Why Trauma and Attachment Disorders Go Hand-In-Hand

Attachment is the term for a child’s connection with their caregiver, most often their mother. This bond impacts so much of a child’s life, from their mental state to their education. This connection is made in the first few years of life and makes or breaks the child’s ability to build other relationships, behave, and function.

Experiencing trauma at a young age heavily contributes to attachment issues and vice versa. A child who has positive connections may be able to better handle trauma or stress. Additionally, a child who has endured any kind of trauma may struggle with their future relationships.

A child’s relationships, mental state, and values are all created by and shifted based on the quality of their attachment to their caregiver and experiences with trauma.

What Are Trauma Disorders?

A trauma disorder impacts a person’s ability to live well in the present. They are plagued by their past trauma and often fear the future. The ability to function can be blurred by a traumatic memory or memories. A person with a trauma disorder will often have involuntary flashbacks that cause them to relive painful experiences. These moments can lead to unimaginable distress, anxiety, and depression.

A person may relive their trauma by physically feeling as if they are there. They are in their body but in another time and place where they were in danger. If left untreated, this can lead to panic attacks, horror, shame, guilt, and even aggression and violence.

Trauma disorders can lead to a myriad of other problems, especially in children. Since children are so vulnerable throughout development and so many moments affect who they become, untreated trauma disorders can produce symptoms such as:

  • Reliving the traumatic event
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks, fear, or intense anger from triggering stimuli
  • Intense fear or sadness
  • Inability to feel positive emotions
  • Irritability and outbursts
  • Feeling hopeless or withdrawn
  • Being in denial of the traumatic event or events
  • Academic decline

What Are Attachment Disorders?

Attachment disorders are extremely common in children who have experienced abuse or neglect, as bonds formed in childhood significantly impact a child’s development. When a child’s ability to connect with their parent or caregiver is damaged, they are at risk for many psychiatric issues. Attachment issues often cause an inability to express emotions, create trust, feel safe, and build healthy relationships.

Most attachment disorders in children are brought on by trauma. When a child is neglected or abused, especially by a primary caregiver, their ability to connect with others is disturbed. Their impaired attachment abilities can lead to anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues. These problems can lead to developmental delays as well as psychological problems.

In most cases, children with attachment disorders feel constant fear and detachment from others. Rather than feeling calm or safe when close to someone, they may feel distressed. Not only can a child who has attachment issues struggle with trauma as well, but their psychological issues will damage their ability to trust themselves and others. Therefore, emotional challenges could become destructive and uncontrollable.

Some symptoms related to attachment disorders are:

  • Difficulty connecting with others
  • Inability to manage emotions
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • High levels of anger
  • The need to be in control
  • Withdrawal and emotional detachment
  • Fear of physical touch
  • Seeking comfort in strangers
  • Extreme dependence on anyone offering attention

Although many experiences can cause these signs of attachment disorders, they can lead to even more dangers. When a child seeks comfort from strangers, they are at greater risk of experiencing more trauma and may find themselves in unsafe situations. This is because they may be more likely to trust anyone that hasn’t caused them pain. On the other end of the spectrum, they may lack the ability to trust anyone.

How Are Trauma and Attachment Disorders Connected?

A child’s development is critically linked to their attachment bonds. When a child’s most fundamental bonds, such as those with a parent or caregiver, are related to neglect or trauma, the effect on the child is usually long-term and severe.

Since trauma and neglect are often combined, children can experience both trauma and attachment disorders together. For instance, when a child has an attachment disorder, their sense of healthy relationships is skewed. They see themselves and others through the lens of that lacking bond. From this, a child may seek out unhealthy bonds with others. This can lead to abuse and trauma.

The same is true if a child has endured trauma. Their level of fear over the past and future can prevent them from creating healthy bonds with others. A poor relationship with a caregiver, especially if they are the one who caused the trauma, then is linked to an attachment disorder.

When both of these are experienced concurrently, a child is at significant risk for several symptoms that can lead to lifelong struggles. To help children dealing with attachment disorders, trauma disorders, or both, research suggests a number of therapeutic methods to reduce the impact conjunctively. Counseling, therapies, and family education can help a child heal and recover from either disorder and become well-functioning and productive.

Children who have experienced trauma at a young age often also experience neglect and vice versa. When a child has endured intense situations, they are impacted for the rest of their lives. The lack of a healthy bond from a caregiver leaves a child distanced from others or in need of any connection they can get. This puts children at risk for abuse and a lack of instincts regarding safety. Attachment disorders and trauma disorders go hand-in-hand. When there is a lack of attention, care, and security, a child does not learn emotional regulation, development, or relationship skills. At Havenwood Academy, we are experts in helping teen girls who have experienced these unique circumstances heal and thrive. We provide therapy, trauma-informed education, and holistic approaches to ensure our clients and their families receive the best care. Call us today at (435) 586-2500 to learn more about our program. 


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.