Traumatogenic Disturbances: PTSD, Complex PTSD and Trauma-Related Disorders

  • Clara Mucci
  • Andrea Scalabrini
  • Georg NorthoffEmail author


Regarding traumatogenic disturbances, there were many changes and new developments during last years both in the psychodynamic understanding and in neuroscience. DSM-5 made major changes on PTSD but didn’t recognise the diagnosis of complex PTSD, which is now established in the PDM-2, and it is accepted by the task force for the expected ICD-11.

In this work our aim is to shed a novel light on the neuropsychodynamic understanding of trauma and its manifestations both at a psychological and at a neuroscientific level.

The first distinction to be made is that between the so-called man-made trauma, i.e. trauma due to the violence of another human being, or even within a relationship, and traumatisation resulting from a natural catastrophe (earthquake, typhoon, etc.).

We need also to distinguish different levels of interpersonal traumatisations: (1) severe lack of attunement between child and caregiver (early relational trauma) from severe neglect, maltreatment, abuse and incest, resulting in emotional dysregulation, distortion of reality and destructiveness of the self or aggressiveness against the other; (2) maltreatment and abuse and identification with the aggressor, where the two sides, victim and aggressor, remain embedded within the psyche and intertwined within the personality, repeating a chain of violence; and (3) massive trauma and the consequence for traumatic generations. The effects of trauma of human agency on the brain will be discussed.

Adverse early experiences (early life stress, ELS) have a profound impact on individual differences in stress responsiveness and are associated with an increased vulnerability for psychiatric disorders, such as depression, in later life. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that ELS also modulates the development of the oxytonergic system. In adults with childhood maltreatment, it was shown that the suppressing effect of OXT on cortisol levels is significantly reduced. A recent study rather supports the hypothesis of inverse or even detrimental oxytocin effects in subjects with ELS experiences. The presented findings demonstrate how crucial it is to consider environmental factors and particularly early social experiences prior to a therapeutic administration of oxytocin.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clara Mucci
    • 1
  • Andrea Scalabrini
    • 1
  • Georg Northoff
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychological, Health and Territorial Sciences (DiSPuTer)G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-PescaraChietiItaly
  2. 2.Mind, Brain Imaging, and Neuroethics, Institute of Mental Health ResearchUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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