Definition of Trauma

Attachment trauma is a disruption in the important process of bonding between a baby or child and his or her primary caregiver. That trauma may be overt abuse or neglect, or it may be less obvious—lack of affection or response from the caregiver. Attachment trauma may occur if there are traumatic experiences in the home while a baby is forming the bond, and it also may result from the absence of the primary caregiver, such as from divorce, serious illness, or death.

Trauma Touches Everyone

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress.

of US children ages 0-17 have had at least one of nine key adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

have had two or more adverse childhood experiences

*Females and several racial/ethnic minority groups are at greater risk for experiencing 4 or more ACEs.

And those ACE’s are associated with 5 of the 10 leading causes of death.

Finding the right treatment is more important than ever.

A Foundation for Trust

Growing up can already be tough enough. Yet for many children and teens, serious disruption in relationships or traumatic events during early years can have long-lasting, damaging effects.

When a disruption or neglect occurs, people can lose the ability to foster the relational connections that are built on trust. This missed developmental step can shape how individuals see themselves and others in lifelong relationships.

Oftentimes, this means children and teens will have difficulty forming loving, lasting, intimate relationships. The most important thing to know about this foundation for trust is that it’s not the child’s fault, and that it can be repaired.

Reactive Attachment Disorder

The condition Reactive Attachment Disorder can be triggered by abuse, neglect and abandonment among many other traumatic events experienced early on in life. Depending on a person’s specific experiences and support systems, the results of attachment disorder can show up in many different ways, and can place individuals across a spectrum of attachment development and needs.

It is important to understand that you and everyone you’ve ever met falls somewhere on this spectrum of needs. As humans, our craving for belonging and love is ingrained and inherent– a person’s relationship with attachment and trauma makes them no less human, and no less worthy of love.

Symptoms & Behavior

Attachment and Trauma disorders result in a wide range of symptoms which can include an inability to give or receive affection, distrust, destructive behavior, or an inability to empathize with others. As one ATTACh member said:

“It’s not that [my child] doesn’t care, or doesn’t want my love– it’s just that right now, with the tools she has, she actually isn’t able to form the same kind of connection with me. I see that can change, and that is huge.”

Families who are dealing with attachment disorders often face some of the most difficult behaviors to navigate with their children. ATTACh has helped families and professionals whose children and clients came to us working through serious issues such as depression, drug use, suicide attempts, arson, abuse, incarceration, and shutting down all together.

Behaviors and symptoms from attachment don’t happen in a vacuum– they’re the result of real trauma that affects not just emotional and cognitive development, but also impacts our bodies at a physical level. From heart problems to diabetes, issues with attachment can stretch beyond mental health. Attachment disorder is not just personal – it’s a public health issue that has the potential to affect us all.

Even though the effects of attachment disorder can last a long time, they’re not irreversible. When parents and families, caregivers and professionals have the support they need to work together, trauma responsive care makes healing more possible than ever.