Ian Laurence Kerr

Individual, Couple & Family Counselling

Does Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) exist?


Every year, about 3 million children are reported to the authorities in the US for suspected abuse or neglect and about 80 per cent of them are victims of their own parents. In Australia in 2013-14, over 300,000 cases of child abuse or neglect were reported, of which over 54,000 cases were true.

What does this mean for the children? As far as American psychiatrists are concerned, many of these children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But psychiatrist, Dr Bessel van der Kolk and neuroscientist, Dr Daniel Siegel have a very different view.

They believe childhood trauma can occur continually as soon as the embryo has a brain stem, and it can last until around age three. This early trauma they have called Development Trauma Disorder (DTD).

The problem with DTD is it is very difficult to see, but the effects are ingrained in brain and visceral tissue. Children grow up very disturbed but can’t point to any obvious traumatic events, as in PTSD.

According to the father of attachment theory, Dr Allan Schore, DTD is a “relational trauma, trauma in the context of a relationship”.

Dr. Marylene Cloitre, a colleague of van der Kolk, has interviewed many people about their childhood experiences and found their symptoms were not those of PTSD. They were clearly DTD and, in all cases, they were a function of insecure or problematic attachments.

What kind of symptoms do children with DTD show?

They are chronic relational symptoms, such as inability to concentrate or regulate feelings, feeling angry all the time, fear and anxiety, self-hatred, aggressiveness and self-destructive behaviours.

Unfortunately, regular psychiatry is not good at treating attachment difficulties because this diagnosis is not in the bible of mental health, the DSM-5.

The Trauma Center in Boston was set up by van der Kolk to deal with childhood trauma. It runs imaginative somatosensory healing programs that include theatre, yoga, and martial arts for children to help them with interpersonal skills.

If you believe you may have attachment problems, you can find more in this blog soon about attachment and how it relates to DTD.
☺ 14/04/2016

Previous Blogs:


Are you a people pleaser?

04/11/2016  13.00


Time to act on child abuse

08/06/2016  16:25


Your body remembers

26/04/2016  12:14


Trauma, Brain & Relationship: Helping Children Heal

14/04/2016  16:24


Does Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) exist?

14/04/2016  16:22


Music & therapy

31/03/2016  16:31

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