If you have been exposed to repeated negative events in your life, there can be long-term effects of these experiences. This can often be called complex trauma or developmental trauma. These events are highly upsetting and can affect your development.  

Examples of complex trauma include: 

  • repeated bullying 
  • moving from a war zone 
  • domestic violence or abuse 
  • chronic neglect or abandonment 

Like every child and young person, you are unique, and will therefore respond differently to your experiences of trauma.  

With a complex trauma history, you may have developed ways of coping to keep yourself safe and help you function day-to-day. This may include: 

  • hiding your emotions to not show fear 
  • being more aware of potential threats in your environment 
  • feeling overly sensitive to the moods of others, particularly adults and how they may behave 

These ways of coping are useful when you need to stay safe from a physical or emotional threat. However, once you are in a safe, secure environment and no longer at risk, these coping strategies become unhelpful. This is when you often need support to let go of these ways of coping.

If you have a complex trauma history, you might find: 

  • you struggle to build and maintain relationships.
  • it difficult to identify, express and manage emotions. 
  • you struggle to process sensory input.
  • you act impulsively, defensively or aggressively.
  • you disassociate - this means to mentally separate from your body.
  • you hear voices.
  • you experience ‘intrusive’ thoughts.
  • it more of a challenge to think and learn.

Complex trauma can also make you blame yourself and have limited hope for the future. The impact of stress on the body can affect your physical health. 

Complex trauma is different to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To find out more, visit the separate page about PTSD.

For immediate support

NSPCC phone line: 08001111 
Parents Protect phone line: 0808 1000 900 

Follow the support and advice below and if you are still struggling with the effects of trauma, you can speak to someone about a CAMHS referral. Your GP, staff at school or another trusted professional can help. 

For professionals here is the link to the referral information page.