Complex Trauma

Sexual abuse achild causes pain well into adulthood.

The impact of unresolved trauma has a ripple effect on whanau, friends and community.

Complex trauma versus single incidents

Complex trauma is usually prolonged trauma that occurs between people, often beginning in childhood or adolescence. Since the events often happen in secrecy, the victim may suffer in fear and silence. Single traumatic incidents usually have a clear beginning and end while complex trauma is ongoing or frequent, which does not allow time for the victim to recover. It often has more severe, persistent, and cumulative impacts, including negative coping mechanisms, such as addictions and self-harm, interpersonal relationship challenges, chronic feelings of hopelessness, and impaired daily functioning. It can also have a dramatic effect on physical and mental health and wellbeing over the lifespan.

Not All Trauma Is the Same | Psychology Today


Dissociation is often seen in children with histories of complex trauma. When children encounter an overwhelming and terrifying experience, they may dissociate, or mentally separate themselves from the experience. They may perceive themselves as detached from their bodies, on the ceiling, or somewhere else in the room watching what is happening to their bodies. They may feel as if they are in a dream or some altered state that is not quite real or as if the experience is happening to someone else. Or they may lose all memories or sense of the experiences having happened to them, resulting in gaps in time or even gaps in their personal history. At its extreme, a child may cut off or lose touch with various aspects of the self.

Effects | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (