Romanian Orphanage Study : Early Life Neglect Damages Brain

Romanian orphanage study

The Study :

This research studied 125 teenagers who lived in (adoptive) loving and stable families BUT had, as infants, lived in the NEGLECTFUL ENVIRONMENT of ROMANIAN ORPHANAGES (renowned for their extremely poor conditions).

The Findings :

Using brain scanning technology, it was found that these teenagers had brains which contained LESS WHITE MATTER than the brains of a comparison group of comparable teenagers who lived in similar family environments BUT HAD NOT LIVED IN ROMANIAN ORPHANAGES AS INFANTS.

The brain’s white matter is involved in learning and facilitates the communication between different brain regions ; it is located deep within the brain. (Its volume can also be depleted as a result of excessive use of alcohol and aging.)

Romanian orphanage study

Above : Brain scans showing anatomical differences between the brain of a normal three-year-old and that of a three-year-old who has experienced extreme neglect.

Deprivation :

It is suggests that the SENSORY DEPRIVATION that the teenagers experienced as infants in the appalling conditions in which they were kept (‘caretakers’ worked in factory- like shifts and the infants might have up to 17 such carers each week, thus depriving them of sustained, one-to-one, loving contact), anatomically, adversely affected brain regions involved in :

– cognitive processing

– attention

– emotional processing

Specifically, Which Brain Regions Were Damaged?

PET scans (PET scans – or positron emission topography scans – are a type of brain scan) revealed that the main regions of the brain that were damaged by this early life neglect and deprivation were :

– the amygdala

– parts of the hippocampus

– the brain stem

– parts of the prefrontal cortex

– the orbital frontal gyrus

The PET scan revealed that all of the above brain regions had abnormal activity in the teenagers who had lived in the Romanian orphanage during their early lives compared to the comparison group of teenagers.

To read my eBook on how neglect and other forms of childhood trauma can affect the physical development of the brain, click on the image below:

romanian orphanage study

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

 

 

 

 

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BPD, Algopsychalia And Examples Of Specific, Amplified Emotions

algopsychalia

In my last article I wrote about how borderline personality disorder (BPD) sufferers are especially likely to suffer from intense, tormenting, psychological pain, a condition known as algopsychalia. Why is this?

What Are The Possible Causes Of This Pain?

The causes of this pain are highly complex; however, one interesting theory put forward by Schneidman is that algopsychalia comes about as a result of unfulfilled and frustrated psychological needs.

 

What Are These Unfulfilled And Frustrated Psychological Needs?

According to Schneidman, these include :

– affiliation / meaningful connection with others

– love

– personal autonomy / a sense of control over one’s own life

– achievement

– the need to avoid shame

Also, associated with such unfulfilled and frustrated needs, sufferers of BPD experience particularly intense, negative emotions. Indeed, all negative emotions felt by BPD sufferers are, in general, more amplified, and, therefore, generate more psychological pain, than is the case for the ‘average’ person.

Examples Of Amplified Negative Emotions In BPD Sufferers Contributing To Psychological And Emotional Pain :

amplified emotions

  • instead of becoming annoyed or irritated the BPD sufferer may well, instead, fly into an uncontrollable rage and fury from which s/he is not easily able to calm down.
  • instead of mild or moderate embarrassment, the BPD sufferer may experience on overwhelming and profound sense of shame
  • instead of feeling mildly apprehension, the BPD sufferer may experience a severe, full-blown panic attack, complete with hyperventilation and fear of imminent and impending death
  • instead of feeling sadness, the BPD sufferer may suffer a sense of deep and intense grief.

To make the adverse effects of these terribly painful emotions worse still, those suffering from BPD find it very difficult indeed to self-comfort or self-sooth when experiencing such feelings due to early life disruption to the development of certain critical brain regions. (To read my article entitled : ‘Three Critical Brain Regions Harmed By Childhood Trauma’, click here).

RESOURCES :
1) Article about DISTRESS INTOLERANCE – click here

2) Article about DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (a therapy specifically developed to help those suffering from BPD and difficulty controlling their emotions) – click here

3) HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADABLE MP3/CD – CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS -click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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BPD Sufferers Up To Ten Times More Likely To Be Homosexual

 BPD and homosexuality

A study conducted by Reich and Zanarini (2008) involving the interviewing of 362 psychiatric inpatients (290 of whom were suffering from borderline personality disorder ; the remaining 72 were included in the study for comparison purposes and had personality disorders other than BPD).

THE INTERVIEWS :

All of the 362 participants in the study were given interviews in which they were asked about their sexual orientation and the gender of their intimate partners.

RESULTS OF THE INTERVIEWS :

1) Those individuals suffering from BPD were significantly more likely than individuals from the comparison group to identify as having a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation.

2) Those individuals suffering from BPD were significantly more likely than individuals from the comparison group to report having same-sex relationships.

(The above results were not significantly different in relation to whether the interviewee was male or female).

BPD and homosexuality

In another study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it was found that, from a sample of 80 individuals (nineteen of whom were male and sixty-one female) who had been diagnosed with BPD :

  • 21 % were homosexual (this percentage breaks down to 53℅ of the men with BPD and 11% of the women with BPD – quite a gender difference!)
  • 5 ℅ were bisexual
  • 11℅ were diagnosed as having a paraphilia

How Do The Above Figures Compare To The General Population?

According to this study :

Men diagnosed with BPD are TEN TIMES more likely to be homosexual than are men randomly selected from the general population.

Women diagnosed with BPD are SIX TIMES more likely to be homosexual than are women randomly selected from the general population.

The Velvet Rage :

In his book, The Velvet Rage, Alan Downs, PhD, examines the reasons that might explain why gay men are far more prone than straight men to suffering from mental health conditions, including depression, sex addiction, alcohol and drug dependence, as well as being at elevated risk of committing suicide.

In doing so, he suggests that the emotional pain of growing up gay in a predominantly heterosexual world, especially if it encompasses feelings of shame and invalidation, significantly contribute to the development of mental health problems. His book is available from Amazon :

Resource :

Let go of shame

 Let Go Of Shame – Downloadable MP3 / CD – click here.

 

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

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BPD And Algopsychalia

algopsychalia

For several years, unremittingly, I was in a constant state of intense psychological torment. I realize this sounds melodramatic or exaggerated. It isn’t. In fact, no words can fully convey the intensity of the mental anguish from which I suffered.

I would complain to others I had a ‘terrible pain in my head’, neither physical nor solely mental, but some appalling, inarticulable, combination both. I constantly meditated on suicide as an escape : thinking about it, talking about it to anyone who would listen (other psychiatric inpatients when I was in hospital, cab drivers, even, once, when I was in a desperate state, sobbing, to complete strangers in a coffee bar – much to their alarm), planning it, researching how to do it online, buying various items to make it practicable (including, once, a rope with which to hang myself – a surprisingly complex purchase involving considerations of thickness, strength and length) and, more than once, attempting it. Indeed, the knowledge I could escape my pain by suicide was, ironically, the only reason I was able to endure it.

algopsychalia

I told various psychiatrists about this, but, having experienced some psychiatrists to whom it was difficult to warm, I frequently felt paranoid in their presence and believed if I used terms like ‘psychological torment’ and ‘mental torture’ to describe my emotional state they’d regard me as an hysteric prone to exaggeration.

Instead, I used terms like ‘severe mental pain’ or ‘intense mental pain.’ Now, you’d think (would you not?) that that was putting it strongly enough to galvanize them into immediate and fervent therapeutic action. Stunningly, however, the usual response was a blank stare, a barely perceptible nod and a quick Biro jotting in their notebook (although I would not be surprised, in some cases, if they carried out this latter action because they were working on their shopping list at the time).

Another name for the mental anguish I describe is ALGOPSYCHALIA. This condition is particularly prevalent amongst people who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Indeed, research shows that those with BPD are worse affected by algopsychalia than are people with any other personality disorder and/or mood disorder (including bipolar and unipolar depression).

This is, perhaps, why approximately 10% of those suffering from BPD end their lives by suicide and why many, many more BPD suffers unsuccessfully attempt suicide.

It also helps to explain why so many BPD sufferers seek to escape their pain through any means possible, such as overeating, chain-smoking, taking illegal drugs, gambling, compulsive sex and physical self-harm (to detract attention from mental pain and to release endorphins into the brain) amongst other forms of dissociation.

TREATMENT :

There is some research to suggest that several weeks of treatment with paracetomal my help alleviate certain aspects of this mental suffering (this is theorized to be the case because aspects of both physical and mental pain are processed by the same brain regions). Always consult a doctor when considering taking medications to treat BPD and other serious conditions.

Learning, and then regularly practicing, mindfulness has also been shown to be of therapeutic value.

Hypnosis can be utilized to alter the meaning we attribute to pain and, by doing so, alter our perception of it.

 

RESOURCES :

Pain relief Hypnosis for pain relief : click here.

 

 

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

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Hypnosis : Why Some Throw Baby Out With Bath Water

hypnosis

Unfortunately, in the past, hypnosis and hypnotherapy have received a bad press. Why is this? There are, perhaps, three main reasons are :

– Stage hypnotists who claim they are using ‘hypnosis’ to induce volunteers from the audience to do absurd, degrading and demeaning things – in fact, such behaviour is more likely to be play acting or due to the pressure to ‘perform’ once on stage (i.e. compliance with the ‘hypnotist’s’ instructions rather than a genuine, hypnotic response).

– The use of hypnosis to ‘regress people into past lives’

– The use of hypnosis by poorly trained therapists to inadvertently instill false memories of abuse into their patients’ minds during attempted retrieval of ‘buried memories of abuse’ (hypnosis should not normally be used to try to unearth ‘buried memories’ from patients’ minds due to the patients’ high state of suggestibility whilst under hypnosis – to read my article about hypnosis and attempted retrieval of ‘buried memories,’ click here).

hypnosis

However, despite the above, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bath water when trying to ascertain the effectiveness of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Indeed, both the British and the American Medical Associations now recognize hypnosis and hypnotherapy as a valid treatment for psychological problems (for example, addictions, eating disorders and phobias).

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence to show how powerful the effect of hypnosis can be in bypassing our conscious awareness to have a profound influence on our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs. For example, individuals can be hypnotized to see black and white images as if they were in colour (click here to read my article about this experiment).

Other research has found individuals can use hypnosis to alter their body temperature and blood flow, as well as reduce their experience of physical pain (Casiglia, University of Padua, Italy).

Such studies suggest that hypnosis may be more than ‘just’ a highly focused and relaxed state and that, when hypnotized, something significant and special is going on in the brain which allows us to achieve things over and above what we can achieve using our non-hypnotized brain.

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

 

 

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Symptoms Of Dissociation : Mild And Severe

symptoms of dissociation

If we have suffered significant childhood trauma, we may, as adults, frequently find ourselves in various states of dissociation, ranging from mild to severe. Indeed, dissociation is a key feature of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (Cptsd).

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Dissociation’?

Dissociation is a symptom of the effects of childhood trauma which we developed as a defense mechanism in order to better equip us to cope with the emotionally painful and destructive environment in which we grew up. It is a way of mentally escaping and psychologically cutting off from reality; it is sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘zoning out’ or ‘tuning out’.

Dissociation And Flooding :

We are particularly likely to dissociate when we feel overwhelmed, or ‘flooded’, by stress and psychological threat. Symptoms of dissociation can range from mild to severe. I outline examples of such symptoms below:

symptoms of dissociation

Mild symptoms include:

– feeling in a daze (sometimes referred to as ‘mind fog’),

– feeling utterly exhausted, numb and soporific for no obvious reason,

– finding oneself tongue-tied when trying to talk about difficult experiences (as if experiencing a kind of mental block).

 

More severe symptoms include:

– amnesia for certain events, or large periods of time, in one’s life (for example, I have no memory whatsoever of large chunks of my childhood) – such ‘dissociative amnesia’ far exceeds normal forgetfulness.

time loss : an individual may suddenly find him/herself in a particular place, with no memory of how s/he got there, unable to remember anything that has occurred in the recent past (eg the last few hours or days)

feeling very out of control (eg uncontrollably angry)

– periods of apparent deafness (at my first school, when things were at their worst at home between my parents, at times I did not respond to my name being called out in class – the school thought I was suffering from deafness; in fact, though, the cause was deep psychological trauma. This is certain as it became apparent this ‘deafness’ only occurred when the class was discussing parents/family matters or associated topics).

symptoms of association

 

Dissociation And Switching:

Some people dissociate when under extreme stress (ie when ‘flooded’, see above) in a way that almost resembles ‘changing personality’; this is referred to as ‘switching’.

In fact, it is NOT a literal switch of personality, but a switch of ego states/states of consciousness sometimes referred to by psychologists as ‘parts’ or ‘alters.’

Studies suggest that nearly all people who suffer such switching have experienced severe early life trauma. It is NOT a genetic disorder.

When a person switches due to stress, they switch from the ego state/state of consciousness/part/alter that s/he relies on for his/her day-to-day functioning to the ego state/state of consciousness/part/alter that is normally dissociated/’kept in a separate compartment’ in mind (it is this separation that allows the individual to function daily, by preventing the feelings in the dissociated part from interfering in it).

This dissociated part contains profoundly painful trauma related feelings such as fear, shame and anger.

 

Can dissociation be treated?

The short answer is, YES.

Individuals can be helped by becoming aware of the link between their childhood trauma and the dissociated part of their mind that they switch to when under severe stress.

As well as this, individuals suffering from dissociation can be enormously helped by learning the skills of mindfulness. Mindfulness, essentially, helps a person to live in the present/the ‘here and now’, rather than staying trapped in the past.

RESOURCES :

Excellent site about MINDFULNESS – mindfulness.org

eBook :

childhood trauma and homosexuality

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

 

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

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Why Some Individuals ‘Bounce Back’ And Thrive After Trauma

thriving after trauma

I have already published many articles on this site showing how significant and protracted trauma during childhood can lead to the development of a complex form of post traumatic stress disorder in later life. But some ‘bounce back’ and even go on to thrive.

Interest in post traumatic stress disorder really took of in the 1980s and, during the 1990s, researchers noted that whilst post traumatic stress disorder shattered many lives, some individuals eventually found that their lives were enhanced following their traumatic experience. This may, at first, seem counter-intuitive, so I explain how this how positive transformation following trauma may come about.

Researchers O’Leary and Ickovics developed a categorization system to highlight the difference between individual responses to trauma. This system involved four categories :

Category One – Succumbed :

Those who had their ability to function in life devastated were said by O’Leary and Ickovics to have ‘succumbed’. (NB. this word is in no way a suggestion that individuals who who fall into this category are in anyway weak or deficient in any way whatsoever – after all, everyone’s life and ability to function can be devastated by trauma; nobody is immune).

Category Two – Survival With Impairment :

This second category represents those who, after their traumatic experiences, were able to resume some semblance of their former lives, but were not able to function as well as they had previously.

Category ThreeResilient :

This category comprises those individuals who were resilient enough to the effects of their traumatic experiences to carry on with their lives with a similar level of functioning to that displayed previously.

Category FourThrive :

Individuals in the fourth and final group were actually able to become more fulfilled in life, and function at a higher level, than prior to their traumatic experiences.

bounce back

Why Are Some Individuals Able To Bounce Back And Thrive As A Result Of Their Traumatic Experiences?

As one might very well expect, psychological researchers quickly became very interested in trying to discover just exactly what factors were at play that allowed some people to actually improve their quality of life as a result of their traumatic experiences.

Research carried out to date suggests that about seven out of ten people who have experienced significant trauma derive at least some benefit to their lives as a result.

Those who are more resilient are likely to benefit most from their experience of trauma. So what factors help to make a person resilient?

Factors That Help A Person To Be Resilient:

Research suggests that the following factors help a person to be resilient to the adverse effects of trauma :

– on optimistic nature

– a high level of self-esteem

– a sense of humour

– strong relationships / secure attachments with significant others

– the ability to be capable of trusting others

– a sense of one’s own control (psychologists refer to this as having an internal locus of control)

– a strong sense of self-reliance / self a sufficiency / perceived ability to cope / resourcefulness

– good interpersonal / social skills

In What Ways May People’s Lives Improve After Trauma?

First, the experience of significant trauma can help the individual to put the smaller problems in life into their proper perspective.

Second, because the love and support of others is so crucial to recovery from trauma, many come to more fully appreciate the vital importance of their relationships with others, which, in turn, can make them work harder to maintain and strengthen such relationships. (This may not be applicable to all trauma survivors, such as those with Asperger’s syndrome)

Third, by surviving significant trauma, many individuals gain a new sense of their inner strength in a similar way to how a person who gets through an SAS training course may gain a strong belief in their powers of endurance.

A final example of how a person’s life may actually be enhanced by surviving trauma is a greater appreciation of life in general, the development of a more helpful ‘philosophy of life’ and a strong desire to make the most of every single day.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Emotionally Unresponsive Parents

emotionally unresponsive parents

My parents divorced when I was eight and I spent much time between then and the age of thirteen acting as my mother’s ‘psychological counselor.’ As I have written about elsewhere, she even referred to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’

As I have also written about elsewhere, she permanently expelled me from her house when I was thirteen, and I went to live with my father and stepmother, neither of whom wanted me there and did little to hide these sentiments. My father told me, on the day I moved in, that : ‘ [ I ] had to understand that when my step-mother married [him] she did not realize [I’d] be part of the package.’

Not being totally devoid of intelligence or sensitivity as a child, I immediately understood the chilling implications of this statement. Essentially, I spent the next several years being ignored and the sense I was not wanted pervaded the core of my very being on a daily basis. Indeed, had I gone to live with penguins in the Artic, subsisting on a diet of raw fish, I would have received a warmer welcome.

Above : How I might have looked, as a boy, being welcomed to the Artic by a penguin.

Emotional neglect :

When emotional neglect or abuse happens on a daily basis and continues over years the effect is insidious. Often, too, such neglect and abuse is conveyed in subtle ways that are difficult for a child to pin down, fully comprehend or articulate; the child may ‘just’ have an overwhelming sense of being unloved, disliked and unwanted. Indeed, many signals of rejection may only register on an unconscious level which, in fact, can make their effect more, rather than less, devastating.

Living in such an environment utterly devoid of warmth or love, the child’s self-esteem and self-respect are gradually eroded away just as surely as the icily cold, relentless waves of the sea eventually grind a small, once shiny, pebble into sand; as a person, one disintegrates.

Pathogenic Relational Environments:

Wright et all (2009) coined the phrase ‘pathogenic relational environment’ to describe households such as the ones in which I lived as a child. ‘Pathogenic’ means ‘giving rise to illness.’ Indeed, growing up in an emotionally abusive and/or emotionally neglectful environment puts the child at increased risk of developing a large array of mental and physical illnesses and conditions in later life, including borderline personality disorder (BPD), complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD), anxiety, depression, obesity, eating disorders, conduct disorders, heart disease and cancer, to mention only a few.

What Is Meant By ‘Emotional Unresponsiveness?’

Parents who are emotionally unresponsive display little or no warmth or affection towards their children, including not developing an appropriate tactile relationship with the child (e.g. never hugging him/her).

Emotionally unresponsive parents tend to interact as little as possible with the child, barely speaking to him/her or even largely ignoring him/her. Such parents may, too, try to actively avoid their child.

Also, these parents show little or no interest in the child (e.g. the child’s hobbies, friends, sports and schoolwork) and offer him/her little emotional support or guidance.

In terms of discipline, this type of parent may favour giving their child the ‘silent treatment.’ (Click here to read my article about parents giving their child the ‘silent treatment.’)
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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