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Trauma and its effects on neural and spiritual development

Updated on November 27, 2016

ADHD and the Brain

Trauma and Neurological Development

Trauma is a term that can be used to describe a mental or physical displacement in normal function due to a congenital defect or traumatic experience from internal or external forces. Traumatic experiences can occur to individuals of any age. It can contribute to acute, temporary, chronic, or life-threatening disorders. Traumatic events can, furthermore, contribute to massive obstructions in neural and physical development. Types of traumatic events include: sexual assault or molestation, divorce, accidents, stress, illnesses, disorders, congenital defects, and more. There are many ways to cope with traumatic experiences. Therapy, medical evaluation and care, and spiritual influences can all play a part in the healing process of traumatic related experiences.

During the initial stages of the embryo’s lifespan, neurological development occurs, starting with a simple neural plate. This type of development is considered to be one of the most complex of all human development. “This development generates the most complex structure within the embryo and the long time period of development means in utero insult during pregnancy may have consequences to development of the nervous system” ( Embryology, 2014). Any form of trauma developing from an internal or external force can cause drastic changes in neurological development.

Children or teens can experience trauma from external events occurring within their household that can ultimately form into an internal traumatic experience. For example, witnessing prolonged events of parents causing mental or physical harm upon one another can contribute to the child's mental instability. The child may visibly be seen as detached from reality or fearful around crowded or noisy areas. Overtime, the overexposure of having to watch parents mentally and physically harm one another can consume the child resulting in an internal traumatic experience. On the other hand, growing up in a happy, loving household only to acutely discover that one of the parents are exiting the home for good through divorce can equally contribute to the same internal traumatic experience.

Certain diseases or congenital disorders such as sickle cell anemia, and other life-threatening or painful disorders can also contribute to traumatic experiences that can affect the neurological development of that individual. "This study suggests that some adult patients who have sickle cell disease may develop cognitive problems, such as having difficulty organizing their thoughts, making decisions, or learning, even if they do not have severe complications such as stroke related to sickle cell disease" (National Institute of Health, 2010). Could these deformities in cognitive ability be related to the disease itself, mental state impacted by having to live with the disease, or physical pain associated with the disease? More research is needed to fully understand how neurological development is affected by these types of illnesses.


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Two additional traumatic influences on the overall neurological development of an individual include: ADHA (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and stress. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that causes an individual to become inattentive, frustrated, and/or inappropriate from time to time. Children with ADHD have less thickened cortex's which are located in the brain when compared to children without the disorder. ADHD affects both boys and girl, but has been noted more commonly in boys. This behavior affects several children and some grow up as adults with the same disorder. ADHD is a tough disorder to diagnose and there are no real known reasons for why it occurs. “Because there is no simple test to identify whether a child has ADHD, it is hard to know for sure how many children have the disorder” (Feldman, 2014). There symptoms could be misdiagnosed as having ADHD and in fact be a normal characteristic of the child. Children undoubtedly diagnosed with ADHD can make it difficult for both the parent and the teacher to control their unscrupulous behaviors. Children with this disorder may have significant issues with concentrating as well as retaining information during their youth and adulthood.

A deficiency of the frontal lobe of the brain is associated with children diagnosed with ADHD. Some of the main functions of the frontal lobe are an individuals ability to plan and pay attention in order to adequately function in life. Researchers have determined that some children with ADHD have up to 24% more gray matter as well as larger frontal lobes resulting in increased hyperactivity (Silverman, 2016). Having ADHD does not mean that an individual has a mental incapacity. These individuals are very intelligent, in spite of some malfunctions of brain functioning. In fact, several well-established celebrities have been diagnosed with ADHD and have flourished. Think about, who do you know that has been diagnosed with ADHD? How do you view them? Are they incapable of being successful in life? There is still much misunderstood in regards to ADHD and how it has developed and how it can ultimately be cured.


Stress is a condition in which an individual tends to worry about various life situations that can ultimately cause depression, little self-worth, medical concerns, fatigue, and more. Stress can occur in both adults and children for various reasons. “There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis” (The American Institute of Stress, 2014). In babies stress may be illustrated by the baby crying due to being hungry, wet, or ill. In older children stress may cause reactions of anger, isolation, misconduct, self-inflicted wounds, or viciousness towards others. Untreated stress or chronic stress can cause developmental delays in children. These delays in development occur through neurological deficiencies that affect the growth of the individual. Stress observed n children has been linked to deficient growth of bone (Sävendahl, 2012). Stress can not only lead to acute and chronic illnesses, but in more drastic situations death. There are different methods that can help people overcome stress. In some cases therapy, counseling, diet and exercise, and prayer can contribute to helping people overcome stress and the side effects of stress.


How Does Spiritual Development Play A Role?

Some believe that spiritual development can help counter the effects of trauma in many cultures. Before medicine, before research, before any modern day therapeutic remedy, spirituality has played a huge role on how people cope with trauma and neurological deficiencies. Depending on the culture, trauma may be dealt with significantly different than another culture. Faith is some religions can be defined as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. In some cultures or religions, faith is the medicine that can alleviate or cease the occurrence of whatever is causing a traumatic event. Primal, literal, and synthetic conventional are some of the different types of faith covered by the faith development theory. Each type is unique in structure. From the age 2 and under the primal faith stage begins which results in building trust. Adolescents to adults are able to apply the synthetic conventional faith to their lives in which they are able to process and understand their God’s purpose and use it as a shield for occurring or reoccurring crises. Not all people handle crises from a spiritual perspective, but the ones that do have a deeply seeded spiritual connection in which they realize that their faith can ultimately alleviate or eliminate their traumatic experiences.


In closing, there are several factors that can cause neurological disorders that can affect the way one develops over time. It is necessary to take the necessary steps to ensure trauma is minimized. This can be done by properly maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding drugs and alcohol, steering clear from hazardous material, and much more. Although, some disorders are unknown in how they occur and affect the human brain; some of the external forces that humans have control over can be alleviated. This could potentially prohibit or decrease the amount of trauma that occurs throughout the lifespan of an individual.


Benson, P., King, P., Roehlkepartain, E., Wagener, L. (2006). The Handbook of SpiritualDevelopment in Childhood and Adolescence. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Embryology. (2014). Neural System Development. Retrieved from .

Feldman, R. (2013). Development Across the Lifespan, 7th Edition: Pearson.

National institute of Health. (2010). New study suggests sickle cell disease may affect brain function in adults. Retrieved from

Sävendahl, L. (2012). The effect of acute and chronic stress on growth. Sci. Signal., 2003484.

Silverman, J. (2016). ADHD Overview. Retrieved from

The American Institute of Stress. (2014). What is Stress? Retrieved from .


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    • Katrina1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      Katrina Simpson 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Glenn, I agree whatever works that's what counts! As long as we find a way to counter the stress in which is suitable to us, that is all that matters. I'm happy you enjoyed the article! :-)

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      This was very enlightening. You caught my attention when first explaining about trauma in one's lifetime, and then you kept my interest as you described the very real infliction of neurological damage to an embryo and how this, too, will leave one with a lifetime of problems.

      I never gave much thought to the comparison of ADHD and stress. I do understand now that the issues with inability to concentrate can be stressful.

      There are many ways that a healthy functioning person can do things to avoid or overcome stress. For me, when I'm stressed out, I take my mind off the situation by doing something physically active, such as hiking. But I know everyone has their own way to achieve relaxation. Whatever works, that's what counts.


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