Category Archives: Anger And Violence

High Conflict Personality (HCP) Link to Child Trauma

childhood trauma fact sheet111 - High Conflict Personality (HCP) Link to Child Trauma

High Conflict Personality

Individuals who suffer from the condition of High Conflict Personality (HCP) will often have an underlying personality disorder which falls into the CLUSTER B range (dramatic, emotional and erratic). I have already written a short article about personality disorder clusters – if you would like to read it, please click here. It is quite possible, therefore, that the individual may also suffer from anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or histrionic personality disorder.

Sometimes, however, the person with High Conflict Personality (HCP) may not obviously fall into any of these specific categories, in which case he or she may, instead, be diagnosed with what has been technically termed : ‘personality disorder not otherwise specified’.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH CONFLICT PERSONALITY (HCP)?

These include :

– feeling easily threatened

– tendency to see things in ‘black and white’ (eg ‘good’ or ‘bad’)

– generally untrusting

– tends to view self as victim

– tends to be controlling

highly emotional

highly aggressive

– has marked difficulty accepting blame

– finds it hard to see things from others’ points of view/perspective

– reluctance to take responsibility

– frequently initiates/escalates conflict

– conflict tends to be a very prominent feature of their relationships

– marked tendency to blame others

Often, High Conflict Personality (HCP) is used as a descriptive term rather than as a formal diagnosis.

How Can High Conflict Personality (HCP) Be Treated?

At present, the main treatments are :

– cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) ; click here to read my article on this

– dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) ; click here to read my article on this

– neurofeedback

hypnotherapy

To download a hypnotherapy audio for ANGER CONTROL  click here.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (I.E.M.) and Childhood Trauma.

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This disorder, which is listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a manual which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness and provides the diagnostic criteria (ie relevant symptoms) by which diagnosis of the specific psychiatric condition is made, is, as the name implies, related to problems a person has with controlling his/her anger.

anger - Intermittent Explosive Disorder (I.E.M.) and Childhood Trauma.

According to the DSM, the symptoms of IED are as follows :

1) Several episodes of being unable to suppress impulses of intense anger which leads to serious aggressive acts such as assault and destruction of property

2) The high intensity of the aggression displayed during these episodes is clearly out of proportion to the precipitating event (ie the event that triggered the aggression)

3) The episodes of aggression are not better explained by other mental conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anti-social personality disorder.

HOW COMMON IS IED IN THE GENERAL POPULATION?

Research into this area so far suggests that around 5% of the population may suffer from IED during some period of their life-span. Not infrequently, the disorder first appears during adolescence.

Often, too, the disorder will exist co-morbidly (ie together with/alongside) other mental health conditions.

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WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF IED?

IED can very adversely affect many crucial areas of the sufferer’s life, which include : relationships with family, relationships with friends, reputation, career prospects and even freedom (if the uncontrolled aggression results in an incident which leads to being sent to jail). Clearly, then, a person who suffers from IED urgently requires treatment in order to prevent him/her from potentially ruining his/her own life. But in order to treat it, of course, it is first necessary to understand what causes it. In relation to this quest, research has focused on childhood trauma.

WHAT HAS THIS RESEARCH SHOWN?

Research indicates that the experience of childhood trauma, particularly childhood trauma connected to problematic (ie dysfunctional) relationships with parents/carers is the strongest predictor of the development of IED in adulthood. It is thought that the reason for this is that, as a result of such trauma, the affected individual does not learn how to manage his/her emotions nor how to manage the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.

Neurological issues may also be related to IED ; however, I should point out that such issues may themselves have been caused by the childhood trauma – further research into this is necessary.

POSSIBLE THERAPIES FOR IED :

These include :

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Click here for my article on this.

Trauma Focused CBT. Click here for my article on this.

RESOURCES:

ANGER MANAGEMENT MP3 – CLICK HERE

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: Its Relationship to Psychopathy.

Childhood Trauma And Psychopathy

What is the nature of the relationship between childhood trauma and psychopathy?

The term ‘psychopath’ is often used by the tabloid press. In fact, the diagnosis of ‘psychopath’ is no longer given – instead, the term ‘anti-social personality disorder’ is generally used.

When the word ‘psychopath’ is employed by the press, it tends to be used for its ‘sensational’ value to refer to a cold-blooded killer who may (or may not) have a diagnosis of mental illness.

It is very important to point out, however, that it is extremely rare for a person who is suffering from mental illness to commit a murder; someone suffering from very acute paranoid schizophrenia may have a delusional belief that others are a great danger to him/her (this might involve, say, terryfying hallucinations) and kill in response to that – I repeat, though, such events are very rare indeed: mentally ill people are far more likely to be a threat to themselves than to others (eg through self-harming, substance abuse or suicidal behaviours).

The word psychopath actually derives from Greek:

psych = mind

pathos = suffering

Someone who is a ‘psychopath’ (ie has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder) needs to fulfil the following criteria:

– inability to feel guilt or remorse
– lack of empathy
– shallow emotions
– inability to learn from experience in relation to dysfunctional behaviour

Often, psychopaths will possess considerable charisma, intelligence and charm; however, they will also be dishonest, manipulative and bullying, prepared to employ violence in order to achieve their aims.

As ‘psychopaths’ reach middle-age, fewer and fewer of them remain at large in society due to the fact that by this time they are normally incarcerated or dead from causes such as suicide, drug overdose or violent incidents (possibly by provoking a ‘fellow psychopath’ to murder them). However, it has also been suggested that some possess the skills necessary to integrate themselves into society (mainly by having decision making skills which enable this and operating in an context suited to their abilities, for example where cold judgment and ruthlessness are an advantage) and become very, even exceptionally, successful; perhaps it comes as little surprise, then, that they are thought to tend to be statistically over-represented in, for example, politics and in CEO roles (think Monty Burns from The Simpsons, though I’m aware he’s not real. Obviously.).

WHAT KINDS OF CHILDHOODS HAVE ADULT ‘PSYCHOPATHS’ HAD?

Research shows that ‘psychopaths’ tend to be a product of ENVIRONMENT rather than nature – ie they are MADE rather than born. They also tend to have suffered horrendous childhoods either at the hands of their own parent/s or those who were supposed to have been caring for them – perhaps suffering extreme violence or neglect.

Post-mortem studies have revealed that they frequently have underdeveloped regions of the brain responsible for the governing of emotions; IT APPEARS THAT THE SEVERE MALTREATMENT THAT THEY RECEIVED AS CHILDREN IS THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OF THE PHYSICAL UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF THESE VITAL BRAIN REGIONS. It is thought that these brain abnormalities lead to a propensity in the individual to SEEK OUT RISK, DANGER and similar STIMULATION (including violence).

IS THE PSYCHOPATHY TREATABLE?

Whilst there are those who consider the condition to be untreatable, many others, who are professionally involved in its study, are more optimistic. Indeed, some treatment communities have been set up to help those affected by the condition take responsibility for their actions and face up to the harm they have caused. Research is ongoing in order to assess to what degree intervention by mental health services can be effective.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Violence. Part Two.

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It is possible that even just one, short-lived, traumatic event experienced in childhood, particularly in very early childhood, can prove so overwhelming that it leads to intense emotional suffering. Much research has been conducted upon this, and, to use just one example, a study by Pincus has demonstrated that just about all violent adult criminals have, as children, undergone extreme psychological trauma leading to such intense emotional suffering which has a dramatic impact on their subsequent psychological and physiological development and thus on their behaviour as adults.

It is because the trauma is UNRESOLVED (ie. the individual who experienced it has not processed and worked through it with the help of professional psychotherapeutic intervention) that its effect continues to be played out, all too frequently, through violent behaviour.

ALTERED PHYSIOLOGY.

In such individuals, the instinctive, internal ‘fight’ response is far more easily triggered, and, indeed, far more intensely triggered, when the individual who has experienced childhood trauma perceives himself to be faced with a threat. Due to the unresolved trauma, the PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE TO THREAT ALSO REMAINS UNRESOLVED. In fact, the individual’s nervous system is perpetually in a state of HYPER-AROUSAL: expecting threat, perceiving threat everywhere, and, on a hair-trigger, ready to fight.

In essence, the individual is trapped in the moment when they did not release the aggressive energy in response to the original trauma/s. This pent-up aggressive energy, then, is condemned, repeatedly, to express itself in adulthood in the form of various types of emotions; these include anger, hatred and rage.

Until the trauma is properly resolved, the individual, unconsciously, becomes trapped in a cycle of attempting to resolve the trauma through compulsive reenactment; we reenact the original trauma in a manner which is closely linked to that original trauma. For example, a child who was exposed to a lot of aggression, hostility or violence is quite likely, as an adult, to be repeatedly drawn into violent situations.

Far from this reenactment resolving the trauma, it actually perpetuates its effects. However, because the behaviour is being driven by largely unconscious motivations, the individual reenacting the trauma is very often powerless to alter his automatic responses to triggers such as perceived threat ( the threat, due to the individual’s hyper-aroused nervous system, often being over-estimated or, even, imagined).

THE GOOD NEWS.

This is all very depressing. However, despite the fact it has been believed, in the past, that extreme trauma leading to cyclical violence could not be cured, because, it was thought, the brain had been irreversably damaged by the original emotional trauma (producing constant feelings of depression, anxiety and rage), more up-to-date research is suggesting that pathological symptoms resulting from trauma do NOT have to be caused by actual physical brain damage (ie. they can be caused by trauma which has not physically damaged the brain) and that when the trauma is effectively resolved through therapy the individual’s nervous system can return to normal and, thus, greatly improve the individual’s behaviour.

There is most certainly hope, then, for even the most severely traumatized amongst us.

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Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Violence. Part One.

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A research study (Fonagy et al., 1997) showed that 90% of young offenders had suffered significant childhood trauma, including both abuse and loss (eg. of a parent through divorce). Neglect in childhood was also a very significant factor in greatly increasing the risk of later violent offending. Violent offending following such trauma is sometimes referred to as ‘acting out’.

THE EFFECTS OF LOSS DURING CHILDHOOD.

The psychologist Bowlby (1969) studied the effects of loss in childhood (eg. through parental divorce). He demonstrated that it very often led to the child responding by passing through three stages:

1) PROTEST (due to SEPARATION ANXIETY).

2) DESPAIR (due to grief over the loss. NB. The loss need not be due to death).

3) EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT (a defense mechanism).

Following loss, if the child is not treated sympathetically and emotionally supported, his or her response to the loss can become pathological.

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TYPES OF LOSS.

Two types of loss that the child might experience are death of a parent or parental divorce. But a feeling of loss can, in fact, be just as damaging (or, indeed, even more damaging) following less overt forms of loss. For example:

-parental rejection
-parental threats to abandon the child
-parental neglect/lack of emotional involvement
-parental abuse
-parents not giving the child love

Later work by Bowlby (1979) has shown that children often ‘re-experience’ their childhood loss in later life when faced with further separation and loss, or the threat of it, in their adult relationships. This may be expressed by the individual ‘re-experiencing’ his or her feelings of childhood loss by reacting with violence, anger and hatred.

Furthermore, these dysfunctional response patterns are resistant to change as the individual’s perception of adult relationships becomes distorted by their experience of childhood loss (in essence, leading to error-correcting information being defensively and selectively excluded from consciousness).

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND LATER DIFFICULTIES REGULATING INTERNAL STATES/EMOTIONS.

Further research (Van der Kolk et al., 1995) has shown that childhood trauma can lead to the individual experiencing a deep feeling of terror which he or she is unable to articulate; this in turn leads to the individual experiencing extreme problems in relation to regulating internal states/emotions. Indeed, this dysfunction is biological in origin, as the biological state of the individual has been adversely affected by the childhood trauma.

HABITUAL AND REPETITIVE RELATIONSHIP DIFFICULTIES (ATTACHMENT DISORDER) IN ADULT LIFE FOLLOWING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

It has also been demonstrated by research that, following loss-related childhood trauma, the individual’s adult relationships very frequently induce great feelings of insecurity (‘attachment insecurity’/attachment disorder/attachment anxiety) in later life and that these reponses to interpersonal relationships become repetitive and habitual.This can, and, often does, lead the individual to adopt dysfunctional coping strategies including alcohol and drug misuse, violence and crime.

 

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery