Trauma and/or attachment concerns can be hard to define. They are usually not defined in a "one moment in time" scenario. Rather, trauma - attachment wounds are usually a composite of childhood experiences that involve emotional or physical neglect, abuse, abandonment, insufficient attachment to (and/or sudden separation from) a consistent primary caregiver.
Left untreated, trauma- attachment wounding can stay with us and impact all areas of life. For example, the survival strategies we learn as children can be carried over into adult relationships.
A person suffering with untreated trauma wounds may suffer with substance use and/or be diagnosed with ADHD, RAD, OCD, ODD, Depression, Anxiety, a Personality Disorder, Factitious Disorder, FD Imposed on Another (formerly Munchausen by Proxy), or other DSM specifier.
Trauma and attachment wounding may be found in children or adults who who did not receive adequate affection and attention from their primary caregiver; were adopted or raised in foster care (and/or frequently moved); experienced a loss of a primary caregiver through divorce, abduction, prison or death; or experienced any type of parental loss or alienation (such as through parental substance use or mental health issues). Well- meaning friends and family may try to nag or give pep-talks, to no avail. Therapists may not be able to pinpoint a true diagnosis in order to provide treatment, or provide treatment that is not specific to the issues presented. Doctors may prescribe medications to mask the symptoms.
Trauma - attachment wounding in and of itself is not a specific diagnosable mental health disorder, although some have referred to it as chronic-PTSD for lack of a better term. Symptoms may show up in categories of criteria as in the above-mentioned diagnoses, and/or are played out in daily life in a variety of ways, including:
in adults.... - difficulty sustaining healthy relationships - attracting unhealthy (toxic) people - lacking healthy interpersonal boundaries - feeling numb, lost or dead inside - difficulty regulating emotions or returning to 'normal' after an upset - social isolation (voluntary or not) - feeling panicked or triggered, sometimes for unknown reasons - getting angry / feeling rage, sometimes for unknown reasons - lacking a sense of internal solidarity and purpose in life - lacking a sense of peace and joy - substance use - promiscuity or other impulsive behaviors - fear of commitment, fear of abandonment, or a mix of both - inability to enjoy the present moment or feel comfortable in your own skin - trying to "get over it," mask or avoid feelings - dislike of or hatred toward self
in children or adolescents.... - lack of attention span - defiance toward authority - aggression toward peers - difficulty making or keeping friends - excessive worry - withdrawal and defiance - tantrums - feelings of inadequacy and trying to please - clingy or overly attached to strangers (indiscriminate affection) - self-harm - substance use - other behaviors that are not developmentally or culturally appropriate
The significance of childhood trauma and attachment (abandonment) is slowly gaining recognition in the U.S. Therapies to address recent and past trauma - attachment wounding are proving effective. Scientists and therapists are learning that trauma can be stored in our brains and bodies, and that emotional wounding (especially pre-verbal wounding) can not be treated with traditional talk therapy alone.
Talk therapy alone typically does not work for a number of reasons including - the pain is beyond words - some or all of the trauma occurred pre-verbal - the trauma is stored in the body and/or in parts of the brain not responsible for verbal communication, creating a barrier between the trauma and the verbal expression of it.
This is why it is important to work with a professional who is trained in trauma wounds and trauma healing.
If you are an adult who survived childhood or a parent of a child who has faced any type of attachment trauma, please call for a free consultation.
Melinda Haynes, MA, LMFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist California lic. no. 102308 Serving Chico, Paradise, Oroville, Gridley The persons depicted on this site are models. Photos do not represent or guarantee results.