By Maureen V. Kilrain, MS, PA-C

Child neglect and abuse are perhaps the most significant community health challenge in the United States. Mental health experts in trauma continue to investigate and apply a condition known as developmental trauma disorder (DTD), which is characterized by permanent changes in the neurobiologic system of children and adolescents who have been chronically exposed to various types of maltreatment during sensitive periods of childhood development. It is believed that a specific criterion is urgently needed to improve recognition of the unique profile DTD victims encompass and to avoid misdiagnosis or confusion with other psychological syndromes, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition, the effects of DTD continue in adulthood and tend to correlate with multiple health problems. Medical providers may consider DTD an underlying cause of several conditions, including depression, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), chronic pain or fatigue, various addictions, and eating disorders. During clinical assessment, identifying a history of childhood trauma may broaden therapeutic choices and improve patient outcomes.

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