Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Night Terrors : Sleep Paralysis

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What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Perhaps three of four dozen times in my life, a very unnerving thing has happened to me whilst in bed : I have awoken to find myself completely and utterly paralyzed. Mercifully, however, it never lasted for more than about a minute.

The first time it occurred, this transient quality, though, did not stop me worrying. Did I have a tumour pressing against my spine? Was it incipient Parkinson’s disease? Did I have some terrifying and irreversible brain disease? Would I be dead within a month?

Imagine my relief when I discovered from my doctor that this condition was, in fact, not all that uncommon and was, apart from the psychological distress it causes, completely harmless.

The condition is a type of parasomnia (sleep disorder) that sometimes occurs when we wake directly from REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep – the stage of sleep in which we dream) and is called sleep  paralysis; it is also frequently accompanied by night terror (a feeling of intense anxiety, sometimes involving an irrational fear that one is under the control of some dark, malevolent, evil, omnipotent force).

During REM sleep the brain stem blocks bodily movement in order to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams. Also, during REM sleep, the brain produces images (the visual content of our dreams).

 

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Above : During REM sleep we enter a state of atonia (paralysis). Sometimes, this persists for a short time on awakening abruptly from REM sleep, rendering us temporarily incapable of either movement or speech.

Sometimes, when we wake up abruptly from REM sleep, these processes are still operating (ie they have not switched themselves off). This results in us being awake and yet unable to move or, indeed, to speak. And, because the brain may still also be producing images, we may, as if being paralyzed and rendered temporarily mute were not enough to contend with, have also to endure frightening hallucinations, for good measure

Most unpleasant, you will agree.

A Simple Cure:

Fortunately, however, this distressing state is short lived – perhaps lasting a minute or less. Indeed, one can escape its grip by, if possible, initiating tiny bodily movements such as wiggling a toe, finger or, even, by just blinking.

Why Are Those Who Suffered Childhood Trauma At An Elevated Risk Of Experiencing Sleep Paralysis?

Because those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more likely than the average person to suffer from sleep problems, it follows that we are, too, at an elevated risk of suffering from night terrors/sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is also sometimes referred to as hynagogic or predormital sleep paralysis.

 

Resources:

Insomnia Beater Pack : Click here.

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Psychomotor Agitation (And My Experience Of It).

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We have seen that those who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders in their adult lives. In extreme cases, this may lead to what is known as psychomotor agitation. I explain what is meant by this term below. However, I wish to start by recounting my own experience of this most distressing of psychological conditions.

For at least three years in total, off and on, I could not take a bath. The reason for this was that, when I was in this state (each episode could last several months) I was too agitated to do so – I couldn’t relax enough to lie down in the water, or even sit in it, any more so than I could voluntarily immerse myself in molten iron.

So I showered instead, right? Wrong. I felt too agitated to even indulge in this activity, even though most people find showering extremely relaxing and pleasurable.

Instead, I carried out my ablutions with a damp flannel; however, I confess that even this frequently proved to be a challenge I could not meet. Anti-social? Well, yes, if I saw anyone : but I didn’t. I was living as a virtual recluse.

Of course, for people who haven’t experienced severe agitated depression, it is extremely difficult to imagine how acutely distressing it is to have to endure such psychological torment on a constant and unremitting basis.

I couldn’t even sit back in an armchair; I was, quite literally, always on the edge of my seat’ (so it seems the expression is not merely a metaphor).

In other words, I existed in a perpetual and unrelenting state of the most intense kind of agitation – permanently distracted and distraught. This led to a suicide attempt which left me in a coma in intensive care for five days, followed by hospitalizations and several courses of electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT).

The name for this kind of profound, and highly distressing, restlessness is psychomotor agitation. I describe what is meant by this term below:

images 121 - Psychomotor Agitation (And My Experience Of It).

Symptoms Of Psychomotor Agitation:

– unintentional/ involuntary/ purposeless movement driven by an irresistible compulsion to do so,  feelings of inner tension, restlessness, anxiety and intense mental anguish and distress. These involuntary movements may include:

– pacing around the room

– hand wringing

 

Psychomotor agitation is found particularly frequently in those with bipolar disorder, substance abusers and those with psychotic depression (to read about all the other types of depression, click here).

Treatment:

Doctors may treat the disorder pharmacologically (ie. with medication) but it also often treated non-pharmocologically by means other F therapies such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga and other relaxation techniques.

Resources:

audio lessn2 - Psychomotor Agitation (And My Experience Of It).    Overcome Fear And Anxiety. Click Here.

 

eBook:

51qVvYtAfUL. AA160  - Psychomotor Agitation (And My Experience Of It).

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Depression: Risk Factors And Why It Is Underdiagnosed.

 

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Undiagnosed Childhood Depression

Whilst there are many similarities between childhood depression and adult depression, there are also some important differences. One such difference is children displaying objectively observable symptoms of depression often deny that they are depressed.

Certainly this was true in my case as a child. For example, I would have felt a deep sense of (completely irrational and undeserved) shame had my contemporaries realised how deeply unhappy I was, as if being unhappy was some kind of contemptible personal and moral failing (or, as I would have thought at the time, yet another contemptible personal and moral failing).

images79 - Childhood Depression: Risk Factors And Why It Is Underdiagnosed.

Although each child’s experience of depression differs, there are certain symptoms which frequently present themselves. These include:

– disrupted sleep or a need to sleep too much

– impaired concentration (which may lead to academic underachievement)

– low levels of energy

– mood changes

– increased irritability/anger

– general negative outlook on life

– self-harm

– loss of concern about appearance

– increased irritability

– increased proneness to become angry/enraged

– social withdrawal

– loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)

– deterioration in behaviour at school and in academic performance

– physical problems such as headaches and stomach ailments (particularly in younger children who may not otherwise seem depressed; such children – although they will themselves be unaware of this – are described by psychologists of somaticizing their internal feelings of mental distress).

Unfortunately, too, because being depressed increases a child’s vulnerability, and other children quickly sense such vulnerability, a depressed child may become the target of school bullies, significantly exacerbating the depressed child’s problems, particularly as his/her depression may make his/her attempts at social interaction awkward and painful anyway, nevermind having to cope with bullies on top of this.  Again, this was close to my own youthful experience.

And, of course, having social difficulties is psychologically devastating for a child. This is because children have a profound need to feel they are accepted by their peers and that they ‘belong’.

What Factors Put Children At Risk Of Developing Depression?

About 95℅ of adolescents who develop clinical depression have chronic problems such as:

– the experience of significant trauma

– being the victim of abuse within the home

– living in a home in which there is domestic violence

– parental divorce/separation/disharmony

– parental neglect

– parental alcoholism/misuse of drugs

– living in a financially poor household

– living in a single parent household

– being taken into care by the local authority

– being placed in an institution young offenders

– being in constant conflict with parents/primary caregivers

– living with a mentally ill patent

– being a young care / parentified

Comorbidity:

Depressed children are likely to have comorbid (simultaneously occurring) mental health conditions such as alcoholism, drug dependency or ADHD (Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder).

Prevalence:

Depression amongst children is less prevalent than it is amongst adults, but it still affects:

Approx. 7℅ of adolescent children

Approx. 3 ℅ of pre-pubertal children

 

Why Childhood Depression Is Significantly Underdiagnosed:

Sadly, as in my own case, the fact that a child is suffering from depression often goes unacknowledged. This can make the child’s condition much worse; for example, if one of the depressed child’s symptoms is outbursts of rage and anger, s/he may be blamed and punished for this, serving only to lower the child’s self-esteem further.

Indeed, this could lead the child to turn the anger s/he feels in on herself/himself, resulting in self-harm, suicidal thoughts and/or suicidal behaviour.

Appropriate education of parents, teachers and others who come into frequent contact with children about child mental health issues would increase the likelihood of childhood depression being picked up in its early stages which would, in turn, improve the chances of effective treatment.

Also, it would be helpful if young people themselves were taught more about childhood mental health issues, not least because another reason depression in the young is underdiagnosed is due to the stigma that, even in the 21st century, still attaches itself being diagnosed with a psychiatric illness (as I allude to at the start of this article).

Treatment:

This should focus on the ‘whole child’ so that:

– any other conditions the child has may be addressed eg. excessive drinking, social phobia, inappropriate anger

– problems that exist in the family as a whole may be addressed (children who come from dysfunctional families / stressful family environments have a much higher incidence of depression)

– if the child’s parents have a mental illness (making it more likely the child will suffer from mental health problems) that this, too, is addressed.

For Information About Available Help – Click here.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How The Brain Can Change And Recover From Harm.

 

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Whilst the basic structure of the brain is formed by early childhood, this physical structure changes throughout life as a result of our experiences and learning.

A well known example of this is relates to a study of London taxi drivers (who undergo years of extensive training to learn their way around the London streets) ; it was found, through the use of brain scans, that as a result of this training the part of their brain that deals with spatial awareness actually increased in size.

This ability of the brain to physically change throughout life is due to a quality it possesses called neuroplasticity.

The main phases of brain development and change can be divided into 3 stages. I briefly describe each of these below:

1) The Precritical Phase:

This occurs during early childhood. During this phase, the brain’s neurons (nerve cells) are formed, as are the connections between them.

These neurons communicate with each other by the process of electro-chemical signalling.

The brain consists of about 100 billion (100,000,000,000) neurons and each of these neurons may be connected up to 10,000 other neurons.

Mind-bogglingly, this means that our neurons communicate with one another via a network of about 1,000 trillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) connections (known as synaptic connections).

2) The second phase relates to the changes that occur to the brain after childhood as a result of our learning and the experiences (eg. see example of London taxi drivers above).

3) Later life : If the brain does not receive adequate stimulation, its processing ability may be adversely affected, as may memory. However, brain training exercises can help to prevent such deterioration.

BRAIN DAMAGE REVERSIBILITY:

images 216 - How The Brain Can Change And Recover From Harm.

We have seen, in other articles that I have published on this site, that severe childhood trauma can harm the way in which the brain develops.

However, such harm to the brain is frequently reversible, at least in part. Two ways in which the brain is able to repair itself are:

– by developing new connections between neurons

– redirecting specific brain functions to alternative brain regions.

Furthermore, studies now reveal that, in certain situations, the brain is actually capable of developing new neurons.

APPLICATIONS TO ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION:

Meditation, visualisation and repeated hypnosis/self-hypnosis that enhances relaxation has been found to alter the brain in a beneficial manner. These changes help to dampen down negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and anger; also, they help both the brain and the body to heal themselves.

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Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here.

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

 

 

 

 

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Do You Have Depersonalization Disorder? The Symptoms.

 

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We have already seen that the experience of severe trauma can lead to us reacting (although it is a reaction created by unconscious processes, not a reaction we deliberately choose, of course) by developing a psychological defense mechanism known as depersonalization , which produces in us a sense of ‘unreality’ – as if we are living in a kind of dream world and are strangely detached and disconnected from the real world.

Essentially, it is our mind’s way of protecting us from fully experiencing a reality which has become intolerably psychological painful. However, this ‘protection’ comes at a very heavy price; indeed, I know, from my own personal experience, that the condition of depersonalization itself is very distressing.

In this article, I want to take a detailed look at the main symptoms of this disorder.

 

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The Symptoms Of Depersonalization Disorder:

– the world seems lifeless and colourless. All experiences leave you feeling flat. There is no excitement or pleasure (an inability to experience pleasure is sometimes referred to by psychologists as anhedonia).

– you feel like a ‘detached observer’ of your own life, almost as good if someone else is playing the part of you in a movie that you are watching; you feel you are just going through the motions of living, like a robot or an automaton.

– you have lost the feelings of affection that you once had for your friends and family

– you may laugh and cry but you have ceased to feel the emotions that normally accompany such behaviours

– your head feels empty and devoid of thought and when you speak you feel you don’t know where the words have come from, as if your speech is automated

– your memories don’t feel like your own, as if you never experienced the events that are held in your memory

– you no longer feel fear in connection with things that once would have frightened you, just a numbness

– you are unable to visualize (eg the faces of your friends or family)

– you sometimes feel the need to touch your body in order to confirm you really are a present, physical, existing entity

– you sometimes have the feeling that your hands and/or feet are bigger/smaller than they really are (this is sometimes known as body dysmorphia).

– your body feels as if it is floating

– your body doesn’t feel like your own

– you feel as if you are ‘outside’ of your body

 

It is not necessary to suffer from all of the above symptoms to be suffering from depersonalization. However, the more symptoms one has, the more intense the symptoms are and the longer they persist the more likely it is that one has the condition.

For more information, including information about possible treatments for depersonalization, click here.

 

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

 

 

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Constantly Feeling ‘Empty’? Effects And Solutions.

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We have seen in other articles posted on this site that those who suffered significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing conditions such as depression, anhedonia and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). One of the main symptoms of all three of these disorders is chronic and intense feelings that life has no meaning or purpose and a sense of emotional deadness / sense that one’s feelings have ‘shut down’ (sometimes referred to by psychologists as having flat affect). In short, a feeling of absolute emptiness.

Feeling like this can lead the individual into a desperate search to at least feel something, even if that ‘something’ is negative ( in terms of its effect on self and others).

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This drive to feel something rather than nothing is generally fueled by an unconscious motivation.

Because it is so hard for an individual suffering from this pervasive sense of emptiness to feel anything, the experiences that s /he may seek to pursue (to at least feel something) may be ones that are intense (whether they be emotional or physical experiences).

Such experiences may include:

– provoking others into angry and aggressive arguments

– provoking physical fights

– impulsivity/thrill seeking/risk taking (eg. high stakes gambling)

– extreme use of alcohol/street drugs

– being cruel to animals

– testing others to their limits ( to see if they remain loyal)

– sef-harm

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Above: This may explain why some people self-harm

– compulsive shopping

– compulsive eating

– mirroring : the individual who experiences feelings of emptiness tends to have a very weak sense of his/her own identity and feels hollow as a person. In extreme cases, this can lead him/her into taking on the persona of someone else in order to fill this vacuum. In so doing, s/he may imitate the person’s mannerisms, behaviour and style of dress and take up the person’s interests and hobbies. In very extreme cases s/he may take on the person’s name and pretend to have their past.

More healthy ways of strengthening one’s sense of identity include:

– voluntary work for a cause one supports and believes in (eg. Amnesty International)

– taking up a new hobby or resuming an old one

– getting a pet

– developing spirituality

– going to adult learning classes to study a subject that interests one

– training for a new career

Possible Therapies:

Therapies that can potentially help people suffering feelings of emptiness include:

– existential psychotherapy

– humanistic psychotherapy

– logo therapy (this therapy was developed by Frankl, the writer and holocaust survivor)

Other Resources:

FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE (self-hypnosis MP3) : Click here.

FIND YOUR IDENTITY (self-hypnosis MP3) : Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc; MSc, PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

5 Stages Of Grief : The Effect Of Divorce On Children

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My own parents divorced when I was eight years old. Initially, when my father left, in order to ‘protect’ me (I assume) my mother told me that my father had moved away to ‘be nearer work’ (he worked in central London and we lived about twenty miles away in a small town called Rickmansworth). She went on to say that if it turned out to be more convenient for him, he would not come back (and, of course, he never did). You can imagine my confusion and distress.

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Sadly, divorce is now extremely common in the UK. I provide some statistics relating to how this affects children below:

– about 25 ℅ of families with dependent children are single-parent families

– about 40 ℅ of these families live in relative poverty

– the majority of single-parent families do not receive any maintenance money from the absent parent

– about 10℅ of single families are headed by the father, with the remaining 90℅ being headed by the mother

(Sorce: Gingerbread)

5 Stages Of Grief:

The psychologist Kubler-Ross delineated 5 types of emotional reaction a child may go through following the divorce of his/her parents. These 5 stages are:

1) Denial

2) Anger

3) Bargaining

4) Depression

5) Acceptance

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

DENIAL – Unable to absorb the painful reality that the parents are splitting up, the child tries to convince him/herself that it’s not happening. For example, the child might keep telling him/herself that the parents are bound soon to reunite.

ANGER – The child may be angry at one, or both, parents. This is sometimes not helped by the fact that in some acrimonious divorces each parent may try to turn the child against the other parent ; it goes without saying that this can be extremely emotionally damaging to the child

BARGAINING – in this stage the child has still not come to terms with the situation and may try to convince him/herself that it can be ‘bargained out of.’ For example, the child may think : ‘If I’m always on my best behaviour from now on maybe my parents will get back together. They may think along such lines as it is not uncommon for young people to (irrationally) blame themselves for their parents’ divorce)

DEPRESSION – Reality finally hits and sinks in leading to the child becoming sad/depressed (click here for an infographic about childhood depression). Whilst this stage is painful, it is psychologically necessary.

ACCEPTANCE – This final stage does not necessarily mean that the child is fully emotionally recovered, but signals the fact that s/he is through the worst of the depression

images58 - 5 Stages Of Grief : The Effect Of Divorce On Children

Factors That May Increase The Child’s Psychological Resilience:

The psychologist Bananno suggested that some children may be quite resilient to the adverse effects of divorce, especially if the parent s/he continues to live with remains strong and positive and the child also receives good emotional support. Also, despite the divorce, the more positive things the child still has in his/her life (friends, clubs etc), the more resilient s/he is likely to be.

I am sure that in my own case the emotional damage I incurred as a result of my parents’ divorce was greatly amplified by the fact that, soon after it occurred, I became my mother’s psychological carer/counsellor. Indeed, she used to refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’  In connection with this, click here to read my article on the harm done to children when they become ‘parentified.:

Important Further Points About The Above 5 Stages:

Finally, it is important to point out that Kubler-Ross stated that the above 5 stages can occur in any order and that not everyone experiences all 5. Furthermore, some individuals may well experience other emotions not listed within the above 5 in relation to their patents’ divorce.

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Parental Depression On The Toddler

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A study conducted at Northwestern University has provided evidence that both a mothers’ and a fathers’ depression can have equally damaging effects upon the toddler.

The study focused on 200 couples with a three year old child. Each member of each couple had their level of depression assessed (each had also had their level of depression assessed shortly after the now three year old was born in a preliminary part of the study).

Each member of each couple was also given a questionnaire to complete about their three year old’s internalising and externalising behaviours. These included:

Internalising behaviours:

– anxiety

– general sadness

– jiiteriness / nervousness

Externalising behaviours:

– general acting out

– aggression / hitting

– lying

Results of study :

The greater the father’s level of depression had been found to be in the study the more undesirable internalised and externalised behaviours (see above) the couple’s three-year-old displayed and the more problematic these behaviours were likely to be.

The effects on the toddler were the same if it was the mother who’d suffered depression.

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How does the parent’s depression harm the young child?

A parent who is depressed is likely to find it harder to bond with the infant and more difficult to engage with him/her in a positive, reassuring and nurturing way. If such problems are severe enough, the young child is at risk of going on to develop an attachment disorder (click here to read my article on this).

Importance of study.

This study is of especial interest and importance as it assesses the effect of the father’s depression on the child. The majority of previous studies have focused on maternal depression and its effects upon the infant.

Implications of study

Fisher, who headed the study, in the light of the above findings, stressed the importance of ensuring new fathers, like new mothers, are screened for depression so that, if present, it can be treated thus making it less likely that the infant’s subsequent development will be adversely affected.

Other findings from the study:

The study also suggested that parental depression can do more harm to the infant/toddler than even parental conflict.


 

Resources:

51qVvYtAfUL. UY250  - Effects Of Parental Depression On The Toddler

Above ebook immediately downloadable from Amazon. Click here for further details (other titles available).


Depression natural treatment program (free sign up) :Click here.


Useful link:

General information about depression provided by NHS. Click here.

 


 

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Afraid Of Going To Sleep?

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Are You Afraid Of Going To Sleep?

My so-called ‘sleep’ (it’s stretching things to dignify it with that word, actually, even in inverted commas), in the past, has been appalling : it would take me at least three hours to lose consciousness, and, even then, I would wake, with a violent, shuddering start, ridiculously frequently throughout the night, sometimes shouting, or even screaming, and, not infrequently, drenched in sweat, making my pillow so damp that it would be necessary to turn it over (then, as the night progressed tortuously slowly, use the second pillow, then have to turn that one over…)

My intensely vivid nightmares would be filled with the most horrific violence, of which I was invariably the recipient – I would be sawn in half, chopped up with a machete, or otherwise maimed and mutilated.

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I still get up at about 4.30 am as by then I am fully awake and there is no hope of even lightly dozing (as you may well know, early morning waking, coupled with the inability to fall back to sleep, is a classic hallmark of depression).

Once I’m up, I feel I need to take a long rest in order to recover from my nocturnal ordeal : in other words, my ‘sleep’ necessitates a (tormentingly elusive) sleep.

When things were at their worst, in fact, I would dread going to bed, almost to the point of physical nausea.

If we have developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result of our painful childhood experiences it is very likely that we will, without effective therapy, suffer insomnia and nightmares as adults, similar to that described above.

This is because PTSD leads to a feeling of constantly being on ‘red alert’ / on the look out for danger. Clearly, this is hardly a state of mind conducive to a blissful night’s sleep.

If we have terrifying nightmares, as alluded to above, we may become very fearful of going to sleep and try to stay awake for as long as possible, in a pitiful attempt to postpone our descent into our night-time Hades.

Of course, this can only work in the very short term.

If we constantly put off going to bed and, when we finally do go to bed, our sleep is disrupted by our nightmares and, perhaps, too, frequent waking, we will quickly become chronically exhausted (mentally, physically and emotionally) and, essentially, sleep deprived.

This can lead to:

– an exacerbation of existing depression

– high levels of irritability / proneness to outbursts of rage in response to even (objectively speaking) minor frustrations

– an increase in anxiety levels

If the sleep deprivation becomes severe, then, in addition to the above, we may:

– hallucinate

– become increasingly irrational / develop impaired judgment

 

The internet is awash with information about action to take to reduce insomnia and nightmares and to repeat it all here would be superfluous. However, two tips that I found useful were :

1) Imagine self in a safe and secure place when intending to fall asleep

2) If really can’t fall asleep try to relax in a different room for as long as necessary

Afraid Of Going To Sleep Because Of Nightmares?

These can imitate past traumas we have suffered or symbolically represent them. When waking from a nightmare and feeling frightened, it is useful for us to try to ‘self-sooth’ by, for example, telling ourselves:

– ‘I am safe now’

– ‘It’s over – it’s not happening now, it’s in the past.’

– ‘It’s just my imagination – it’s not real.’

Finally, of course, ‘trying hard’ to fall asleep and getting angry and frustrated about our inability to do so is counter-productive. Paradoxically, trying hard to stay awake when tired is more likely to induce sleep.

Resources:

‘Stop recurring nightmares’ hypnosis download : click here

Get back to sleep quickly’ hypnosis download : click here

 

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma Leading To Compulsive Skin Picking

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audio lessn 1 - Childhood Trauma Leading To Compulsive Skin Picking Stop Skin Picking

As a child, from the age of about ten, my brother ( three years older than me) never called me by my name, but always referred to me as ‘Scabby’ or ‘The Scab’. When, at age and eleven, I joined him at secondary school (Watford Grammar School for Boys, Hertfordshire, UK, just in case anyone’s remotely interested) he ensured all his friends knew this name for too, with all too predictable results.

Sadly, my highly emotionally immature mother (click here to read my article on emotionally immature parents) would, too, refer to me by this not entirely flattering appellation. Or just laugh when my brother used the term.

The reason (apart from their flagrant and wholly gratuitous ignorance) was that I compulsively picked at my skin. I have since discovered that this is a recognised disorder with various medical names, including:

– dermatillomania

– body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB)

– skin picking disorder (SPD)

– excoriation disorder

The disorder is also related to obsessive compulsive disotder (OCD) and involves picking, scratching and digging under the skin with one’s finger nails.

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What Causes It?

Research suggests that the disorder is a dysfunctional response to stress used (consciously or subconsciously) in an attempt to alleviate high levels of mental distress and turmoil.

It is also theorised that it can operate as an expression of repressed rage and/or other repressed feelings.

In nearly half of all cases the onset of the disorder occurs before the age of ten years. It is linked to childhood abuse and trauma and is often accompanied by depression, anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

Genes are also thought to play some part in the disorder.

Severe cases.

In severe cases, individuals can spend hours a day picking at their skin and the harm inflicted can be so severe that skin grafts are required.

Also, as can well be imagined, heavy scarring can result (as it has in my case).

Link To Suicide:

Particularly worryingly, about 11% of those who suffer from the disorder will attempt suicide.

Shame and Guilt:

To compound the problem, those who suffer from the disorder often feel ashamed of their compulsion and, accordingly, do not want others to know. Because of this, they often select areas of skin to pick which are not normally on show to the public (eg see picture above).

Treatment:

More research is needed to ascertain effective treatments but two of the most promising at the moment are cognitive behavioural therapy and habit reversal training.

Resource:

audio lessn 1 - Childhood Trauma Leading To Compulsive Skin Picking STOP SKIN PICKING

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

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