Forensic Inpatients, Crime, Complex PTSD, Childhood Trauma

We have already seen from numerous other articles that I have previously published on this site that there is an association between the early life experience of interpersonal childhood trauma and the development of violent and aggressive tendencies which may persist into adulthood and even lead to a label of ‘antisocial personality disorder’ or, even, in rare instances, ‘dangerous and severe personality disorder (DSPD).

What is a forensic inpatient? A forensic inpatient is a person (usually between the ages of 18 and 65) who has been detained by Court Order or under the Mental Health Act for various reasons including assessment and treatment for an individual who no longer requires care in a high-security unit but, nevertheless, needs ongoing treatment in a secure setting or for an individual can no longer be cared for by mainstream services due to the risk they pose to themselves, others or both. In relation to this, in a study entitled ‘complex posttraumatic stress disorder and child maltreatment in forensic inpatients’, Spitzer (2007) points out that there exists ever-mounting evidence that a very large proportion of forensic inpatients have suffered extreme traumatization during childhood including both abuse (physical, psychological and sexual) and neglect (emotional and physical).

The Study: The study involved 32 patients who were assessed using the Structured Interview For Disorders Of Extreme Stress (SIDES) and The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and it was found that :

  • 75% had suffered emotional abuse as children
  • 59% had suffered neglect as children
  • 52% had suffered physical abuse
  • three-month prevalence of complex PTSD was 28%
  • the lifetime prevalence of complex PTSD was 44%


The researchers stated that these findings – that nearly 50% met the criteria necessary to be diagnosed with complex PTSD and that a significant proportion had suffered severe childhood abuse/neglect – were consistent with previous research findings in relation to forensic inpatients.


The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Addiction And Crime

We have seen in previous articles published on this site that, if we have experienced significant childhood trauma, we are at increased risk of becoming addicted to illegal drugs as a result in order to help dull our emotional pain/dissociate from our problems (this is not only because our lives our more likely to be stressful if we have experienced childhood trauma, but also because the experience of childhood trauma can damage the development of a part of the brain called the amygdala which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to, and less able to tolerate, the effects of stress). Unfortunately, too, if we become addicted to illegal drugs, we then become at increased risk of becoming involved in crime (over and above the crime of buying and taking illegal drugs). Below, I explain some of the main reasons why this is so :

Why Drug Abuse Puts Us At Risk Of Becoming Further Involved In Crime: – some drugs can decrease inhibition, increase impulsivity and increase the propensity to become violent (though obviously not an illegal drug, this is especially true of alcohol – and the experience of childhood trauma also makes it more likely we will abuse alcohol for the same reasons that we may become addicted to illegal drugs) – the desperate need to acquire money quickly to buy the drugs that feed the addiction – buying illegal drugs brings the addict into contact with the criminal world which exposes him/her to the danger of becoming ‘sucked into’ a more general, criminal lifestyle.

The Development Of The Vicious Circle: Not only does drug abuse increase one’s risk of becoming involved in crime, but the reverse is also true: being involved in crime can increase one’s likelihood of becoming/remaining an addict. This is because the money that can be accumulated through criminal endeavours can be used to start a drug habit, maintain a drug habit, increase the frequency of use of a drug, increase the dosage of drug per session, and allow the addict to buy new types of drugs s/he couldn’t previously afford or to which s/he previously did not have access. And, if s/he goes to prison due to crime, s/he is likely to encounter a thriving drug culture – indeed, many prisoners state that it is even easier to acquire drugs inside jail than it is outside. The childhood trauma/addiction/crime association is more likely to affect males than females (eighty per cent of all crimes are committed by males). However, females are more likely to turn to prostitution in order to sustain their drug habit.


Those Bullied as Children More Likely to Commit Crime as Adults.

Recent research has demonstrated that individuals who are bullied as children are more likely to get convictions for committing crimes in later life and are more likely to end up in jail.

In the study, the individuals were split into 4 groups :

1) Those who had been bullied as children (under the age of 12 years)

2) Those who had been bullied as teens (over the age of 12 years)

3) Those who had suffered bullying throughout both their childhood and their teens

4) Those who had not been bullied.


– 9% from group 1 experienced prison as adults

– 7% from group 2 experienced prison as adults

– 14% from group 3 experience prison as adults

– 6% from group 4 experienced prison as adults


– 16% from group 1 had at least one conviction

– 11% from group 2 had at least one conviction

– 20% from group 3 had at least one conviction

– 11% from group 4 had at least one conviction


The study also found that females who had experienced bullying both as children and as teens (ie from group 3) were significantly more likely to have alcohol addictions, drug addictions, a history of arrest and convictions than their male counterparts who had also suffered bullying as both children and teens (i.e. also from group 3).


It was concluded that health care professionals need to intervene to prevent bullying in the same way as parents, teachers and guardians should. It is suggested that children and teens need to be asked appropriate questions which try to uncover bullying as a routine part of medical check-ups. There should also be programs in place to address both the causes and effects of bullying to reduce the likelihood of those who have been bullied coming into contact with the law in later life.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).




Overcome Addiction: Self Hypnosis Downloads.


REFERENCES: Carsten Spitzer, Cathrin Chevalier, Michael Gillner, Harald J. Freyberger & Sven Barnow (2006) Complex posttraumatic stress disorder and child maltreatment in forensic inpatients, The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 17:2, 204-216, DOI: 10.1080/14789940500497743 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

19 − 4 =