Category Archives: Bpd Articles

Feelings Of Emptiness : A System To Reduce Them

reducing feelings of emptiness

It is extremely common for those of uswho have suffered severe childhood trauma, especially if we’ve gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a consequence, to experience feelings of profound despair and emptiness – this involves feeling that life is utterly devoid of meaning or purpose and a general sense of being emotionally numb or ‘dead inside.’

Such feelings of emptiness are also symptomatic of clinical depression and anhedonia (a condition that prevents one from being able to experience any feelings of pleasure), both of which illnesses are associated with the person suffering from them having undergone early life trauma).

How We Attempt To Cope With Feelings Of Emptiness In Dysfunctional Ways :

Dysfunctional ways of trying to lessen feelings of emptiness include the following :

  • overeating
  • drinking too much
  • harmful use of narcotics
  • smoking
  • overspending / compulsive shopping
  • overuse of internet / social media
  • overuse of computer games
  • gambling
  • promiscuous sex
  • inappropriately gaining attention of others (e.g. by getting angry, over-caretaking, being a compulsive ‘people-pleaser’, blaming others)

The Link Between Feelings Of Emptiness And Self-Abandonment :

Feelings of emptiness have been linked to the concept known as self-abandonment. Self-abandonment is characterized by extreme self-judgment, ignoring / not paying proper attention to one’s feelings and emotions, dissociation, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-compassion.

Developmental And Systems Approach For Reducing Feelings Of Emptiness :

Charles Wang M.D, developed a therapeutic system to address feelings of emptiness called the Developmental And Systems Approach.

Initially, this system was developed to help to quickly stabilize psychiatric inpatients.

The system focuses on five key areas :

  1. The patient is helped to understand that feelings of profound emptiness are at the root of many of his/her problems
  2. The patient is helped to form a more accurate sense of his/her relationship with others with whom s/he interacts
  3. The patient is encouraged to understand the underlying causes of his/her ‘acting out‘ behaviours
  4. The patient is encouraged to accept that s/he is in a state of deep emotional pain in order to help to motivate him/her to undergo treatment
  5. The patient is empowered to undergo this treatment

As well as helping to reduce feelings of emptiness, Wang’s Developmental And Systems Approach also seeks to help individuals develop feelings of trust and security.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Vital Environmental Factors That Can Prevent Recovery From PTSD And BPD

 

borderline personality disorder environmental factors

If, as a result of childhood trauma, we have developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD) our post-traumatic environment can have an extremely strong impact upon our chances of recovery. I list some particularly important factors below :

  • LACK OF SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS, FAMILY AND THE WIDER COMMUNITY / SOCIETY

If we are not provided with such support, but, instead, are shunned and ignored, it is highly likely that our feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability and isolation will be intensified.

Support needs to be non-judgmental, empathic and validating both of our emotional pain and also of our interpretation of how our adverse experiences have affected us.

Also, those providing the support need to be ’emotionally literate’ (i.e. able and willing to discuss feelings and emotions in a compassionate and understanding manner)

  • NOT BEING BELIEVED

Obviously, if people we talk to about our traumatic experiences don’t believe what we are saying or believe we are exaggerating the seriousness of what happened to us (or the seriousness of the effect it has had upon us) our psychological condition is likely to be severely aggravated : our lack of self-esteem, sense of despair, sense of worthlessness, sense of unlovability, feelings of isolation and any feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment we may have are all likely to be severely intensified.

  •  SECONDARY VICTIMIZATION

We need to avoid those who would cause us secondary victimization. Secondary victimization occurs when those who ought to be helping us instead harm us further. Indeed, the example of not being believed (see above) is one such form of secondary victimization.

Other examples of secondary victimization include :

having a doctor who minimizes / trivializes the seriousness of what has occurred to us and its effects

– being stigmatized by society for having developed a psychiatric condition

– being shunned and ostracized by friends / family due to our condition

– being made to feel ashamed in connection with what has happened to us and its effects

– having the vulnerable nature we have developed as a result of our mental condition exploited by an intimate partner (the risk of this is especially high as those who have suffered significant abuse in their early lives are frequently (on an unconscious level) driven to seek out intimate partners who are likely to abuse them further (this is sometimes referred to as a repetition compulsion).

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

 

 

 

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BPD, Object Relations Theory And Splitting.

BPD, object relations theory, splitting

The OBJECTS RELATIONS THEORY of borderline personality disorder was proposed by Kohut at the beginning of the 1970s and is a modern psychoanalytic theory.

Object Relations Theory states that BPD can be traced back to an individual’s early (from the age of approximately 18 months to 36 months) dysfunctional relationship with his/her mother.

What Is The Nature Of This Dysfunctional Relationship Between The Infant And The Mother?

According to Kohut, the problem lies in how the mother relates to the infant :

  • she reinforces the infant’s ‘clingy’, ‘dependent’ and ‘regressive’ behaviour

BUT

  • withdraws love and affection when the child attempts to assert his/her individuality and separate personality

The result of this dysfunctional interaction between the mother and child is that the child develops a confusion about where the psychological boundary lies between him/herself and his/her mother.

This confusion, in turn, leads to yet more confusion in that the child goes on to have problems identifying the psychological boundaries that lie between him/her and others in general.

Abandonment Depression :

The mother’s tendency to withdraw her love from the child when s/he attempts to assert his/her separate personality and individuality causes the child to experience ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION and s/he is likely to be plagued by this depression throughout his/her life (Masterson, 1981).

SPLITTING :

Such early experiences contribute towards the individual developing a perception of other people as being either ALL GOOD or ALL BAD (Kernberg); in other words, s/he sees others in terms of black and white – there are no shades of grey.

‘GOOD’ people are seen as people who will keep the individual ‘safe’, whereas ‘BAD’ people are seen as ones who will re-trigger his/her early experience of ABANDONMENT DEPRESSION.

THIS PHENOMENON IS KNOWN AS ‘SPLITTING’ AND OPERATES ON AN UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL.

However, whether s/he perceives another as ‘ALL GOOD’ or ‘ALL BAD’ does not stay constant; his/her perception of others FLUCTUATES FROM ONE POLAR OPPOSITE TO THE OTHER (this is technically known as lacking ‘object constancy’).

Thus, an individual suffering from BPD may, at times, behave as if s/he ‘loves and adores’ another but, then, suddenly and dramatically, switch to behaving as if s/he ‘hates and despises’ this same individual, without objective reason.

Needless to say, this can be highly confusing and bewildering from the perspective of the person on the receiving end of such wildly and unpredictably vacillating emotions.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

‘Distress Intolerance’ : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

distress intolerance

The term DISTRESS INTOLERANCE refers to a frame of mind in which we consider the mental pain, anguish or discomfort we are experiencing to be UTTERLY INTOLERABLE AND UNBEARABLE so that we become frantic and desperate to avoid it/escape it.

The emotions we feel unable to tolerate usually belong to three main categories; these are:

  1. Emotions connected to sadness (such as depression, shame and guilt)
  2. Emotions connected to fear (such as dread, anxiety and terror)
  3. Emotions connected to anger (such as hatred, rage and frustration)

Those who have suffered severe childhood trauma, especially if, as a result, they have gone on to develop Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), tend to feel emotions particularly intensely, tend to have impaired ability to control their emotions, and tend not to be adept at self-soothing/ self-comforting/ self-compassion and are therefore much more likely to suffer from DISTRESS INTOLERANCE than the average person.

Unsurprisingly,the more we tell ourselves our feelings are unbearable and intolerable, the more difficult they become to manage. In effect, we start to feel bad about the fact that we feel bad. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as meta-worry (worrying about the fact that we worry) and adds a superfluous layer of suffering to our already less than optimal mood state.

A simple example of such meta-worrying would be:

‘My constant worrying is ruining my life.’  (but doing nothing to address one’s worrying)

 

THE PARADOX OF TRYING TO ESCAPE AND ‘RUN AWAY’ FROM OUR MENTAL DISTRESS

Counter-intuitively, research suggests that when we mentally struggle hard to stop feeling our emotional distress, frequently the effect is actually to intensify it (rather like thrashing about in quick sand – we just sink deeper in).

HOW OUR BELIEF SYSTEM IS LINKED TO OUR STRESS INTOLERANCE :

Individuals who find distress very difficult to tolerate tend to have a set of beliefs that contribute to this intolerance; such beliefs may include :

  • it is essential I rid myself of these feelings immediately
  • these feelings are going to send me permanently insane
  • these feelings mean I’m a weak and pathetic person
  • these feelings are completely unacceptable

Such beliefs are sometimes referred to as catastrophizing beliefs and worsen our psychological state; cognitive therapy can help us to reduce catastrophizing thoughts.

 

HOW WE TRY TO ESCAPE OUR MENTAL DISTRESS

Three ways in which we try to escape our mental distress are as follows:

  • avoidance
  • dissociation (self-numbing)
  • self-harm

Lets look at each of these in turn:

1) AVOIDANCE :

For example, avoiding social situations due to social anxiety or avoiding going outside due to agoraphobia.

2) DISSOCIATING /SELF- NUMBING :

People may try to achieve this by using alcohol, drugs or overeating

3) SELF-HARM :

For example, some people cut themselves in an attempt to release emotional distress; this may be because the physical pain detracts from the psychological pain and/or because physical self-harm releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killers) into the brain.

 

WHY THESE METHODS DON’T WORK :

There are obvious problems with these methods which I list below :

  • whilst they may afford some short-term relief their long-term effects are damaging
  • relying in negative coping methods such as those detailed above erodes self-esteem and increases feelings of depression
  • continually ‘running away from’ and desperately trying to avoid difficulties means one never provides oneself with the opportunity to learn how to deal with them effectively or how to cope with distress using healthier methods
  • by constantly avoiding distressing emotions (e.g. by using drugs and alcohol) one deprives oneself of the opportunity to put one’s catastrophic beliefs (see above) to the test (e,g. the catastrophic belief that one’s feelings of distress are intolerable) and, hopefully, prove them to be inaccurate.

 

 

LEARNING DISTRESS TOLERANCE :

By learning to interpret distress differently (e.g. by changing our catastrophizing belief system in relation to distressing feelings) and how to develop healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable/difficult emotions we can start to put together a set of skills which will help us to cultivate distress tolerance (SEE RESOURCE BELOW).

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Controlling Anger And Other Emotions

controlling anger

We have seen that significant, protracted childhood trauma, particularly if it leads us to develop borderline personality disorder or complex post traumatic stress disorder, can result in us having extreme difficulty controlling our emotions, such as anger and anxiety, as adults : in psychological terms, we are at risk of developing emotional dysregulation.

Sometimes, intense emotions become so painful that, as a defense mechanism, we shut our these feelings down (we may do this deliberately by using alcohol and drugs, or it might happen automatically – in the latter case we are said to be dissociating).

REASONS SOME INDIVIDUALS KEEP THEIR EMOTIONS ‘BURIED.’

Some people try to keep their emotions ‘buried’ (suppressed). There can be a number of reasons for this, including:

– growing up in a household in which any display of emotions and feelings was considered a sign of weakness or ‘not the done thing’

– being in an occupation in which displays of emotions are not encouraged e.g.police, military

– fear of losing respect

– fear of losing control

THE PROBLEM OF SUPPRESSED FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS:

However, keeping feelings and emotions buried takes up large amounts of mental energy and means they tend to be kept simmering beneath the surface, building up pressure and ready to explode.

And, very often, the emotion of anger is the one that is nearest to the surface, and therefore the one that is most frequently experienced and expressed.

HOWEVER, anger very often conceals, and has its primary roots in, the fundamental emotions of FEAR and HURT.

So, in fact, very often, when we express anger, what we are really expressing is this fear and hurt; to put it concisely:


OUR FEAR AND HURT IS MASQUERADING AS ANGER.


 

Acknowledging Our True, Authentic Feelings And Having The Courage To Express Them:

It is therefore necessary to become aware of the real feelings behind our anger, feelings that are likely to be intensely painful and that we have preferred not to acknowledge (or even not allowed ourselves to become consciously aware of) and to start the process of expressing them, understanding their origins, working through them and resolving them (ideally with a highly trained, professional therapist).

By getting in touch with our feelings beneath our anger, and working through them therapeutically, we can reduce or overcome outbursts of rage, self-destructive behavior and bodily complaints such as fatigue.

If we do not get in touch with feelings such as hurt and fear (completely normal emotions that everyone experiences to one degree or another), but instead keep them ‘locked out’ and ‘buried’ , we pay the very high price of not being able to get in touch with, experience or express positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, too. Our aim is to feel comfortable with all our emotions and to channel them constructively.

What We Can Do To Help Ourselves To Control Our Emotions :

In order to control our emotions we can apply certain skills, such as:

– learning to identify what we are feeling and linguistically label our emotions e.g. ‘anger’, ‘fear’ etc – when we verbally name our emotions and describe them in spoken (or, indeed, written) language we are more likely to be able to control them and are less likely to act them out.

– acknowledge and accept emotions nonjudgmentally (as taught through mindfulness).

– change our thinking. Our feelings are connected to our thinking processes – consider trying cognitive therapy which can help retrain our thinking style and which, in turn, can lead to much improved emotional experiences.

eBook:

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Resources:

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Emotionally Unstable Parents

The intense and costantly and dramatically fluctuating moods of the emotionally unstable parent permeate and dominate the household and can overwhelm the child, particularly when the intense emotions the parent is expressing are especially destructive ones such as hatred or suicidal despair.

Because the parent’s intense, destructive emotions are so unpredictable and can emerge ‘out of the blue’ the child can be made to feel constantly trepidatious, anxious or fearful, never knowing what to expect.

By definition, the emotionally unstable parent has great difficulty controlling his/her emotions; lack of control over one’s emotions is sometimes referred to as emotional dysregulation

This emotional dysregulation is likely to be most apparent when the individual is under stress (including minor stress that the majority of people would easily be capable of tolerating with relative equanimity).

Emotionally unstable patents often regard themselves as victims. Also, some may frequently use threats in order to manipulate others (without much in the way of guilt due to their lack of empathy).

Some may be suffering from personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.

Children who grow up with such parents tend to become psychologically insecure due, in large part, to the the inconsistency and unreliability of the parent’s emotional support.

Such parents often exploit their children, viewing them more as possessions to be exploited for their benefit rather than as individuals with their own specific set of unique emotional and psychological needs.

And, because of this, the child-parent relationship may become inverted; this is sometimes referred to as the parentification of the child – s/he becomes, in many respects, the parent’s parent (e.g. perpetually providing the parent with emotional support; indeed, this happened to me, starting before I became a teenager – in fact, my mother used to refer to me as her ‘little psychiatrist’.

Because the child is often forced to live to fulfil his parent’s needs rather than his/her own, this can lead him/her to develop identity problems as an adult.

Often, the emotionally unstable parent is able to mask their problem outside the home meaning that nobody appreciates the great stress under which the child is forced to live. This makes intervention on the child’s behalf far less likely.

If a child is forced to live under severe and protracted stress, the physical development of his/her brain may be affected; you can read one of my articles on this by clicking here.

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.    emotional abuse

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Abandonment Issues

childhood_trauma

If we were rejected as a child by parents/primary caregivers we are at high risk of growing up into adults with serious abandonment issues. This means we will be hypersensitive to rejection by others, deeply afraid of such rejection and profoundly hurt and distressed when we experience it.

Because we may be preoccupied with, or even obsessed by, the fear of rejection and abandonment we are likely to be constantly on ‘red alert’, looking for the smallest signs that someone may reject us.

Frequently, too, because of our constant anticipation that we are going to be rejected, we may believe we perceive signs of rejection where, in reality, they do not exist.

Rejection by others is so painful to us as it reminds us (consciously or unconsciously) of the intensely traumatic abandonment we experienced in childhood; therefore, when we are subsequently rejected in adulthood, we are, in effect, retraumatized.

Being intensely fearful of rejection can have numerous adverse effects on us. For example:

– we may become extremely ‘clingy’

– we may need constant reassurance from others that they are not going to leave us

– we may socially withdraw so that we don’t get close to others in order to avoid the risk of rejection

– we may be unconsciously motivated to reject others before they get the opportunity to reject us

Fear of abandonment

– we may feel constantly insecure

– in extreme cases we may threaten/attempt suicide in response to signs of rejection from others

Internalization:

Due to rejection in childhood, many with abandonment issues have inferred from this (erroneously) that they must be ‘bad’ people and have then gone on to deeply internalize this mistaken view of themselves. This means such individuals tend to have both extremely low self-esteem and confidence.

Also, wrongly believing themselves to be ‘bad’, they may feel constantly guilty, expect others to somehow ‘sense’ their ‘badness’ and, therefore, perpetually feel their ‘badness’ will be exposed and that they will, as a result, become social pariahs

Some may become excessively reliant on drink and/or drugs in an attempt to alleviate the emotional pain they feel.

Emotional Abandonment:

Finally, it should be noted that being abandoned as a child need not involve actual physical abandonment; it can, instead, involve emotional/psychological abandonment – this may come about by growing up with a parent who is cold and distant or who ignores his/her child.

Therapies:

Two therapies which may help with abandonment issues are dialectical behavior therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing).

Resource:

Ten Steps To Overcome Insecurity In Relationships. Click Image Below:

Causes of insecuriy

 

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

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Does BPD Run In Families?

childhood_trauma

 

The short answer is yes.

If a first degree relative (such as our mother or father) has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), our chances of developing the disorder are about 1,000% greater than the average person’s (i.e. ten times greater).

Does This Mean The Disorder Is Genetic?

This fact in itself does not prove a genetic component to the disorder. For example, if our mother has BPD and we develop it ourselves during our adult life, it may be because having a mother with BPD has led us to have a very unstable childhood and it is this unstable childhood that has led us to develop BPD, not the genes we have inherited from our mother.

HOWEVER:

Although more research needs to be conducted in this area, currently researchers believe that our genes may play approximately a 50% role in the causation of BPD (this comes from studies comparing the incidence of BPD amongst identical twins with the incidence of BPD amongst non-identical twins; such ‘twin studies’ are intended to tease out environmental factors from genetic factors).

How Might Genes Increase A Person’s Risk Of Developing BPD?

Essentially, it is thought that the inheritance of certain genes have an adverse effect on the chemistry, structure and function of the brain and it is these adverse effects which heighten a person’s risk of developing BPD.

Let’s briefly look at each of these adverse effects in turn:

Adverse Effects On Brain Chemistry:

A current leading theory is that the way in which the brain uses the neurotransmitter serotonin is disrupted which may make a person more aggressive, more impulsive and more emotionally labile (i.e. much less able than the average person to control his/her emotional responses – this is also sometimes referred to as emotional dysregulation; in colloquial language, some, through lack of understanding of this very serious condition, may refer to such people as drama queens).

Adverse Effects On Brain Function:

A part of the brain called the executive system (which controls rational decision-making) is also thought to be disrupted in people with BPD.

Adverse Effects On Brain Structure:

Those with BPD are also thought, according to current research, to have damage to the area of the brain known as the amygdala (the amygdala is involved in emotional regulation) leading the individual to being highly prone to extremely intense emotional reactions, even over things that others may consider trivial or of no importance – essentially, their internal ’emotional reaction dial’ is set far too high.

To exacerbate the problem of dramatically high emotional reactivity yet further, the part of the brain that inhibits and controls emotional reactions (the frontal cortex) is also thought to be malfunctioning in BPD sufferers.

Conclusion:

Because BPD is believed to be intimately associated with organic brain dysfunctions, this may explain why BPD sufferers often do not seem able to learn from experience.

However, it should be stressed again that research into this area is in an early stage and it is still not clear if the brain abnormalities described above are the result of BPD or the cause of it.

Notwithstanding the above, a large number of BPD sufferers DO recover. Currently, one of the most effective treatments is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

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

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery