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Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Why We Worry.


why we worry

Other posts in this category have already dealt with how early life experience of trauma can contribute to us becoming anxious adults, and, also, that the type of negative thinking (cognitive) style we may have developed as a result of the early trauma can perpetuate symptoms of depression and anxiety. But what are the other causes of excessive worrying and what are the other ways of dealing with the problem? It is to this question I now turn:


1) OUR GENETIC INHERITANCE: It seems we can inherit a predisposition towards anxiety genetically. This means, for example, if we have a parent who is very anxious, all else being equal, we are more likely to become anxious ourselves due to our genetic inheritance. (Also, of course, if we have a very anxious parent, we are more likely to develop anxious responses due to ‘learned behaviour’ – ie modelling our behavioural reponses on those of the anxious parent). However, the key word here is ‘predisposition’; in other words, having an anxious parent will not guarantee that we, ourselves, will become anxious adults, but, rather, we will be more vulnerable to this happening if other factors also affect us in life (such as those detailed below):

2) LATER LIFE EXPERIENCES: If we have suffered the experience of early life trauma, the damage done by this can be compounded (made worse) by going on to experience yet further trauma in later life. It is particularly unfortunate, then, that early life trauma can in itself create problems for us in later life, thus increasing the probability that further trauma will strike (which is one reason, amongst many others, why early therapeutic intervention is crucial for those affected by childhood trauma).

3) DRUGS: It is not just a side-effect of many illicit drugs which can create anxiety conditions; some prescribed drugs, too, can cause anxiety as a side effect. It is, of course, always important to ask doctors about possible unwanted effects of the medications they may prescribe.

4) INTERNAL CONFLICTS: Sometimes we behave in ways which CONFLICT with our own ideals and values, or the ideals and values we have INTERNALISED from our upbringing and culture (even if we have only internalized them on an unconscious level). Freud believed we all have such internal conflicts, a price he thought was paid for living in a ‘civilized’ society, in which we are compelled to repress many natural human instincts (for those who are interested, you may wish to investigate further Freud’s view of how the ‘Id’ (the name he gave to our instinctual self/basic impulses) and the ‘Superego’ (the name he gave to our conscience/moral selves, which develops due to learning from parents, teachers, society, culture etc) may be constantly ‘at war’ with each other.

Therapists who place emphasis on the link between INTERNAL CONFLICTS and ANXIETY tend to recommend what is known as PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.

5) NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS: This refers to how the brain we possess is physically set up or ‘wired’ Some of us are, it seems, ‘wired’ in such a way that our ‘internal alarm systems’ are highly sensitive. I have discussed in other posts how the brain’s physical ‘wiring’ can be affected by the experience of early trauma.


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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

‘Fighting’ Anxiety can Worsen It: Why Acceptance Works Better.

fighting anxiety

What Happens When We Try To ‘Fight’ Anxiety?

Trying to fight anxiety, research suggests (and, certainly, my own experience of anxiety would tend to confirm this) can actually AGGRAVATE the problem and lead to greater feelings of distress. Stating the shatteringly obvious, none of us wants to experience the feelings an anxiety condition brings; however, difficult as it may sound at first, DEVELOPING AN ATTITUDE OF ACCEPTANCE TOWARDS IT, rather than entering an exhausting mental battle with it, has been reported by many to be a superior strategy for coping with anxiety.

The psychologist Beck, to whom I have made several references already in this blog (he was one of the founders of the very helpful therapy called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, for people suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety – see my posts on CBT) devised the acronym A.W.A.R.E for ease of remembering the key strategies for coping. Let’s take a look at what the acronym A.W.A.R.E stands for:

A Accept the anxiety (it sounds hard, I know, but so is constantly struggling to fight it):

The benefits of adopting this approach are that it may help to reduce the PHYSIOLOGICAL symptoms commonly associated with anxiety (eg accelerated heart rate, increased muscle tension, hyperventilation, sweating -or ‘cold sweats’- trembling, dry mouth etc). It may, too, help with PSYCHOLOGICAL symptoms (people report that an attitude of acceptance towards their anxiety makes them feel less distressed). A kind of motto which has come to attach itself to the acceptance approach to anxiety is: ‘if you are not WILLING to have it, you WILL’ (see what they’ve done there!)

W Watch your anxiety:

It is suggested that rather than get too ‘caught up’ in anxiety, together with all the distressing negative thoughts and fears it produces, to, instead, just observe it in a DETACHED and NON-JUDGMENTAL manner; this involves trying to adopt a kind of NEUTRAL MENTAL ATTITUDE towards it – in other words, neither liking it nor seeing the experience of anxiety as a terrible, unsolvable catastrophy (again, I realize, of course, that intense anxiety is very painful, so this, too, may sound difficult at first). People report that when they adopt this DETACHED, NEUTRAL view of their feelings of anxiety they starts to lose their, hitherto, tenacious grip on their lives.

A Act with your anxiety:

Severe anxiety can leave us feeling as if we are incapable of functioning on even a basic level. It is important to remember, however, as I have repeated at, no doubt, tedious length througout this blog, that just because we believe something it does not logically follow that the belief must be true. Indeed, when my anxiety was at its worst, I did not feel able, or even believe I could,shave or brush my teeth etc…etc… Many people report, however, that if they take the first (often, extremely challenging) step to try to carry on with normal activities, despite the feeling of anxiety which may accompany this, they can, after all, accomplish that which they originally believed they couldn’t. Success then tends to build upon success: completion of the first activity increases the self-belief and the confidence to go on to the second activity, the completion of which provides further self-belief and confidence…and so on…and so on…

In order to make this easier, it may be necessary to slow down the pace at which, in different circumstances, we would otherwise carry out the particular tasks that we set ourselves.

R Repeat the steps:

This just means that by repeating the ACCEPTING ANXIETY, WATCHING OUR ANXIETY (in a detached and neutral manner) and ACTING (despite the feelings of anxiety which may accompany such action) CYCLE, the anxiety may be slowly eroded away.

E Expect the best (even if it does not come naturally)

When we are depressed and anxious we, almost invariably, expect the worst. This is overwhelmingly likely to perpetuate the condition. However, just as expecting the worst can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so, too, can expecting the best. If, like me, you are not a natural optimist, the concept of expecting the best may go against the grain. However, research shows that optimistic people are more likely to achieve their goals than those of us who do not appear to have been blessed with quite such a sunny disposition. It is worth adapting the strategy on, at least, an experimental basis. It is also useful to keep in mind that even if the best does not occur, we will still have the inner-strength necessary to cope.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Brain Differences in Severe Anxiety Sufferers and Pros and Cons of Various Medications


There has now been a very significant amount of research undertaken by neuroscientists and other professionals connected to the study of psychology into whether those of us who are severely afflicted by anxiety conditions have differences in our brains in comparison to those lucky enough to have normal anxiety responses (when the anxiety response is normal, it is an adaptive, self-protecting and helpful mechanism eg deterring individuals from taking unnecessary risks).

Researchers have, in particular, focused upon:

1) differences in the brain’s biochemistry

2) differences in brain structures.

Let’s look at these two important areas of research:


a) Research has shown that individuals who suffer from anxiety are often likely to have insufficient quantities of the brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) called SEROTONIN. Serotonin is intimately related to the human functions of appetite, mood, sleep and memory (all of which are often affected by anxiety eg the mind ‘going blank’ when experiencing high stress, losing one’s appetite, insomnia, becoming irritable/aggressive etc).

b) Research has also focused on an AMINO ACID in the brain abbreviated to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid, for those who are interested). As with serotonin, studies suggest that those who suffer anxiety are deficient, too, in this. Abnormally low quantities of GABA in the brain are believed to be associated with:

– racing thoughts
– restlessness
– agitation
– insomnia

Because of these findings, it has been theorized that medications which help resolve these biological abnormalities will, in turn, alleviate the anxiety with which they are associated (I’ll turn to look at the pros and cons of medications in the next but one paragraph).


Cutting-edge brain imaging techniques have revealed that the brain structure known as the HIPPOCAMPUS, which is associated with processing memories and emotions, CAN BE UP TO 25% SMALLER in individuals who have undergone extreme childhood trauma. It has been theorized that this is why those who have experienced such trauma find it extremely difficult to REGULATE (control) POWERFUL AND OVERWHELMING EMOTIONS, and, also, why they often experience FLASHBACKS and FRAGMENTED MEMORIES.


Many different types of drugs are used in an attempt to treat anxiety and people’s subjective responses to their effectiveness (or otherwise) vary dramatically. Different medications are given for different types of anxiety disorder.

Below are listed the main drugs prescribed for the treatment ofanxiety, together with the most commonly reported pros and cons of each:

A) SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) ANTIDEPRESSANTS: eg Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox

PROS: – reported effectivess by many (but see my post on the placebo effect)
– not addictive

CONS: – take 2-6 weeks to work
– can, at first, WORSEN ANXIETY
– can produce initial side-effects eg headache, insomnia, sweating, headache, loss of sex drive, impotence (temporary but sometimes ongoing for as long as the drugs are taken).

B) BENZODIAZEPINES: eg Valium, Librium, Ativan

PROS: – immediate effect
– initial help with insomnia

CONS: – can lead to subjective feelings of over-medication or ‘mental fogginess’
– danger of addiction (psychological and physiological)
– some of the benzodiazepines (those that are ‘short-term acting’) can lead to withdrawal effects (eg seizure) if stopped suddenly after several months; very rarely, this can be life-threatening

C) BETA-BLOCKERS: eg Inderal

PROS: – good for reducing the physiological effects of anxiety, eg racing heart, sweating, hyperventilation, shaking. They have also been found useful for those who suffer from performance anxiety, such as fear of public speaking

CONS: – effects very short lived
– if the heart rate is slowed too much this can be problematic


PROS: – not addictive
– can help to counteract any adverse effects antidepressants have had upon sexual functioning

CONS: – fewer people report a positive effect in comparison with those who take benzodiazepines
– can take 3 to 4 weeks to work


PROS: – these can have a sedative effect
– non-addictive

CONS: – less effective, reportedly, than other anti-anxiety medications
– side-effects( which include dry mouth and urinary retention).


PROS: – reported to have calming effect
– reported to improve sleep

CONS: – side-effects (including feelings of sleepiness, dizziness and ‘mental fogginess’).

It is, of course, imperarative to seek medical advice for anyone considering taking such medications.

childhood_ trauma _workbookchildhood_trauma_aggression_ebook-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_childhood trauma

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Large Study Suggests Antidepressants Work No Better than Placebos.

anti depressants little better than placebos

The pharmaceutical industry makes over 12 billion pounds a year from antidepressant medication. Indeed, millions of adults and children take antidepressants and there are hundreds of thousands of doctors throughout the world who are happy to prescribe them.

However, it has been suspected by many for a long time that a proportion of any beneficial effect given by the taking of antidepressants is due to THE PLACEBO EFFECT (the PLACEBO EFFECT is a phenomenon whereby the patient’s BELIEF that a medication will help causes any improvement in his/her condition, not the drug itself.

A simple example of this would be to give someone who has a headache a dummy pill, such as a sugar pill, and then to tell the person who took it that it will cure his/her headache. Often, the person’s BELIEF the tablet will help him/her then causes an improvement. There is so much evidence of the placebo effect that it is now fully accepted by the scientific community – it is an excellent example of how the mind can affect the body).

A major study has now been undertaken to discover how much of any beneficial effect antidepressants have is not due to the drugs themselves, but, instead, to the placebo effect. The study was led by the academic, Professor Kirsch, from Harvard University.

His method was to take an overview of 38 studies which had already been conducted on the effects of antidepressants (psychologists refer to this as a meta-analysis). The SHOCKING DISCOVERY was that the data showed that antidepressants worked almost no better than placebos.

In other words, giving an individual an antidepressant for his/her depression, according to the extensive data reviewed by Professor Kirsch, is likely to work hardly any better than giving the individual a sugar (or ‘dummy’) pill. In fact, the difference in effect upon lessening depressive symptoms between the sugar pills and the antidepressants was found to be, by careful statistical analysis, CLINICALLY INSIGNIFICANT.

Further investigation of the data revealed that the proportion individuals who were helped more by the antidepressants than by the placebo (and, even then, only in a very minor way) was just 10-15% (those who had the most extreme forms of depressive illness).The majority, then (85-90%), were not helped in a significant way by antidepressants per se anymore than they would have been by a placebo.

Doctors have been made aware of this study, but a survey recently conducted has, worryingly, shown that over half of them did not intend to change the manner in which they prescribed antidepressants.

Whilst criticisms of Professor Kirsch’s study were made, particularly, unsurprisingly, by those who had a vested interest in the pharmaceutical industry, none of them, on analysis, have been shown to carry much weight. Additionally, a study commissioned by the NHS has SUPPORTED Professor Kirsch’s findings.

Despite these alarming findings, 235 prescriptions for antidepressants were made in the USA in 2010, and, in 2011, 47 million were made in the UK.

It is clear that there needs to be a major review of medical policy in relation the prescribing of antidepressants and that alternative ways of treating depression now need to be considered more than ever.


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Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each (except Workbook, priced at $9.79. CLICK HERE.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: Its Link to Adult Anxiety.

childhood trauma and anxiety

childhood trauma and anxiety

Anxious personality types often result from childhood trauma. Research has shown that there are 7 major factors which influence the way our personalities develop. These are:

– the way in which we are disciplined in childhood
– our place within the family eg birth order/sex
– the kinds of role model we had as children eg parents
– the belief system of the family we grew up in
– our genes/biochemical makeup
– the social and cultural influences we experienced as children
– the particular PERSONAL MEANING that we attach to each of the above

There are many ways that the above factors can interact to produce a personality dominated by anxiety in adulthood. Below are some experiences, directly related to the above factors, which can contribute towards us developing an anxiety disorder in adulthood:

1) AN ANXIOUS PARENT OR ROLE MODEL: one way in which children are programmed to learn by evolution and develop their personalities is by a process referred to by psychologists as MODELLING (copying the behaviour of role models, either consciously or unconsciously). It follows that a role model who frequently displays intense anxiety is likely to lead to the child adopting a similar manner of behaving and responding.

2) RIGID BELIEF/RULE SYSTEMS: if the child’s role models (especially parents) have a rigid belief system, perhaps deriving from their culture or religion, the child may develop inflexible and ‘black and white’ thinking styles which can frequently become a source of anxiety in later life.

Additionally, if a child lives in a highly chaotic environment, due, for example, to parental mental illness or substance abuse, s/he may learn to develop a rigid set of rules to give him/herself some sense of security and stability. Again, carrying such rigid rules into adult life can often lead to high levels of anxiety.

3) CHILD ABUSE: abuse, during childhood, too, frequently leads to the abused child developing problems related to anxiety in adult life. The types of abuse which may occur include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect (physical and/or emotional), and cruel and unusual punishment.

4) ANXIETY RELATED TO SEPARATION AND LOSS: a child may be separated from a parent or carer for extended periods of time, due, for example, to the following events:

– a parent/carer going into hospital for a long time
– divorce
– death

If the child DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY the parent/carer has become absent, this can be especially anxiety inducing.

A more subtle, but, equally damaging, form of separation a child may experience is if the parent/carer is PHYSICALLY PRESENT BUT IGNORES/FAILS TO INTERACT MEANINGFULLY with the child.
5) REVERSAL OF PARENT-CHILD ROLES: for a significant part of my childhood, starting at around the age of 11 years, this was the situation that I found myself in. Essentially, I became my mother’s personal counsellor, permanently, it seemed, on call (I’m surprised she didn’t provide me with a pager).Indeed, at this stage in my childhood she began to refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’ A child may also find him/herself having to adopt a parental role for many other reasons; for example, parental substance abuse, parental absence etc. When the child, by necessity, in order to survive, takes on responsibilities which s/he is not old enough to cope with, this can lead to a number of anxiety-linked personality traits; these may include: ‘black and white’ thinking, suppression of feelings, unrealistically high levels of self-expectation, and a deep need to have control.

Other childhood experiences which may lead to an anxious personality type in adulthood I list below:

– highly critical parents/carer
– overprotective parents/carer
– parental/carer pressures placed on child to suppress/deny his/her own feelings.


We learn, then, certain ways of coping and behaving when faced with difficult childhood experiences; the problem is, however, that carrying these ways of coping and behaving into adulthood is often unhelpful; this is because, as adults, we are frequently presented with an environment to deal with which is very different from the environment we needed to deal with as children – we therefore need to adapt our behavioural responses to the new environment, in order to function in it effectively.

THE POSITIVE NEWS is that, as adults, it is possible to MODIFY OUR PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS (which previously led to anxiety) and to learn new, more appropriate, ways of thinking and behaving, adaptive to the new, adult environment into which we are inevitably plunged. One therapy which research has shown can be particularly effective in treating anxiety which has its roots in childhood is called COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR (UK spelling!) THERAPY (CBT) which I have discussed in other posts.

In future posts, I will look at how CBT can be specifically applied to reducing anxiety, together with other useful techniques which help to achieve the same aim.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you’d like to; I’ll repsond to it as soon as I am able.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.


Do You Ever Ask Yourself The Question : Am I A Bad Person?

When a child is continually mistreated, s/he will inevitably conclude that s/he must be innately bad. This is because s/he has a need (at an unconscious level) to preserve the illusion that her/his parents are good; this can only be achieved by taking the view that the mistreatment is deserved.

The child develops a fixed pattern of self-blame, and a belief that their mistreatment is due to their ‘own faults’. As the parent/s continue to mistreat the child, perhaps taking out their own stresses and frustrations on her/him, the child’s negative self-view becomes continually reinforced. Indeed, the child may become the FAMILY SCAPEGOAT, blamed for all the family’s problems.


The child will often become full of anger, rage and aggression towards the parent/s and may not have developed sufficient articulacy to resolve the conflict verbally. A vicious circle then develops: each time the child rages against the parent/s, the child blames her/himself for the rage and the self-view of being ‘innately bad’ is further deepened.

This negative self-view may be made worse if one of the child’s unconscious coping mechanisms is to take out (technically known as DISPLACEMENT) her/his anger with the parent/s on others who may be less feared but do not deserve it (particularly disturbed children will sometimes take out their rage against their parent/s by tormenting animals; if the parent finds out that the child is doing this, it will be taken as further ‘evidence’ of the child’s ‘badness’ ,rather than as a major symptom of extreme psychological distress, as, in fact,it should be).

The more the child is badly treated, the more s/he will believe s/he is bringing the treatment on her/himself (at least at an unconscious level), confirming the child’s FALSE self-view of being innately ‘bad’, even ‘evil’ (especially if the parent/s are religious).

What is happening is that the child is identifying with the abusive parent/s, believing, wrongly, that the ‘badness’ in the parent/s actually resides within themselves. This has the effect of actually preserving the relationship and attachment with the parent (the internal thought process might be something like: ‘it is not my parent who is bad, it is me. I am being treated in this way because I deserve it.’ This thought process may well be, as I have said, unconscious).

Eventually the child will come to completely INTERNALIZE the belief that s/he is ‘bad’ and the false belief will come to fundamentally underpin the child’s self-view, creating a sense of worthlessness and self-loathing.

Often, even when mental health experts intervene and explain to the child it is not her/his fault that they have been ill-treated and that they are, in fact, in no way to blame, the child’s negative self-view can be so profoundly entrenched that it is extremely difficult to erase.

In such cases, a lot of therapeutic work is required in order to reprogram the child’s self-view so that it more accurately reflects reality. Without proper treatment, a deep sense of guilt and shame (which is, in reality, completely unwarranted) may persist over a lifetime with catostrophic results.

Any individual affected in such a way would be extremely well advised to seek psychotherapy and other professional advice as even very deep rooted negative self-views as a result of childhood trauma can be very effectively treated.


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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Research on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Treatment for Trauma.

transcranial magnetic stimulation

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation? :

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is normally abbreviated to TMS. Essentially, this treatment works by delivering short pulses of magnetic energy (which are generated by a hand held device that contains an electro-magnetic coil) to specific brain regions. It is a non-physically invasive therapy and the smallish, relatively simple device is merely guided over the relevant areas of the patient’s head by the doctor.

Research has already shown that the treatment can significantly reduce depressive symptoms in patients and early indicators are that it may also be of benefit to individuals suffering from the effects of trauma.

In order to help you visualize the simplicity of the procedure, imagine a hair-dryer being moved over the head – the only difference is that, rather than warm air being delivered,essentially painless, magnetic pulses are delivered instead.


I have already stated that the procedure is essentially painless (although some patients report that it has induced in them a headache) so the magnetic pulses are delivered whilst the patient is fully conscious. The procedure generally takes about twenty minutes. The magnetic pulses work by altering the way in which the brain cells communicate with each other (or, to put it more technically, the electrical firing between the brain’s neurons is altered) in the specific brain regions at which the treatment is directed. Research into the treatment has so far suggested that it may:

– reduce symptoms of depression
– reduce symptoms of anxiety – reduce the intensity of intrusive traumatic thoughts – help to reduce social anxiety by reducing avoidance behaviours


Unfortunately, TMS cannot be administered to those individuals who have been fitted with a pacemaker (or, for that matter, have had any other metal implanted in their body). Also, it cannot be administered to those who suffer from epilepsy in most cases.

In rare cases, TMS may induce seizures or manic episodes.

Anyone considering the treatment should discuss it with their doctor.


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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

The Effect of Childhood Trauma on Genes and Susceptibility to Depression.

genes and depressin


Recent studies have shown that childhood trauma can actually change the structure of DNA in the person who has suffered it and consequently alter how these genes work (it has been known for some time that how genes express themselves is influenced by their interaction with the environment).



Indeed, there is a growing body of evidence that psychological abuse of children has BIOLOGICAL effects. Research suggests that the effects of abuse on the child’s DNA lowers their resistance to stress. This effect can persist throughout life and increases the suicide risk of the individual.

It is thought that trauma/abuse in early childhood (before the age of six) can have a particularly damaging effect on the DNA which controls the individual’s stress response.

(For those that are interested, environment affects DNA (and thus how it expresses itself) by punctuating it with what are technically known as EPIGENETIC MARKERS. It follows from this that the function of DNA is not permanently fixed from birth, but can be altered by its interaction with the environment).

The good news is, however, that the adverse effects on DNA caused by childhood trauma can be reversed in adult life by appropriate interventions. Key to these are the replacement of the traumatic environment with one which is supportive, loving, stable, safe and relatively stress-free. This is because just as traumatic environments can leave harmful epigenetic marks, good environments, over time, can reverse this effect.


Just as trauma can affect genes, pre-existing genes can affect the impact trauma is likely to have on us; it is, to this extent, a two-way street then. It has already been stated in previous posts how exposure to trauma in childhood can lead to psychological problems such as clinical depression; studies now show that the risk becomes even greater if the sufferer of childhood trauma has a particular genetic make-up making him or her more vulnerable to the effects of stress:

So: children who are genetically predisposed to being particularly vulnerable to stress will typically be more adversely affected by the childhood trauma than those children who do not have the genetic vulnerability. THIS HELPS TO EXPLAIN WHY TWO CHILDREN WHO SUFFER SIMILAR TRAUMA MAY BE AFFECTED QUITE DIFFERENTLY FROM ONE ANOTHER.

Further study has shown that the children with the particular genetic variation are MORE SENSITIVE TO THE ENVIRONMENT AROUND THEM (they process emotional information differently) than children without the variation. The genes involved are responsible for the production of SEROTONIN (a chemical affecting mood, also known as a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

DISCORD BETWEEN PARENTS and NEGLECT (again, especially if the child is under six) have specifically been linked to the child developing HIGH EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY and a greater susceptibility to stress. Again, if the child has the genetic variation making him or her particularly vulnerable, the adverse effects of the discord or neglect will be increase such vulnerability.

The research producing such findings as illustrated above is still in a relatively early stage and future research is likely to help clarify the complex interactions between our genes and how childhood trauma affects us.

genes and depression

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma: Coming to Terms with what We have Lost.

Many who suffered childhood trauma grow up feeling that there childhood has been ‘stolen’ from them.

They may have grown up feeling worthless and uniquely unloveable, lacking, too, in feelings of safety and security. They may also grow up with a lack of confidence and find it extremely difficult to trust anyone or to believe that they will not be betrayed again. They may have experienced no joy or carefreeness in childhood such as other children take for granted.

As an adult, realizing what one has lost will often give rise to powerful feelings of sadness and grief. This is quite normal. Indeed, grief is an intrinsic component of the recovery process.

We may find ourselves grieving for the kind of parents we would have wished for, but, in reality, never had.

If the relationship with our parents or those who who were supposed to be caring for us and looking after us in childhood was deeply fractured, we might, nevertheless, hold out hope that these deeply problematic relationships will improve now that we’re adults; but we may, in due course, discover this is most unlikely to happen. In such cases, we may find ourselves grieving all over again – this time for the loss of our hope. Ideally, we will eventually come to accept this depressing state of affairs and realize, also, that we may never fully understand why we were treated as we were.

Some people are already familiar with the stages of grief, but, for those who are not, I will very briefly summarize them below:

1) a sense of feeling numb (as we saw in a previous post, this is also sometimes referred to as a DISSOCIATIVE state).

2a) a strong, sometimes overwhelming, yearning for what has been lost, which can develop into:

2b) a preoccupation or obsession with what has been lost

3) anger can follow which itself may lead to:

4) feelings of guilt, particularly if we have expressed our anger in a way which is unhelpful to us (lowering ourselves yet further in our own view) or to others.

Eventually, one emerges from the grieving process the other side and the feelings of emotional pain and suffering are ameliorated. However, a less intense general sense of loss may remain, but often we can cope with this and move forward in our lives.


Many things may have been lost in our traumatic childhoods. For example:

-fun and enjoyment
-peace of mind
-positive relationships and friendships

However, as adults, we are in the position to COMPENSATE ourselves for such losses. Examples may include:

– bulding a social life and support network (perhaps joining appropriate support groups)
– putting aside time to do things that we enjoy
– putting aside time for tranquillity and relaxation

Also, if we lacked good parenting as children, we may have felt worthless, frightened, insecure and unloveable. But, to remedy this, at least in part, we can start to ‘parent ourselves’ in the manner that we wish we had actually been parented. This is sometimes also referred to as ‘SELF-NURTURING’. This can include showing ourselves the same level of compassion we might show to a friend: forgiving ourselves, perhaps, for our own failures of behaviour in adult life that were largely brought on by our difficult childhood experiences, stopping blaming and punishing ourselves, building our own sense of self-worth (independent of, and, unreliant upon, the approval of others) or simply giving ourselves permission to be happy and to enjoy life (which protracted and intense guilt makes impossible).

The ultimate goal is to resolve the problems caused by our traumatic childhoods and no longer to let the pain associated with the past remain the predominant feature of who we are or the defining feature of the lives that, despite everything, we still have in front of us.

David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Childhood Trauma can Affect View of Self. Part 2.



We develop our most fundamental belief systems in childhood. If a child is brought up with love, affection and security s/he tends to build up positive beliefs. For example:

– people should not treat me badly

– I am a decent and likeable person

– I have rights

– I deserve respect

However, negative belief systems often develop in children who have been abused. For example:

– people cannot be trusted

– I am vulnerable

– I am worthless

– everyone is out to get me

– I am intrinsically unlovable

negative view of self

These negative beliefs often feel very true, but most of the time they are very inaccurate. JUST BECAUSE WE FEEL OUR BELIEFS ARE TRUE, IT IN NO WAY LOGICALLY FOLLOWS THAT THEY ARE.

In effect, then, childhood abuse can cause us to become PREJUDICED AGAINST OURSELVES – we see ourselves through a kind of distorting, black filter.


Negative, prejudiced self-beliefs are dangerous as they may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example:

– someone who thinks s/he will always fail may, as a result, not try to achieve anything and therefore not succeed in the way s/he in fact had the potential to do (if only s/he had believed in her/himself).

– someone who believes s/he is unloveable (when in reality this is untrue) may never attempt to form close relationships thus remaining unnecessarily lonely and isolated.

In summary, childhood EXPERIENCES form OUR FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF SYSTEMS. This in turn affects:

– our mood

– our behaviour

– our relationships

This negative belief system can become deeply entrenched. It is therefore necessary to ‘re-program’ our belief systems and I shall be examining how this might be achieved in later articles.


Traumatic childhoodTEN STEPS TO SOLID SELF-ESTEEM. Click here.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery
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