Category Archives: David’s Personal Experiences

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.

 

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

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Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Social Learning Theory And Childhood Maltreatment.

social learning theory

Albert Bandura developed a theory known as SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY during the 1960s which stated that we learn our behaviours through interacting with, and observing, those around us. And, of course, when we are children, our parents are particularly influential upon which specific ways of behaving we develop.

If parents maltreat their children over an extended period, therefore, the theory predicts that such children may absorb these parents’ negative behaviours into their own behavioural patterns and, later in life, when they themselves become parents, replicate/’play out’ such behavioural patterns within their own families (this is sometimes known as intergenerational transmission [of the effects of trauma]).

According to research conducted by Rener and Slack (2006), adults who had been physically abused as children were 2.6 times more likely to have experienced IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) than those who hadn’t; Intimate Personal Violence can be defined as :

‘Harm which is both serious and preventable of a physical, sexual or emotional nature inflicted upon a person by a current or former partner.’

It is possible that this nearly threefold increased risk is due to ‘learning’ (on a conscious or unconscious level) to form a self-concept as ‘a person who is victimized’ or, even, ‘a person who deserves to be victimized.’ This self-concept may then become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Albert Bandura Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline

Above : Albert Bandura (b. 1925)

(On a personal level, I myself have had periods in my life in which people with whom I have had a relationship, Platonic or otherwise, have treated me very badly over extended periods of time. I see now, that had I had anything vaguely approaching the merest vestige of self-esteem/respect at the time, I wouldn’t have allowed such relationships to continue. I can’t pinpoint precisely what my attitude was at the time, but I think it was something along the lines of : ‘Oh well, this is just how things are for me’ – a kind of feeble, helpless resignation, I suppose). [To read my article entitled : TRAUMA, DEPRESSION AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS, click here.]

Other research, conducted by McCloskey and Bailey (2000), found that mothers who were sexually abused as children were 360% more likely to have daughters who were also sexually abused than were mothers who were not sexually abused as children. It is a possibility that this may be due to the mothers who were sexually abused as children having,  by an insidious learning process (again, either consciously or unconsciously), come to the distorted worldview that all men are sexually exploitative and therefore more accepting of such men in their social circle which may, in turn, put such mothers’ daughters at increased risk.

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

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Does Trying To Relax Paradoxically Increase Your Anxiety?

Paradoxically, trying to relax can actually make some people feel more anxious and stressed, not less.

Indeed, when I was extremely ill and in hospital (I was hospitalized on several occasions due to the seriousness of my condition), I was encouraged to attend certain therapeutic classes (which, because I was almost catatonic with severe clinical depression and anxiety, I most resolutely did not want to do –  amongst other myriad other symptoms, I had no motivation whatsoever, together with an unshakable belief that there was no possibility at all of me getting even very slightly better (such thinking is almost universal amongst the seriously, clinically depressed).

However, I eventually agreed to attend a class in which the therapist tried to guide me (and the other patients who had attended) through a relaxation exercise. Just a minute or so into the exercises, I felt so overwhelmed by anxiety that I had to excuse myself and leave the room, seeking, instead, refuge in the smoking room where I chain-smoked innumerable cigarettes.

In fact, this such a paradoxical reaction to an attempt to relax is not especially rare – a small percentage of those with anxiety will react in a similar manner.

So, what is the cause of this paradoxical response? Several ideas have been proposed, and I briefly look at some of these below:

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF A PARADOXICAL RESPONSE TO ATTEMPTS TO RELAX :

  • Trying to relax and ‘let go’ of stressful mental activity can induce in some individuals a feeling of loss of control. Related to this is the phenomenon whereby some people feel that, if they stop worrying about things, something terrible will happen and that their constant worrying is therefore somehow ‘protective’. Psychologists sometimes refer to such mistaken belief systems ‘magical thinking’.
  • Fear of loss of identity – for some, being stressed (eg always busy, ‘driven’, ”keyed-up’ etc) forms part of their identity and they feel uncomfortable relinquishing this identity, fearing that if they do so others may see them as complacent, indolent etc rather than as the ‘dynamic’ individual they hope others perceive.
  • Brain wave activity – becoming relaxed correlates with a shift in brainwave activity from beta-waves to alpha-waves which may cause thinking to become cloudy, hazy and foggy; some individuals find this disconcerting.
  • Frustration – if we try to relax, and find we cannot immediately do so. this can lead to frustration which makes relaxation even more difficult; this can quickly develop into a vicious circle.
  • Fear – similarly to the above, we may fear we will not be able to relax (by thinking things like : ‘If I don’t relax soon, I’ll go completely and irreversibly insane’ – which was the kind of thing I used to think) thus putting too much pressure on ourselves. In this way, the fear that we will not be able to relax can rapidly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Depersonalization – relaxation techniques can lead to feelings of ‘depersonalization’ in some people. Depersonalization can manifest itself as feeling of being ‘detached from one’s body‘ or as being an ‘observer of oneself.’ Many find such a sensation unpleasant.
  • Derealization –derealization’ can manifest itself as a feeling that ‘the world is not real’ and more like a nebulous, hazy, dreamworld. Again, many find this unpleasant. (‘Dearealiztion’ is a type of ‘dissociation.‘)
  • Distraction – for some individuals, certain types of stress (such as always ‘keeping busy’) can operate as a distraction from problems and worries the person finds hard to face (in extreme cases, this may result in workaholism‘). In this way, the stress/’keeping busy’ works as a psychological defense mechanism – the sudden dropping of this defense may lead to the person becoming vulnerable to being overwhelmed by floods of previously suppressed anxiety.

In response to the problem of the possible paradoxical effect a small minority of individuals may suffer as a result of trying to relax, some hypnotherapists have been trained in technique of inducing what is referred to as an ALERT TRANCE which some may find to be helpful.

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Fighting Anxiety Can Worsen It’. Why Acceptance Works Better.’

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

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‘Incest Panic’

In his immensely helpful book, ‘Healing Trauma’, Peter Levine, PhD., describes a phenomenon that he terms ‘incest panic’.

Levine proposes that it is not uncommon for parents to start to feel an awkward attraction towards their opposite gendered off-spring around about the time the child enters early adolescence (i.e. the father may develop an attraction towards the daughter or the mother may develop an attraction towards her son).

Whilst Levine does not broach the subject, it is also, of course, possible for the parent to develop an attraction towards his son and the mother towards her daughter.

I mention this because a highly qualified and respected therapist once told me (and he was far too responsible a professional to have said this lightly) that he thought it overwhelmingly probable that my father, during my childhood, had behaved inappropriately towards me but that I had repressed the memory of it.

At first I dismissed this out of hand, and he did not pursue it the matter (obviously he would have been aware of the danger of creating false memories through repeated suggestion which, I imagine, is why he let the subject rest).

However, what my therapist had said made me re-appraise certain interactions I had had with my father as a child.

First, when I was about four, I remember I had misbehaved in some way whilst standing with my father by a tall wooden back gate. In order to reprimand me, my father warned : ‘If you do that again I will take down your trousers and pants and lift you over the gate so the neighbours can see you!‘ Obviously, I’d always thought that was a bizarre way for a father to discipline his son, and obviously wrong. But, perhaps naively, I had never, up to that point, believed there may have been some sexual motivation at work. I’d assumed he ‘just’ wanted to deeply humiliate me. (Now I think about this more deeply, my possible ‘denial’ was perhaps related to the idea that, when young, we find it hard to face up to the fact our parents could actually want to hurt us (click here to read a related post about how children idealize their parents).

The second relevant memory is that when I was about nine or ten years old my older brother and I were staying at my father’s maisonette (my parents were divorced at this time and my brother and I stayed with my father every-other weekend). It was quite hot weather and, just before I went to bed, my father said to me, apropos nothing : ‘When it’s hot like this I sleep naked on top of my blankets with nothing covering me.’ At the time, I remember, this struck me as an odd remark (a non-sequitor, in fact, though I wouldn’t have known that phrase at the time, as you’ll no doubt understand). However, after my therapist’s comment, this memory, too, took on a rather more sinister complexion. Was my father encouraging me, in a devious manner, to copy his own liberated nocturnal behaviour for his own nefarious purposes? The simple answer is : ‘I don’t know’).

Thirdly, and this memory most compels me to believe my therapist was might have been right, one night (around the same time, so, again, I would have been nine or ten, I was lying on the top bunk (my brother sleeping on the lower bunk beneath) in the bedroom my father provided for us during our weekend stays with him. I did not have on a pajama top and my father came in  to ‘kiss me goodnight’ and then went on to lower my bed sheets to about the level of my navel and began to not just kiss, but slobber, over my chest and stomach. Again, I remember thinking this odd. However, I don’t remember anything else, including how the incident concluded. It is, I admit, quite possible nothing else happened. It is However, the evidence in support of my therapist’s opinion, when considered as a whole, cannot, I think, be lightly dismissed.

But back to Levine. I think the third memory I describe above at least suggests my father harbored incestuous feelings for me which, at best, he could only just control. Indeed, he may have suffered from the ‘incest panic’ that Levine describes. What further evidence do I have for this? Well, when I reached puberty, my father became extremely cold and distant towards me, as I have written about elsewhere. And, according to Levine, this kind of emotional withdrawal is typical of the parent who suffers from the aforementioned ‘incest panic’ ; feeling deeply uncomfortable with his/her feelings of sexual attraction towards his/her young adolescent offspring, the parent withdraws their affection from the child as a psychological defense mechanism – a kind of shame-based overcompensation.

Having said that, my father was, putting it mildly, not an emotionally demonstrative man in general, so I remain wholly unenlightened.

The book I refer to above is called ‘Healing Trauma‘ by Peter Levine PhD.

 

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

 

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Were You Prone To Outbursts Of Rage As Child?

In my youth, I was very prone to outbursts of rage. For instance, I once punched a hole in a wardrobe door. On another occasion, I threw a large and heavy paperweight through my bedroom window. And then there was the time I hacked several deep grooves into the back of a wooden kitchen chair with a 12-inch bread knife. I could go on, but you get the general picture?

So, the question is, what factors contribute to such outbursts of rage in children?

It is not unusual, of course, for children to lose their temper; however, the outbursts of rage displayed by a traumatized child tend to be of a different quality : more intense, more sudden and more out of control; animalistic, even.

One reason for this is that significant, prolonged trauma adversely affects the brain’s biology (in particular the way in which the brain produces the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, is disrupted). This means that when the traumatized child senses threat or danger (either emotional or physical), the brain’s hardwired circuitry automatically stimulates the child into aggressive behaviour – as a defense mechanism.

It is important to reiterate that the child’s aggression in these circumstances is essentially and fundamentally DEFENSIVE and triggered (unconsciously) by FEAR . This fear may be of being physically harmed or emotionally harmed (eg rejected, abandoned, demeaned or shamed).

During his/her history of being abused, the child has learned how devastating these physical and/or emotional attacks can be and becomes desperate to defend him/herself from further harm – so much so that his/her aggressive behaviour is automatically and unconsciously triggered even when the trigger may seem objectively mild. This is because the child has become hypersensitive to threat so that, even when there is the smallest hint of it, s/he launches (on automatic pilot) a pre-emptive attack (to prevent the threat rapidly escalating – which past experience has shown the child it otherwise will)); the child, in these circumstances, has unconsciously learned that such behaviour has ‘survival value’ and that ‘attack is the best form of defense.’ (In different circumstances the child may learn that AVOIDANCE is the best defense and, therefore, automatically, emotionally ‘shut down’ when s/he senses danger).

It is also known that those who have suffered significant, chronic abuse can cause damage to the development of the brain region known as the amygdala which, in turn, can lead to severe problems controlling the emotions – this will, of course, exacerbate the problem.

 

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

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Effects Of Inconsistent And Unpredictable Parenting

 

Inconsistent parenting

Coming home each day from school as a child, I would never know what kind of mood my mother would be in; one day she might be deeply depressed, the next excitable (in this mood she would often sing, diva style, her favourite songs from the Mikado – ‘ the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, have nothing to do with the case…’ I can’t remember how the song goes from there, but you get the general idea?). Or she might be seething with anger and full of intense loathing for me, conveying her feelings of deep disgust, evoked by my most unwelcome reappearance, by shrieking insults at me through the kitchen window before I’d even set foot inside the door. (I have written about this elsewhere.)

Whilst there has not been a great deal of research conducted upon the effects of unpredictable and inconsistent parenting on children, there exists evidence to suggest (eg. Luxton, 2007) that those who experience it are at increased risk of developing low self-esteem and depression as adults. (Also, it seems that consistent maternal care may be a particularly important factor in the generation of high self-esteem).

Consistent Parenting:

Healthy families are relatively stable and predictable and the child knows that the parents can be depended upon both physically and emotionally. For example, if a parent says s/he will pick the child up after school, the child can be confident s/he will do so; and if the child is distressed, s/he can depend upon the parent to sooth and comfort him/her; the child knows, too, that if the parent feels the need to discipline him/her, s/he will do so in a fair, reasonable and consistent manner.

Inconsistent Parenting :

In unhealthy families, however, parents may behave towards their children in inconsistent and unpredictable ways. The environment in which the child is compelled to live, therefore, tends to be unstable, chaotic and fraught with potential danger. Because of this, the child is likely to feel constantly anxious – walking on eggshells and fearing what the unpredictable parent may do next.

In such a household, the behaviour of the parent may fluctuate wildly and dramatically (this can be for clinical reasons such as alcoholism, drug addiction, cyclothemia or bipolar disorder). Inconsistency may occur in relation to both physical and emotional care. For example, a parent may leave a lone child at home, promising to be back by 6pm, yet not return until 3 in the morning. And the manner in which the parent uses discipline may be highly unpredictable. Or when the child is distressed, s/he may not be able to depend on the parent for psychological support.

Conclusion :

To reiterate, then, according to research, such inconsistent parenting is associated with those individuals who are on the receiving end of it being placed at higher risk of developing depression and having low self-esteem as adults.

However, to gain a fuller picture, more research needs to be conducted – it is known, for instance, that significant and protracted child abuse puts the abused individual at increased risk of developing a whole range of psychiatric conditions, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD), in adulthood; it therefore follows that when inconsistent parental behaviour crosses a certain threshold (i.e. when it amounts to chronic, significant abuse), the seriousness of the implications speak for themselves.

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

 

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Parental Antipathy Towards The Child And Psychological Abuse

The psychological researcher Moran, PhD, differentiates parental‘antipathy’ (towards the child) from ‘psychological abuse’, although there is clearly considerable overlap between the two.

Sadly, as a child, I had both inflicted upon me : direct, unmitigated psychological abuse came mainly from my mother, then, after she threw me out of her house when I was thirteen and I had to go and live with my father and stepmother, they subjected me to constant and unrelenting antipathy. I can only remember my father giving me one compliment in the years I lived with him and his second wife; from my stepmother, I recall none. My constant, overriding and abiding sense was that they both, frankly, disdained my very presence. In fact, I was essentially ignored unless they felt the need to criticize me, reprimand me, humiliate me or give me a (usually superfluous) instruction.

My mother’s last words, before I left her house, not addressed to me but to my father (who had come to pick me up in his car), regarding me, and in my presence, were : ‘Get this fucking little bastard out of my house and never bring it (she did not, apparently, deem it fit to dignify me with a personal pronoun) back’. And then, on the day I moved into my father’s house I was reminded by him that I was not wanted and was ‘being  done a great favour.’ I recall his precise words, in fact : ‘Remember! When Janet [my stepmother] married me, you weren’t part of the deal!’  You will agree, I think, that the implications of these words were fairly unambiguous?

My mothers’ (above) words were, fairly obviously, an example of psychological abuse, whilst my father’s words (above), equally obviously, were an example of antipathy. However, I have written about these incidents elsewhere, so will not elaborate further upon my personal experiences here; instead, I shall endeavour to define the terms ‘psychological abuse’ and ‘antipathy’ (as a form of emotional abuse) in more general terms:

According to Moran (see above), antipathy expressed towards the child by the parent involves the parent treating the child with constant  coldness and/or irritation, frequently intimating, or directly expressing, dislike/distaste and behaving towards the child in a generally rejecting manner.

Whereas, also according to Moran, psychological abuse can be split up into the following subcategories:

– terrorizing (such as playing on the child’s deepest fears)

– extreme rejection (such as driving a child to a distant location, making him/her get out of the car and leaving him/her there)

– humiliation

– cognitive disorientation (such as blatantly lying to the child in a way that causes mental confusion and/or undermines the child’s sense of reality; for example, verbally abusing the child and then denying it ever happened)

– deprivation of basic needs (eg sleep)

– deprivation of valued objects (eg a favourite soft toy the child relies on to feel less emotionally insecure)

– inflicting marked distress and discomfort

– corruption (eg encouraging the child to deal drugs)

[It is worth noting, too, that although Modern does not classify them as psychological abuse, he points out that role-reversal (whereby the parent turns the child into his/her carer) and making the child feel frequent shame (eg the parent may frequently get drunk and show up his/her child in front of his/her friends, or make the child wear filthy, shabby clothes to school)) can both inflict severe emotional harm upon the child].

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery