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The Trauma Experience: Attachment Wounds - How Emotional Trauma Impacts Us

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Psychologist DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explores attachment wounds.

Childhood trauma can also bring about persistent attachment wounds. The type of traumatic experiences that result in attachment wounds are linked to emotional danger and a lack of emotional safety. Examples of this include emotional neglect, rejection, invalidation of needs, adults relying on children for emotional support, or punishment for expressing feelings. Different to trauma wounds, which can be inflicted by anyone and any physical danger, attachment wounds are primarily inflicted by primary caregivers, whom the child instinctively relies on to be safe and attuned to their needs.

Attachment wounds have received less attention in past therapy and research as they are less tangible than trauma wounds and bruises, broken limbs, or near-death experiences. However, their impact on mental health is significant. They leave us with negative beliefs, feelings, and physical sensations that we experienced during our emotional trauma. When triggered in adulthood, we can be flooded with these and experience a reaction comparable to what we experienced when we were first traumatized.

Attachment wounds can particularly impact our intimate relationships, friendships, work relationships, and parenthood, but they often also link to negative beliefs about ourselves that have implications in all areas of our lives. I am unlovable. I am unworthy. I am defective. To deal with these beliefs, feelings, and physical sensations, we may engage in coping mechanisms that we learned early on but that are not helpful for us as adults, and rather still prevent us from getting our needs met and feelings acknowledged. A lack of trust is a key factor arising from attachment wounds.

Trauma therapy can help to process traumatic events related to emotional safety. It can help the brain to put past traumatic experiences into context and separate them out from the here-and-now. That way, when there is a trigger, the brain does not react as though we were still back in original traumatizing event. However, trauma therapy for attachment wounds goes beyond this. It allows us to challenge automatic negative beliefs about ourselves, identify, acknowledge, validate, and meet our needs, and build trusting relationships that provide mutual nurture, love, and support.

To find out more about how trauma therapy can help you recover from past trauma, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

The definition of attachment wounds is based on the Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy therapy as developed by Shirley Jean Schmidt.

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