The Disorder That Affects Us All: What You Need to Know About Developmental Trauma


Two articles discuss the root cause of much of mental ill health and societal dysfunction that typically goes unseen or covered up in mainstream explanations of mental health and behavior.

From the Institute for Attachment and Child Development [an adoption support organization]: “Homelessness, addiction and child neglect—these are just a few of the issues that impact our communities all over the world. And while many people develop policies and programs to remedy these problems, they just don’t go away. That’s often because they don’t understand the primary root of these issues. Once we understand the problem as a society, we can collectively work on the remedy. This is why you and everyone you know needs to understand developmental trauma disorder. 

Developmental trauma disorder (DTD)—Coined by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, DTD describes the effects of long-term exposure to trauma—typically profound abuse and neglect by caregivers (but can include traumatic medical procedures or community violence)—during the first three years of life.

Early trauma negatively impacts the brain and neurobiology during critical periods of development and results in:

  • Poor emotional and physical self-regulation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Inability to trust others, particularly primary caregivers

More specifically, children with DTD endure: ‘Complex disruptions of affect regulation; disturbed attachment patterns; rapid behavioral regressions and shifts in emotional states; loss of autonomous strivings; aggressive behavior against self and others; failure to achieve developmental competencies; loss of bodily regulation in the areas of sleep, food, and self-care; altered schemas of the world; anticipatory behavior and traumatic expectations; multiple somatic problems, gastrointestinal distress to headaches; apparent lack of awareness of danger and resulting self endangering behaviors; self-hatred and self-blame; and chronic feelings of ineffectiveness’ (van der Kolk, 205, p. 406).

Without early and effective intervention, children with DTD struggle to function in relationships and society into and through adulthood.”

“The Disorder That Affects Us All: What You Need to Know About Developmental Trauma Disorder” Article →

Response from the Colorado Professional Development Center: “Here’s a big thank you to Nicole Noonan for her great article, ‘The Disorder That Affects Us All: What you need to know about developmental trauma disorder’! Nicole, who works at the Institute for Attachment & Child Development, does a great job of describing critical elements of DTD. However, she missed what I think is the MOST important point: identifying the primary cause of Developmental Trauma: DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT.

‘You can’t fix it unless you know how it got broken.’

This old saying is paramount for those like Nicole and many thousands of other caring professionals who recognize just how pervasive Developmental Trauma is in our American culture. So let’s take a deeper look at it.”

“What’s Missing in the ‘Disorder That Affects Us All’ Conversation About Developmental Trauma Disorder” Article →


  1. “What does not ‘cure’ DTD”/early childhood abuse:

    “Love alone (without effective and early intervention), ‘good parenting,’ time,”

    I do NOT agree. As the mother of a child who was sexually assaulted at the age of three, who had to walk away from an insane psychiatrist who wanted to drug my child, once he learned that the medical evidence of the abuse had been handed over. I also had to fight off an insane school social worker who wanted to get her hands on my child, because my child had largely healed, and gone from remedial reading in first grade to getting 100% on his state standardized tests in 8th grade. The loonies of the “mental health” industry want to drug child abuse victims once they’ve largely healed, but denied the abuse occurred right after the abuse, with zero proof, and poisoned the concerned mother.

    I will also say that most the psychology professors, at the university my child eventually graduated from, who gave my child a psychology award, while gushing incessantly about how psychologically well adjusted and brilliant my child is. Would also likely disagree that a concerned and loving mother, who provides love and proper care for her abused child over time can help her child heal.

    I do agree that “institutionalized care (residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals, incarceration), traditional therapy, behavior modification techniques” do not “cure” early childhood abuse. Nor do the psychiatric drugs help child abuse survivors or their concerned parents. Since of course, as all people except our “mental health” workers know, crimes are cured with justice, not drugs.

    I am glad the reality that children are getting abused on a massive societal scale, is finally being recognized, rather than denied and covered up by our “mental health” workers, as has been happening for over 100 years.

    In part, because child abuse is listed as a V Code in the DSM, and the V Codes are not insurance billable disorders. And since the “mental health” workers all want to get paid, they’ve been misdiagnosing child abuse victims on a massive societal scale.

    I do think it’s progress that someone from the “mental health profession” is finally calling for a way to bill to help child abuse survivors. But I personally think it’d be wiser to start up some other kind of organization to help child abuse survivors. Since trusting the exact same people who’ve been covering up child abuse for over a century, to now change their ways 100%, and start helping child abuse survivors is unlikely to happen, IMHO.

    As to the cause of these issues, I do agree our society’s attitudes are misguided. And I agree, there do seem to be lots of bad parents. But the “primary cause of Developmental Trauma:” is NOT “DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT.” The real problem is the ABUSE or RAPE that caused the trauma in the first place.

    The real problem is we need to start arresting and convicting the child molesters, rather than continue to have the “mental health” workers cover up this societal problem. And the truth of the matter is helping to bring about justice in response to child abuse crimes does help in healing, injustice results in anger and other issues. I don’t see this mentioned anywhere in these discussions.

    But at least we agree nothing in the current “mental health” workers’ arsenal is helpful to child abuse survivors or their families. Today’s “mental health” industry’s current paradigm is all about profiteering off of covering up and harming child abuse survivors, and has been for over a hundred years.

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