Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

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.

CONCLUSION:

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

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

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.

RESOURCES :

Overcoming A Troubled Childhood (MP3) – CLICK HERE

Stop Self Hatred Today (MP3) – CLICK HERE

 

E-books :

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Above eBooks now available on Amazon for instant download. $4.99 each. (Other titles available).CLICK HERE.

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

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

genes and depressin

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON DNA :

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).

Animal studies support this finding: in rats it has been shown that QUALITY OF MATERNAL CARE HAS A LARGE EFFECT ON GENES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STRESS RESPONSE IN OFFSPRING:

POOR MATERNAL CARE = ADVERSE EFFECT ON GENES OF OFFSPRING = HIGH SUSCEPTIBILITY TO STRESS IN OFFSPRING.

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.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, GENES AND DEPRESSION.

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

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

Other Resources :

Natural Depression Treatment Program: Click Here.

 

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

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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.

PUTTING THINGS IN PLACE OF LOSSES

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

-fun and enjoyment
-security
-peace of mind
-safety
-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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How Childhood Trauma can Affect View of Self. Part 2.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

DEVELOPMENT OF BELIEF SYSTEMS IN CHILDHOOD:

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.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY:

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.

Resource:

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

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

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Self-Image : How Childhood Trauma Can Adversely Affect It. Part 1.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

If we have experienced childhood trauma to a significant degree, we may irrationally blame ourselves for it which, in turn, may well seriously, negatively, distort our self-perception; in other words, adversely affect our view of ourselves.

Our ENVIRONMENT has a large influence on how our personalities develop. For example, children brought up in a loving and secure environment are much more likely to become relatively content and self-confident adults.

On the other hand, a child who has suffered abuse and neglect may develop into an adult lacking self-confidence and prone to anxiety, depression and other serious difficulties.

Also, if a child has had an unstable parent or carer who has been unpredictable and has given mixed messages, they may develop into an adult who is fearful of abandoment. As a result, he/she may:

1. cling to close relationships
2. avoid close relationships

and, quite often:

a painful combination of the two.

This can make maintaining close relationships very problematic.

Children are ‘programmed’ to learn from adults (for evolutionary reasons) so if the adult carer has been abusive and critical the child may well grow up FALSELY BELIEVING that he/she is bad, stupid, unloveable and worthless. Also, trusting others may become very difficult as the individual’s experience during childhood was to be badly let down BY THE VERY PERSON/S WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO CARE FOR THEM AND PROTECT THEM.

negative self-image

The more stresses and traumas a child has, the more likely it is that he/she will develop into a pessimistic, anxious, depressed adult who believes things are hopeless and cannot improve.

It should be pointed out, though, that if a child suffers abuse but also has significant positive support in other areas of his/her life during childhood, this can make the individual more RESILIENT to the negative effects of the trauma.

It is also important to note that if a person has suffered trauma and as a result has a negative view of themselves, the future and the world in general (sometimes referred to as the ‘depressive cognitive triad’), IT IS POSSIBLE TO CHANGE THIS PESSIMISTIC OUTLOOK.

Resources:

Hypnosis_download_to_boost_self-esteem  Ten Steps To Improve Self Esteem – instantly hypnosis Audio pack. Click here.

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

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Childhood Trauma: What Is It?

what is childhood trauma?

What Is Childhood Trauma?

There is no one, absolute and precise definition of childhood trauma. However, experts in the field of its study generally agree that an individual’s traumatic experience will be related to one or more of the following three types of abuse:

1) Emotional abuse

2) Physical abuse

3) Sexual abuse

In the past it was generally agreed amongst clinicians that sexual abuse had the most significant adverse impact on the child’s subsequent development. However, it is important to point out that more up-to-date research shows emotional and physical abuse can be just as damaging (some children will experience a combination of two or more of the three types).

The exact nature of the abuse will be inextricably intertwined with the developmental problems which emerge in the individual as a result of it.

childhood trauma

Neglect :

There is a problem, though, with the categorization method. This is because the three individual categories do not tend to take account of neglect. Neglect may involve a parent or carer doing nothing to intervene to prevent the child from being abused by someone else, or a parent burdening a young child with their own psychological problems which the child is not old or mature enough to cope with. A parent or carer might neglect a child knowingly or unknowingly.

How Common is Child Abuse?

It is difficult to know the true figures as childhood abuse is often covered up or unreported. Also, accurate figures are hindered by the fact childhood abuse cannot be precisely defined.

However, current estimates in the UK suggest about 12% of children experience physical abuse and 11% experience sexual abuse.

So if you have been abused as a child, you are far from alone.

Childhood Trauma And Personal Meaning :

Whilst it is impossible to precisely define child abuse, what is important is the PERSONAL MEANING the sufferer ATTACHES to it. In other words, recognizing the problems a person has developed as a result of the abuse and providing therapy to help the individual deal with those problems is more important than precisely defining the traumatic experience which caused the problems, and arguing about whether it technically qualifies as abuse or not.

Events in childhood which cause trauma are often referred to as ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES or ACEs) in the literature. To view an infographic of ACEs, please click here.

To read more about the ACEs study, click here.

Other Resources Related To Childhood Trauma :

eBook :

Childhood_trauma

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery
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