The Association Between Child Abuse, Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

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Many research studies have shown that individuals who have suffered childhood abuse, trauma and/or neglect are very considerably more likely to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

it is thought marilyn munroe suffered from BPD

It is thought Marilyn Monroe suffered from BPD




BPD sufferers experience a range of symptoms which are split into 9 categories. These are:

1) Extreme swings in emotions
2) Explosive anger
3) Intense fear of rejection/abandonment sometimes leading to frantic efforts to maintain a relationship
4) Impulsiveness
5) Self-harm
6) Unstable self-concept (not really knowing ‘who one is’)
7) Chronic feelings of ‘emptiness’ (often leading to excessive drinking/eating etc ‘to fill the vacuum’)
8) Dissociation ( a feeling of being ‘disconnected from reality’)
9) Intense and highly volatile relationships

For a diagnosis of BPD to be given, the individual needs to suffer from at least 5 of the above.

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandoment

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandonment

A person’s childhood experiences has an enormous effect on his/her mental health in adult life. How parents treat their children is, therefore, of paramount importance.

BPD is an even more likely outcome, if, as well as suffering trauma through invidious parenting, the individual also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY.

In relation to an individual’s childhood, research suggests that the 3 major risk factors are:

– trauma/abuse
– damaging parenting styles
– early separation or loss (eg due to parental divorce or the death of the parent/s)

Of course, more than one of these can befall the child. Indeed, in my own case, I was unlucky enough to be affected by all three. And, given my mother was highly unstable, it is very likely I also inherited a biological/genetic vulnerability.




1) Dysfunctional and disorganized – this can occur when there is a high level of marital discord or conflict. It is important, here, to point out that even if parents attempt to hide their disharmony, children are still likely to be adversely affected as they tend to pick up on subtle signs of tension.

Chaotic environments can also impact very badly on children. Examples are:

– constant house moves
– parental alcoholism/illicit drug use
– parental mental illness and instability/verbal aggression


2) Emotional invalidation. Examples include:

– a parent telling their child they wish he/she could be more like his/her brother/sister/cousin etc.
– a parent telling the child he is ‘just like his father’ (meant disparagingly). This invalidates the child’s unique identity.
– telling a child s/he shouldn’t be upset/crying over something, therefore invalidating the child’s reaction and implying the child’s having such feelings is inappropriate.
– telling the child he/she is exaggerating about how bad something is. Again, this invalidates the child’s perception of how something is adversely affecting him/her.
– a parent telling a child to stop feeling sorry for him/herself and think about good things instead. Again, this invalidates the child’s sadness and encourages him/her to suppress emotions.

Invalidation of a child’s emotions, and undermining the authenticity of their feelings, can lead the child to start demonstrating his/her emotions in a very extreme way in order to gain the recognition he/she previously failed to elicit.


3) Child trauma and child abuse – people with BPD have very frequently been abused. However, not all children who are abused develop BPD due to having a biological/genetic RESILIENCE and/or having good emotional support and validation in other areas of their lives (eg at school or through a counselor).

Trauma inflicted by a family member has been shown by research to have a greater adverse impact on the child than abuse by a stranger. Also, as would be expected, the longer the traumatic situation lasts, the more likely it is that the child will develop BPD in adult life.


4) Separation and loss – here, the trauma is caused, in large part, due to the child’s bonding process development being disrupted. Children who suffer this are much more likely to become anxious and develop ATTACHMENT DISORDERS as adults which can disrupt adult relationships and cause the sufferer to have an intense fear of abandoment in adult life. They may, too, become very ‘clingy’, fearful of relationships, or a distressing mixture of the two.

This site examines possible therapeutic interventions for BPD and ways the BPD sufferer can help himself or herself to reduce BPD symptoms.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Addiction.


We have seen in other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are more likely than others to develop addictions (often multiple addictions) during our teens and adulthood. Why should this be?

Condition One:  A solitary rat in an impoverished environment (ie. one in which there is no stimulation, just an empty cage).

Condition Two: The rat has the company of other rats and has an enriched (ie stimulating) environment



– In condition one rats became extremely addicted to the cocaine, becoming heavily addicted

– In condition two rats ingested far less cocaine (75% less) and did not become addicted

(The psychologist, Professor Bruce Alexander, pioneered these studies).

If we extrapolate from this research (ie apply it to humans) it would be expected that :

Individuals with empty, lonely lives are significantly more likely to become addicts than individuals with full and socially integrated lived. Indeed, there is much research evidence to support this view and a growing school of thought is of the view that a person’s life situation plays a more important role in an individuals addiction than the addictive substance itself.


It is likely, then, that a person’s life circumstances play a vital role in whether or not a person becomes an addict. Therefore, it follows that the most effective way to reduce addiction is to help addicts re-connect with society and gain dependable social support.

Because those who have suffered childhood trauma are more likely to develop chaotic, disenfranchised lives as adults, as many of the articles on this site have shown, such people are at greater risk than others of living in the kind of social isolation which fosters drug addiction.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

How The Brain Can Change And Recover From Harm.


Whilst the basic structure of the brain is formed by early childhood, this physical structure changes throughout life as a result of our experiences and learning.

A well known example of this is relates to a study of London taxi drivers (who undergo years of extensive training to learn their way around the London streets) ; it was found, through the use of brain scans, that as a result of this training the part of their brain that deals with spatial awareness actually increased in size.

This ability of the brain to physically change throughout life is due to a quality it possesses called neuroplasticity.

The main phases of brain development and change can be divided into 3 stages. I briefly describe each of these below:

1) The Precritical Phase:

This occurs during early childhood. During this phase, the brain’s neurons (nerve cells) are formed, as are the connections between them.

These neurons communicate with each other by the process of electro-chemical signalling.

The brain consists of about 100 billion (100,000,000,000) neurons and each of these neurons may be connected up to 10,000 other neurons.

Mind-bogglingly, this means that our neurons communicate with one another via a network of about 1,000 trillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) connections (known as synaptic connections).

2) The second phase relates to the changes that occur to the brain after childhood as a result of our learning and the experiences (eg. see example of London taxi drivers above).

3) Later life : If the brain does not receive adequate stimulation, its processing ability may be adversely affected, as may memory. However, brain training exercises can help to prevent such deterioration.


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We have seen, in other articles that I have published on this site, that severe childhood trauma can harm the way in which the brain develops.

However, such harm to the brain is frequently reversible, at least in part. Two ways in which the brain is able to repair itself are:

– by developing new connections between neurons

– redirecting specific brain functions to alternative brain regions.

Furthermore, studies now reveal that, in certain situations, the brain is actually capable of developing new neurons.


Meditation, visualisation and repeated hypnosis/self-hypnosis that enhances relaxation has been found to alter the brain in a beneficial manner. These changes help to dampen down negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and anger; also, they help both the brain and the body to heal themselves.


Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).





Why The Child May See ‘Bad’ Parents As ‘Good.’


Why do children often idealize abusive parents?

When we are children, our own home environment is the only one we know; we have nothing to compare it with. Therefore, we may think such an environment is ‘normal’, even when, in reality, this is very far from the case indeed. In other words, we may believe that what we experience at home is just a part of life – one that everybody has to somehow tolerate and survive.


The child is utterly dependent upon the parent. Because of this, it is psychologically least uncomfortable for him/her to view the parent as essentially benign and as having his/her ( ie. the child’s) best interests at heart. To believe otherwise would be overwhelmingly psychologically distressing.


Also, abusive parents are likely to have low self-esteem, low confidence and a poorly developed sense of self. Because of this, they are also likely to be highly intolerant of any criticism. Indeed, if the child is critical of them, the parent may become hostile, angry, aggressive or otherwise punish the child.

It follows, therefore, that if the child is able to convince him/herself that the parent is, in fact, ‘good’, s/he is far less likely to criticise the parent and more likely to avoid punishment. In this way, idealizing the parent has, in evolutionary terms, ‘survival value’



Sadly, children who are abused by their parents almost invariably (and irrationally) blame themselves. For example, if the parent frequently displays hatred towards the child, the child may convince him/herself that it is his/her own fault and that any parent would act in this way towards him/her.

The child may then be unconsciously driven to ‘prove’ this to him/herself by behaving towards all adults in aggressive, hostile and rude ways with the (again unconscious) goal of alienating them (thus ‘proving’ his/her theory that s/he is intrinsically unlovable/an inspirer of the hatred of others all (not ‘just’ his/her parents).

Similarly, if the child is rejected by his/her parents, s/he may behave in ways that encourage others to reject him/her so that s/he can tell him/herself : ‘it’s not my parent who is at fault, it’s me.’

Such psychological devices help the child to perpetuate the myth of having parents who are not at fault.

Importantly, too, by blaming him/herself, rather than his/her patents, s/he gives him/herself the illusion s/he has control over the situation and the power to change it for the better. His/her reasoning may be as follows: ‘If I change my behaviour my parents will treat me well.’


Sometimes the child will attempt to maintain a ‘perfect’ image of the abusive parent, where this is blatantly a false image, by a psychological process known as splitting.

It involves (unconsciously) mentally splitting off the parent’s negative characteristics and behaviours by attributing their cause to something external to the parent (thus exonerating the parent from personal responsibility for them).

For example, if a mother screams hate-filled abuse at the child (as my own mother was prone to doing) the child may tell him/herself it is ‘only’ because she is overtired.

Or, if a drunken father hits his child, the child may reason that it’s ‘only’ because of the alcohol or because ‘all men are naturally physically aggressive’ ( thus attributing the father’s behaviour to his gender).

A final example of splitting, in this case attributing the cause of the behaviour to another person, is that of a child telling him/herself that the father only abandoned him/her because the mother was impossible to live with (indeed, my own father gave this as a reason for leaving the family home when I was eight. I internalised and accepted this; indeed, I only came to question its validity relatively recently. It also begs the question, of course, of why he left an eight year old with such a mother).


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Five Types Of Dysregulation Linked To Childhood Trauma.


I have written extensively on this site about the link between the experience of significant childhood trauma and the possible later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD).

One of the leading experts on borderline personality disorder is Martha Linehan (who developed the treatment for BPD known as dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT) and, according to her widely accepted theory, those who have developed BPD as a result of their adverse childhood experiences are often affected by all, or combinations of some, of the following types of DYSREGULATION:

(If we are dysregulated in relation to a quality, it means, in this context, that we have difficulty controlling and managing whatever the specific quality may be.)


Above: DBT has been shown to be an effective therapy for helping people who suffer from BPD and problems connected to various types of dysregulation (see five types below).

The Five Types Of Dysregulation We May Experience If We Have Developed BPD As A Result Of Our Childhood Trauma :

1) Emotional dysregulation:

We may have very volatile emotions that are so powerful we can feel controlled and overtaken by them. We may experience particularly intense and fluctuating emotions in response to our relationships with others, particularly our closest relationships.

Also, we may have difficulty identifying what exactly we are feeling (ie. find it hard to name some emotions we experience) and have problems expressing and experiencing some emotions.

2) Interpersonal dysregulation:

This means we might experience significant difficulties both forming and maintaining relationships with others. We may, too, constantly fear rejection and abandonment, leading to us becoming ‘needy’ and ‘clingy’ which, most sadly, can often cause the very rejection we are trying so ardently to prevent.

We may, too, find our feelings for others often vascillate dramatically from idealisation one minute, to demonization the next, possibly apropos (objectively speaking) very little.

3) Cognitive dysregulation:

This type of dysregulation may lead us to experience dissociation, depersonalisation and paranoia.

 4) Behavioural dysregulation:

Our behaviour may become extremely self – destructive : we may self-harm, attempt suicide, have promiscuous and unsafe sex, take unnecessary risks (such as reckless driving), become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol in a desperate attempt to numb and temporarily escape from overwhelming mental anguish, or develop eating disorders.

5) Self – dysregulation:

We may feel confused as to who we are and have a very poor sense of identity. We may feel different aspects of our personality are not well integrated so we can find ourselves acting in rather one-dimensional ways.

Our self-image can be unstable as can our values. We may be confused as to who we really are and what are beliefs and principals are ( indeed, these may frequently alter).

This can leave us feeling lonely and empty.

To read my article on the therapy devised by Marsha Linehan called dialectical behavioural therapy, click here.


Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).


Dysfunctional Families: Types And Effects


A dysfunctional family is one that has at its core destructive and harmful parenting and a lack of concern for the child. The harmful effects on the child may go completely unacknowledged or be minimized. Often, little or nothing is done to rectify the situation nor to alleviate its adverse effects upon the child.

If the distress caused to the child is severe and long-lasting s/he may develop a psychiatric condition such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which, if not properly treated, may seriously adversely affect the rest of his/her life.



Above: Family members are often unconsciously assigned particular roles.

Types Of Dysfunctional Family :

1) A family in which the mother and/or father are addicted to drugs or alcohol (or who have another psychological addiction).

This may lead to the parent passing out, going missing for extended periods of time, behaving unpredictably, getting out of control or causing the family severe financial hardship.

Children who grow up in such families tend to grow up into distrustful adults who see others as being essentially unreliable.

2) A family in which violence and volatility predominates. Children from such families are at risk of becoming violent and volatile themselves, not least as a result of learned behavior.

3) A family in which the child is forcibly removed from the parents’ care (eg due to bring taken into care or being sentenced to a period of juvenile detention).

4) A family in which the child is used as a ‘pawn’ (eg divorcing parents each trying to turn the child against the other parent). This may include speaking ill of the other parent, limiting the child’s contact with the other parent, preventing the child from seeing the other parent at all or coercing them into rejecting a parent when this is not in the child’s interest.

5) A family in which a parent has a mental illness that adversely impinges upon the child’s own emotional development

6) A family in which the child is overly controlled and a parent makes excessive use of their power.

Apart from the adverse effects upon the child already mentioned, children brought up in such dysfunctional families are also at risk of developing many other problems and difficulties, including depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, irrational self-blame and self-hatred, alcohol and/or drug dependency, an impaired, or even ruined, ability to both give and receive love.

Furthermore, the child may become rebellious and start to behave in anti-social ways eg. getting into fights, vandalizing property, indulging in petty theft,  committing arson, bullying others, dropping out of school.

They may also start behaving self-destructively, self-harm, develop life-long problems with interpersonal relationships, have an elevated risk of attempting suicide as well as lower life expectancy. Also, if they become parents themselves, they may develop their own parenting problems, thus perpetuating the dysfunctional family cycle.

Dysfunctional families which lead to the child having to take on the role of carer (eg before I was a teenager I cared for my mentally unstable mother after the divorce of my parents) can put the child under extreme stress as s/he does not have the emotional maturity to cope. Such children, in effect, have their childhoods ‘stolen’ from them. For more on this, see my article about parentification‘.

Children may also attempt to cope with the enormous stress of growing up in a dysfunctional family by becoming withdrawn.

Compounding this problem, very sadly, they may become the victims of bullies at school due to their vulnerability.

As a result of this, they may grow up to be ‘loners.’

Some children who grow up in abusive households may be at higher risk than average of becoming abusive themselves as adults without the intervention of effective therapy.


Above ebook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here. (Other titles available).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Do You Have Depersonalization Disorder? The Symptoms.


We have already seen that the experience of severe trauma can lead to us reacting (although it is a reaction created by unconscious processes, not a reaction we deliberately choose, of course) by developing a psychological defense mechanism known as depersonalization , which produces in us a sense of ‘unreality’ – as if we are living in a kind of dream world and are strangely detached and disconnected from the real world.

Essentially, it is our mind’s way of protecting us from fully experiencing a reality which has become intolerably psychological painful. However, this ‘protection’ comes at a very heavy price; indeed, I know, from my own personal experience, that the condition of depersonalization itself is very distressing.

In this article, I want to take a detailed look at the main symptoms of this disorder.


The Symptoms Of Depersonalization Disorder:

– the world seems lifeless and colourless. All experiences leave you feeling flat. There is no excitement or pleasure (an inability to experience pleasure is sometimes referred to by psychologists as anhedonia).

– you feel like a ‘detached observer’ of your own life, almost as good if someone else is playing the part of you in a movie that you are watching; you feel you are just going through the motions of living, like a robot or an automaton.

– you have lost the feelings of affection that you once had for your friends and family

– you may laugh and cry but you have ceased to feel the emotions that normally accompany such behaviours

– your head feels empty and devoid of thought and when you speak you feel you don’t know where the words have come from, as if your speech is automated

– your memories don’t feel like your own, as if you never experienced the events that are held in your memory

– you no longer feel fear in connection with things that once would have frightened you, just a numbness

– you are unable to visualize (eg the faces of your friends or family)

– you sometimes feel the need to touch your body in order to confirm you really are a present, physical, existing entity

– you sometimes have the feeling that your hands and/or feet are bigger/smaller than they really are (this is sometimes known as body dysmorphia).

– your body feels as if it is floating

– your body doesn’t feel like your own

– you feel as if you are ‘outside’ of your body


It is not necessary to suffer from all of the above symptoms to be suffering from depersonalization. However, the more symptoms one has, the more intense the symptoms are and the longer they persist the more likely it is that one has the condition.

For more information, including information about possible treatments for depersonalization, click here.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).



Cognitive Hypnotherapy : Combining Hypnosis With CBT


The practice of cognitive hypnotherapy derives from recent discoveries in psychology and studies of the workings of the physical brain (neuroscience).

As can be inferred from the name of the therapy, it is a hybrid of cognitive behavioral therapy (click here to read one of my articles on CBT) and hypnotherapy (click here to read my article on what brain scans reveal about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy).

The use of hypnotherapy is becoming increasingly mainstream. For example, many dentists now use hypnotherapy in order to reduce the anxiety of their patients. Also, it is used by some doctors in connection with certain medical procedures. Likewise, cognitive hypnotherapy is becoming more and more widely used as evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy continues to build up.

Scientific Studies

One study has shown that some individuals, when under hypnosis and told the back of their hand is being rubbed with poison ivy (when, in fact, unknown to the hypnotized individual, this is not true – the back of their hand is, in fact, only rubbed with a completely harmless plant), the hypnotized individual develops a rash anyway.

Another study involved showing hypnotized individuals black and white photographs. However, whilst in the hypnotic state, they were instructed to imagine that the black and white photographs they were looking at were in colour. Brain scans made during this procedure revealed that the brain was indeed responding by processing the visual information as if the photographs really were in colour.


There is also much scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the treatment of many psychological conditions; one of the first to combine CBT with hypnotherapy was Trevor Silvester in 2001; he also included in this new type of hybrid therapy elements of neuro-linguistic programming, cognitive theory and positive psychology.

Cognitive hypnotherapy is usually a relatively short form of therapy, often only requiring a few sessions, and helps people to change their mindset, attitude and style of thinking. Many report improvement after just one session.

To read more of my articles about hypnosis click here.

For self-hypnosis downloads, click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depersonalization: How Trauma Can Leave Us Feeling ‘Unreal.’


One of the (myriad) symptoms of my illness can, perhaps, be best conveyed by the following example : I would look at a beautiful view, such as the sun setting on the horizon of the sea near where I live, but feel nothing. Whilst most people would feel their spirits lifted, glad to be alive, even joyful, I would just experience an emotional deadness and sense of emptiness. In fact, if anything, I would feel even worse than normal – as my inability to feel anything positive would remind me of how utterly devoid of meaning or anything vaguely approaching fulfillment my life had become.

In such situations I would sometimes try to will myself to feel at least a flicker of positive emotion, but it was impossible. It was as if the part of my brain which experiences pleasure had been excised from it by a malevolent and demonic neuro-surgeon.

Similarly, I always preferred rainy days to sunny ones because at least on rainy days there is not so much pressure on one to feel and behave cheerfully.

In short, I was suffering from a condition known as depersonalization.



What Is Depersonalization?

Whilst many people have not heard of the condition of depersonalization, and even many mental health professionals know little about it, depersonalization is, in fact, the third most common mental health condition after depression and anxiety (and people who suffer from depersonalization often suffer from depression and anxiety simultaneously).

It involves one’s sense of self becoming greatly diminished so that the concept of one’s individuality can be lost, leaving a feeling of uncertainty regarding who one actually is.

It also involves a sense of derealization. The world itself feels unreal, purposeless and meaningless. Many sufferers say it is like being in a constant dream state. In my own case, I felt that I was looking at the world through a metre thick, grey tinted, opaque glass. I was outside of things. Disconnected.

Sufferers, too, often describe feeling like an automaton or robot, simply going through the motions in life, but utterly unable to engage with the world emotionally.  Life seems pointless and absurd. The sufferer feels detached from the immediacy of the day-to-day world.

Often, too, as can be inferred from the above, people with the condition feel a profound sense of existential crisis, preoccupied with the meaning (or lack thereof) of existence. They are tormentingly aware of their condition and of the paucity of their experience of the world.

If early childhood, for some, is a magical and joyful time, this condition is its antithesis. One is cast out of Eden to inhabit, if not physical Hell, its psychological equivalent.

Other symptoms include feeling separate from one’s body. Some, too, report that everyday objects can start to seem strange, alien and ethereal.

Meeting people who used to lift our spirits now leave us feeling cold. Even people we considered ourselves to have loved. They can now bring no joy. No comfort. No consolation. It is too late.

Sufferers may be able to laugh and cry, but do not feel the emotions that normally accompany these acts. The world seems flat and two dimensional, as if experienced through a cold and dispiriting fog. One is numb, the emotions shut down. Some report feeling like a zombie – the living dead. Many feel they are going insane.

Causes of the condition are not fully understood, but often it follows severe trauma and protracted exposure to intense stress. As such, it can be seen as the mind detaching itself from reality when the reality can no longer be endured. However, the price of this protective mechanism is a heavy one indeed.

For treatment options, please click on this link.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).