Possible sequelae of trauma and somatic disorder in early life

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1976;7(4):337-50. doi: 10.2190/hl5e-hk4g-9txb-dwkq.


All children experience trauma. The age, state of development and constitutional factors will determine whether some children will have a traumatic effect. Trauma occurring before the age of three, at a time when the ego has not developed its synthetic and integrative functions, may be reproduced in later life as an isolated symptom, by selected sensations involved in a sensory imprint or screen sensation of the trauma as a simple recording. After the age of three, under the influence of a more mature ego, excessive traumatic stimuli will be integrated and elaborated in symptom formations as phobias or other conditions and extended as part of the total personality. Recurrence in later life is triggered by events related not only to the original experience, but also to the content of its elaboration. The earlier in life the trauma occurs, the more likely that somatic imprints of primitive physiological symptoms would result as an archaic, biological defense or screen sensations. Recurrent sensory imprints or screens may appear as organic illness or functional somatic symptoms. Diagnostically, a detailed early life history is necessary to uncover the presence of a sensory screen memory of a trauma and so avoid diagnostic medical search for organic causation. Case material illustrating the two groups are presented. Indications for psychoanalysis and for supportive psychotherapy are discussed from our theoretical framework as well as from the literature.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anesthesia / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conversion Disorder / physiology
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imprinting, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / etiology*
  • Psychoanalytic Interpretation
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*