I list below ten types of childhood experiences which, depending on their intensity and the vulnerability of the individual who experiences them, could lead to the later development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). However, it is important to stress that such experiences will NOT NECESSARILY lead to these conditions. First, however, I will briefly explain the difference between PTSD and complex PTSD
What Is The Difference Between PTSD And Complex PTSD?
Complex PTSD, first described in the 1980s, has similar symptoms to PTSD plus some others. It is also considered to be a more intense disorder than PTSD.
PTSD tends to be associated with SINGLE EVENT trauma, whereas complex PTSD is associated with protracted and repeated trauma which may occur over many years (most frequently during early life, childhood, and adolescence). Because the traumatic experiences that can lead to complex PTSD usually occur when the individual is young, his/her brain may be especially badly affected, particularly if the traumatic experiences coincide with crucial periods of brain development. This means complex PTSD can be an even more serious condition than PTSD.
The Ten Examples Of Trauma That May Be Associated With PTSD Or Complex PTSD:
1) ACCIDENTS – the more serious, the more likely it will give rise to psychological problems
2) DEATH OF A SIGNIFICANT LOVED ONE
3) ADOPTION – whilst often a very good thing, it is a massive psychological upheaval for the child and a factor that can add to the stress is if the child feels s/he has no control over the process
4) DIVORCE – the more acrimonious the divorce, all else being equal, the more likely the child is to be affected adversely by it.
5) VIOLENT ACTS – this includes both being the victim of domestic violence and/or witnessing another family member being the victim of such violence.
6) NATURAL DISASTERS – eg earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, especially if the child is completely helpless in the situation and can do nothing to make him/herself safer.
7) NEGLECT – this can be physical, emotional, or both. The earlier the neglect takes place in the child’s life, the more likely s/he is to develop psychological problems as a result.
8) ABUSE – physical, sexual, or emotional. Bullying by peers and siblings can also have serious harmful effects on the child’s mental health. All else being equal, the more the child PERCEIVES him/herself as being abused, the more serious the psychological consequences are likely to be.
9) MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS – the more serious, the more they are likely to harm the child psychologically. Being separated from parents/friends/siblings due to extended stays in hospital can also have a deleterious effect on the child’s health.
10) MOVING – this may be difficult for the child to cope with if, for example, it involves moving away from friends, changing school, or going to live in a country with a significantly different culture.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)