.”

Children who experience developmental trauma may have a hard time making friends at school or establishing healthy relationships. For many of these children, it’s difficult to appropriately express their feelings, so they may turn to one extreme or another instead of living in an emotionally regulated state.

Even in the adult years, developmental trauma can cause a person to have difficulty in identifying and verbalizing their emotions or needs. Communication and social skills may be poor or non-existent because these adults were subjected to repeated traumatic experiences as children. It’s also possible that they mimic the trauma or violence that may have occurred at home.

Poor Coping Mechanisms

Developmental trauma can also lead to poor coping mechanisms in adulthood. Adults may turn to illicit substances as a way to numb dysregulated emotions. According to Depression and Anxiety, evidence has shown a strong “correlation between trauma and substance abuse” among adolescents with PTSD. Up to 59% of young people with PTSD go on to develop substance abuse issues.

Healing and Treatment After Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma often co-exists with substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders. It’s important to find treatment that addresses the full spectrum of your needs while keeping a heavy focus on the initial trauma at hand.

At The Guest House, you will find truly comprehensive care to help you heal developmental trauma, along with any substance abuse or mental health issues you may also be experiencing. We are a trauma-specific care facility founded on the principle that underlying causes, like trauma, are at the root of every self-defeating behavior.

Learning to Communicate

Unraveling childhood trauma is no easy task. At The Guest House, you will find strong support and compassion among staff and peers every step of the way.

If you are having trouble with communication, The Guest House will provide you with a wide variety of programs and tools to help you find the confidence to fully express yourself and your unique needs. Our talk therapy programs, like individual therapy and group therapy, will help you find your voice. You will learn how to express your feelings among others who have lived through similar experiences.

It’s also important to remember that no two traumas are the same. At The Guest House, your needs will be addressed on a completely individualized basis.

Holistic Care

At The Guest House, we take pride in our groundbreaking efforts to bridge traditional therapies with holistic care. As someone who has experienced developmental trauma, it may have been difficult for you to find hobbies that you enjoy. Our holistic therapies can help you re-discover the simple joys in life. You may be interested in taking up yoga, going on an outdoor adventure, or trying your hand at therapeutic art. The Guest House offers a wide variety of holistic care methods and activities that will help you reconnect with yourself and your inner child as you heal your mind, body, and soul together as one.

Developmental trauma affects children in the early stages of their life when they easily absorb the emotions and situations that surround them. This early trauma can lead to disastrous consequences for one’s mental or physical health, social skills, and even the way they communicate. At The Guest House, you can begin learning to communicate after developmental trauma once again. We are a trauma-specific care center that specializes in co-existing conditions like substance abuse, mental health issues, and developmental trauma. Our traditional modalities, like talk therapy, can help you learn to communicate your needs in a safe setting. We also offer a large variety of holistic therapies to help you re-discover the simple joys in life. Call us at (855) 483-7800.