Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Fifteen Emotional Symptoms of Stress

effects of stress

emotional symptoms of stress

If we have suffered long-lasting significant stress when we were children it is very likely to have affected the physical development of our brains in an adverse manner which makes it very much harder to cope with the effects of even minor stress as adults. On an emotional level, we react far more intensely to it than those whose brain development was normal (click here to read my article on how childhood stress affects the physical development of the brain).


In this post, I therefore thought it might be helpful to list some of the main emotional symptoms we might have indicating that we are suffering the effects of stress.

Before I do this, however, I should also point out that when we are finding it difficult to cope with the effects of stress it affects other aspects of ourselves, too – not just our emotions. It also affects us physically and how we behave.

It is important to point out that different people are affected by stress in different ways. In some, the symptoms of stress may be obviously apparent (overt), whilst in others they may be hidden or ‘invisible’ (covert). Furthemore, in some individuals the symptoms may be short-term, whilst in others they may be long-term (ie chronic). The warning signs that someone is suffering the effects of excessive stress may include headaches, chest discomfort, indigestion, muscle tension (physical symptoms) or behavioural symptoms (eg physical aggression, increased alcohol intake etc).

However, in this post I want to focus on EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS, and, in keeping with the title of this post, I list 15 of these below :

– inability to feel pleasue (psychologists sometimes refer to this as anhedonia)

– feelings of aggression towards others

– feelings of frustration

– a tendency to become easily tearful

– feeling constantly under intense pressure

– increased feelings of suspiciousness

– increased feelings of irritability and increased likeliness to complain

– more easily triggered ‘fight/flight’ impulse and feelings of wanting to ‘hide away.’

– feeling in a constant state of fear

– finding it hard to make decisions

– a feeling of being mentally drained and exhausted

– feeling tense, agitated and unable to relax

– impaired ability to concentrate

– social self-consciousness

– fears of imminent death, ‘madness’ or collapse

childhood trauma help guide

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

Ten Questions We can Ask Ourselves to Challenge Our Negative Thoughts.


My mother was one of the world’s most negative people. I remember, when I was a young child, one of her favourite sayings was that people did not need to ask what Hell would be like as we were ‘all living in it now’. At the time, it seemed like she might be on to something.

If we have suffered childhood trauma it is likely we have been conditioned to think negatively since we were very young. Negative thinking is also a hallmark of clinical depression (click here to read my article about the link between childhood trauma and major depression) and other serious psychological disorders.

When negative thinking becomes pathological, our views of just about everything may become distorted, or, as it is technically termed, we are very prone to ‘cognitive distortions’  (this term just refers to the errors in thinking – cognitions – we make that causes us to interprete things far more negatively than is objectively warranted).

These ‘thinking errors’ often become so pervasive that they lead us to develop what psychologists refer to as a ‘NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD’:

THE NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD involves us holding :




When we suffer from excessive negative thinking, psychologists point out that such thinking becomes AUTOMATIC/REFLEXIVE and we therefore need to start challenging our negative thoughts to discover if they are really valid (very often, if we are depressed, they are not).

I therefore list below ten examples of the kinds of questions we can ask ourselves when we find ourselves caught up in a relentless and overwhelming stream of negative thoughts :

–    do I over-focus on my weaknesses at the expense of my strengths?

–   am I jumping to conclusions?

–   am I erroneously treating my thoughts as facts?

–   how appropriate is blame in this situation?

–   am I being too much of a perfectionist?

–   how are my thoughts affecting how I feel?

–   how are my thoughts affecting how I behave?

–   am I looking for clear-cut answers where they don’t exist?

–   am I thinking in terms of extremes rather than taking a more balanced view?

–   is there only a downside to this situation or is there anything I can turn to my advantage?

To read my article on how cognitive-behavioural therapy can help us to challenge our negative thoughts click here.


Above  eBooks available for immediate download from Amazon at $4.99. CLICK HERE.


Stop Negative Thoughts MP3. CLICK HERE.

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

Physical Symptoms of Stress and How to Reduce Them




Find resources to reduce stress by clicking banner above.

If we have experienced a traumatic childhood, it is frequently the case that our capacity to deal with stress as adults is seriously diminished (click here to read one of my articles about this).

When we experience stress, it almost invariably involves unpleasant physical symptoms; these include :

– dry mouth/throat

– upset stomach

– frequent urges to pass urine

– muscular twitches

– fatigue

– inability to settle/restlessness/fidgeting

– tingling sensations in hands/feet

– indigestion

– trembling

– muscle weakness

– muscle tension

– shallow, fast breathing – also known as hyperventilating  (this worsens the anxiety so it is extremely useful to learn techniques to help control this – see below)

– dilated pupils

– sweating

– loss or increase in appetite

– sweating

– rapid, uneven or pounding heart beat

– a feeling of nausea

– headaches

– sleep difficulties

– over-alertness/feeling extremely ‘on edge’ (this is also sometimes referred to as ‘hypervigilance’ or ‘hyperarousal’)

– aches and pains (eg in the back)

This is not an exhaustive list, but covers most of the main physical symptoms people tend to experience when suffering from the effects of excessive stress.


It sounds too simple to be true, but one of the most effective methods for dealing with the physical symptoms of stress, such as those listed above, is to use controlled breathing techniques.

Normally, of course, breathing is an unconscious process. However, by taking conscious control, for a short period of time, over how we breathe, we can very significantly ameliorate the unpleasant physical sensations which can accompany stress. By changing how we breathe, we can dramatically change how the act of breathing makes our bodies feel.

The beneficial breathing technique which I refer to has been called by various different names – ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, ‘paced respiration’ or, rather less grandly, ‘deep breathing.’ Its physiological effect is simple but effective ; it increases oyygen levels in our bodies and decreases levels of carbon dioxide.


Research is now showing that this conscious breathing technique is much more powerful, and has far more benefits, than people had, hitherto, been aware of. These are :

A) the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated into action and this counters the ‘fight or flight response’ triggered by our sympathetic nervous system

B) it reduces the physical damage stress can do to the body by lowering levels of cortisol (cortisol – a hormone – levels can dangerously increase in response to excessive stress)

C) it increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps to keep us calm

D) it lowers our blood pressure and our heart rate thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease

E) new research now suggests it actually helps a part of the brain involved in attentional processes to grow larger

F) recent research also provides evidence that it helps to improve our immune system


Below I describe a simple breathing technique that helps to counter the effects of stress :

1) Get into as comfortable a position as possible

2) Close eyes

3) Drop jaw and shoulders

4) Allow muscles, especially if you can feel that some muscle groups are particularly tense, to relax as much as possible. Don’t worry if they do not feel completely relaxed.


6) Try to FILL LUNGS as much as possible by EXPANDING ABDOMEN and RAISING RIBCAGE


8) BREATHE OUT SLOWLY AND TRY TO COMPLETELY EMPTY LUNGS (allow abdomen and ribcage to relax to help with this)

Sessions should be at least 5 minutes (although even a shorter length of time is helpful) and the breathing exercise should be carried out without straining.

Mindfulness meditation therapy is becoming increasingly recognized, due to recent and current research being conducted at universities world wide, as being extremely effective for treating stress, anxiety and many other conditions.


MP3s :





Above e-books available for instant download on Amazon. $4.99 each.(Other titles available).CLICK HERE.

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

List of Life Events Categorized According to Their Stressfulness.

list of stressful life events

stressful life events

If we have experienced significant childhood trauma, research shows that our ability to cope with stress can, as a result, become severely reduced in adult life (click here to read one of my articles about this). We may well find, then, that we are particularly affected by some of the life events listed below in this article.

Any major change in our lives can produce stress (even positive changes like getting married). The more an event challenges our ability to cope with it, the more stress it is likely to produce.

A list of various life events which can give rise to stress is given below. Over any given period of time, the more of these events we experience, and the higher their combined rating, the more stress they are likely to produce.

It is also worth noting that it is not just the occurrence of a stressful event per se which produces feeling of stress in us (both physical and emotional), but also how significant we perceive the event to be. Other facors which contribute to how stressful we find particular events include their predictability, their familiarity, their unavoidability and their intensity.

The list below is far from set in stone as the subjective experience people have of the events, and the events themselves, vary widely from case to case. The following should, therefore, be seen as a rough guide :



– death of husband/wife/life-partner

– death of close family member

– divorce/separation from long-term partner

– jail sentence

– marriage

– significant personal injury or illness

– loss of job


– retirement

– serious illness of family member

– death of close friend

– money problems

– new child

– pregnancy

– change of job

– sex difficulties


– change in living conditions

– change in work responsibilities

– son or daughter leaving home

– difficulties with in-laws

– outstanding personal achievement

– difficulties with boss at work

– revision of personal habits

– large mortgage or loan

– legal action over debt

– starting or finishing school

– partner begins or stops working

– family arguments


– change in social activities

– Christmas

– holidays

– minor violations of the law

– change in eating habits

– change in sleeping habits

– change in work hours

– change in recreational activities

In my next post, to be published very shortly, I will examine some of our physical responses to stress and how we can deal with these.

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

Fifteen Types of Depression.

facts about depression

types of depression

On average, and all else being equal, the more traumatic a person’s childhood, the more likely it is that s/he will experience depression at some point in his/her life.

I list below sixteen different categories of depression. A person can fit into more than one category at any one time.


1) AGITATED DEPRESSION – with this type of depression the person suffering from it is constantly restless, intensely worried and deeply anxious/fearful (I suffered this type of depression and was often incapable of even staying seated).

2) RETARDED DEPRESSION – this type of depression causes the person suffering from it to very significantly slow down both mentally and physically (this is technically referred to as PSYCHOMOTOR RETARDATION). There will also be great difficulty in concentrating. In its most extreme manifestation, the afflicted individual cannot move, speak or eat  which carries with it the risk that s/he will starve to death. This state of complete inactivity is sometimes referred to as CATATONIA.

3) PSYCHOTIC DEPRESSION – with this type of depression the individual may lose touch with reality and may suffer from delusions (outlandish false beliefs) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things which are not there). It can be treated with anti-psychotic medication.

4) NEUROTIC DEPRESSION – (this term is now falling into disuse and is being replaced with the term ‘mild depression). It is a less severe form of depression than psychotic depression (see above) and the person’s mood may fluctuate from day to day and also during the day (often, for example, feeling bad in the morning but improving in the evening). The person suffering from it may have symptoms of irritability and disrupted sleep (finding it hard to go to sleep and frequently waking during the night; however, with this type of depression there does not tend to be early morning waking which is a hallmark of other types).

5) ORGANIC DEPRESSION – this type of depression has a physical cause and can manifest itself as a result of side effects of medication. For example, the British comedian Paul Merton suffered a serious depression, for which he needed to be hospitalized, as a complication of taking anti-malaria tablets.

6) DYSTHYMIA – this is a relatively mild but persistent type of depression. Its main symptoms are low self-esteem and difficulties in making decisions. It often responds better to psychotherapy than to treatment with drugs.

7) BRIEF RECURRENT DEPRESSION – this term is relatively new and refers to serious depression which comes and goes but tends only to last for a few days at a time.

8) MASKED DEPRESSION – this is also sometimes referred to as ‘smiling depression’. Whilst the individual who has this type of depression will report that they DO NOT feel depressed, they will, nevertheless, have some of the symptoms of depression. Indeed, the symptoms will often respond well to anti-depressant medication.

9) BIPOLAR DISORDER – this used to be referred to as ‘manic-depression’. With this disorder, the person vascillates between feelings of elation and periods of despair. During their highs (the ‘manic’ phase) there will be a reduced need for sleep, excessively high energy levels often leading to frenzied activity, racing thoughts and a ‘flight of ideas’, reduced need to eat and possible delusions (eg believing they are the reincarnation of a Roman Emperor, are next in line to the throne or have special, superhuman powers) and hallucinations.

Often, too, judgment will be extremely impaired leading to, for example, massive gambling losses, vast overspending or investing huge amounts of money in doomed business ventures. Also, the individual suffering from such mania is likely to feel ‘invincible’ and that s/he ‘can achieve anything.’  However, these periods burn themselves out and are replaced by depression which may be so severe the sufferer considers or attempts suicide.

The depression may be made worse due to the lack of judgment s/he experienced during the manic phase and the self-destructiveness this may have involved (eg s/he may have taken on enormous and unrepayable debts).

10) SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (S. A. D.) – this is a form of depression which only strikes in the winter months due to the lowered amount of sunlight during this period. Symptoms can include an increased need for sleep and carbohydrate cravings.

11) UNIPOLAR DEPRESSION – this is, by a very long way, far more common than bipolar depression – only low mood is experienced ; there are no highs/manic episodes.

12) REACTIVE DEPRESSION – sometimes called ‘endogenous depression’. This type of depression occurs as a reaction to a stressful event, such as being made redundant ;  it is normally relatively short-lived and often responds well to counselling or family support.

13) RECURRENT DEPRESSION – any period of depression which is not the first one the person has experienced is called ‘recurrent depression.’

14) CHRONIC DEPRESSION – the word ‘chronic’ means long lasting (some people misuse the word when what they actually mean is ‘severe’). Doctors refer to a depression as being ‘chronic’ if it has gone on for at least two years.

15) TREATMENT RESISTANT DEPRESSION – this refers to a depression which does not improve with anti-depressant drugs. This was the type of depression I had/have. In such cases, if the depression is very severe and life-threatening (due to self-neglect or high suicide risk) electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT)may be used as as  a last resort. I myself had to undergo ECT on a number of occasions over the years (although, unfortunately, this had no positive effect whatsoever in my own case ; however, for some it can be life saving).

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

Metacognitive Therapy for Anxiety and Depression.

metacognitive therapy


Metacognitive therapy (MCT) was developed by Dr Adrian Wells and Dr Gerald Matthews in the early 1990s.  It shares elements in common with, but is distinct from, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

The main difference is that whilst CBT concentrates upon the negative CONTENT of a person’s thoughts and strives to alter that content, MCT, in contrast, focuses not on the contents of a person’s thoughts but rather on the WAY IN WHICH THE PERSON THINKS – it aims to help the person experience their negative thoughts in a new and accepting way which can greatly reduce the emotional distress that they had previously been causing.

Although MCT was first devised in order to treat anxiety, it is now used to treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions; these include :

– Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

– Social Phobia

– Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Research into the effectiveness of MCT for the above conditions has so far yielded promising results.

metacognitive therapy


Essentially, metacognitions are THOUGHTS ABOUT OUR THOUGHTS. This might sound a little odd at first, so I will illustrate what is meant by the definition with the assistance of an example :

Suppose a person started to suffer clinical depression – at first, his/her thoughts (or ruminations, as they are referred to by psychiatrists) may be quite specific ; for example, worries about being made redundant at work, the breakdown of an important relationship, ruinous debt etc…etc…

As time goes on, however, the worries can become more abstract, and the individual can start worrying about the fact s/he is always worrying. This is also referred to as meta-worrying. Similarly, s/he might begin to feel depressed about always being depressed,

It is very easy to get tied up with this type of thinking, and many do. Essentially, it adds another layer of worry or depression that is clearly superfluous and serves no purpose other than to further lower mood and further torment the hapless individual.

Metacognitions such as those illustrated above frequently become OBSESSIVE and OUT OF CONTROL, dominating our mental state and making it extremely hard to think about anything else – thoughts circle around and around our tortured and exhausted minds in a futile, painful and incessant manner.

Indeed, one of the main behaviors that exacerbates depression and anxiety is OVER-THINKING ABOUT, AND OVER-ANALYZING, THE PARTICULAR PREDICAMENT IN WHICH WE FIND OURSELVES SO CRUELLY PLACED (I know this from my own experience, as I was particularly badly afflicted by obsessional anxieties and over-analysis). Dr Wells refers to getting ‘stuck in our thoughts’ in such a way as Cognitive Attentional Syndrome.

MCT works by helping people, as I stated in the first paragraph, change the way in which they think, and subsequently how they experience their negative thoughts, rather than trying to change the content of their thoughts. One of the aims is to help them accept their thoughts much more without those thoughts triggering psychological distress; and, also, to help them realize they do not need constantly to engage in an exhausting mental fight with their thoughts.

Research has so far shown MCT to be highly effective at treating a range of conditions. Another promising finding is that the therapy can achieve very significant positive effects in as little as 8 weeks.


MCT – Institute (click here).

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


Human Stress : Why We Should Envy Gazelles

anxiety and the amydala

The human stress/fear response evolved millions of years ago in our ancestors to allow them to survive – it is commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. If we saw a tiger, it was necessary to feel fear as this fear motivated us to freeze and then to run away when it was safe to do so. Modern day humans have inherited this mechanism.

One of the areas of the brain that becomes highly active when we experience fear, and gives rise to the fight/flight response, is called the AMYGDALLA. This area of the brain is also stimulated in other animals, such as gazelles, when they perceive danger.


Let’s imagine that a group (I don’t know the collective term for them – herd?) of gazelles is calmly grazing when they become aware that a tiger is preparing to launch a ferocious and potentially lethal attack. What is their response?

Well, what happens on a physiological level is that the sighting of the tiger instantaneously triggers intense activity in their brains’ amygdallas and their ‘fight/flight’ response is triggered. This causes them to experience feelings of panic and terror which in turn leads them to flee the tiger as fast as they are able (which, given they are gazelles. is very fast indeed – they don’t hang around!

Once the danger has passed, however, the activity in their amygdallae quickly returns to normal and, therefore, they are able to return to calmly grazing.

The gazelle, then, is easily able to ‘switch on’ their amygdalla, but, just as easily, ‘switch it off’ again when its activity is no longer required.

Sadly, we poor humans are not nearly as good at doing this. Because we have language, which allows us to carry out internal monologues, we also have imagination and are able to dwell on the past and contemplate the future; because of this, we are able to constantly torment ourselves with worries, regrets, concerns, fears and so on. In this way, especially if we suffer from anxiety, we can find ourselves constantly feeling we are trapped in the ‘fight or flight’ response – our amygdallas become permanently over-stimulated, even though we do not wish them to be and it is not in our survival interests that they are; indeed, being is such a state of permanent anxiety and fear imperils our survival (eg we might smoke and drink more, or, in extreme circumstances, attempt suicide).


It is now well established by scientific research that mindfulness and meditation are extremely effective at treating anxiety (and many other conditions) and can significantly and permanently reduce the general level of activity in the amygdalla, which, in turn, allows us to live our daily lives, gazelle-like, in a far calmer state of mind. I will look at the exciting research being conducted in relation to mindfulness and meditation in my next post.

In the meantime, a hypnotherapy MP3 download to help manage anxiety (entitled : ‘Quiet Mind’) is available by clicking here, although this is not free of charge.

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

The Dysfunctional Family’s Scapegoat.


In this article I will examine the phenomenon of becoming the dysfunctional family’s scapegoat.

Personal Experience

I went to live with my father and obsessively religious step-mother when I was thirteen, having been thrown out of the house by my disturbed and highly unstable mother.

She and my father already had her own biological son living with them. She treated her own son, essentially, as a demi-god, whist viewing me as the devil incarnate – even at that age, (given I had the capacity to carry out elementary mental reasoning and was not intellectually retarded) I did not believe in god, and, consistent with this, refused to attend church with the other members of the household who regarded twice weekly attendance as their pious duty.

Indeed, and I write these words in all seriousness, it is even possible that my step-mother believed I was possessed by some kind of diabolical spirit – after all, soon after I went to live with her and my father, during a trivial argument in the kitchen, she began to shout at me in what she believed to be ‘tongues’. And, when I was a bit older, if one particular friend had been round to see me and she returned to the house later, she would say she knew he’d been round as she could ‘sense evil’ (actually, he was a very nice person). You couldn’t make it up.

In dysfunctional families, viewing one child as being able to do no wrong, and the other as being able to do nothing OTHER THAN wrong, is not an uncommon scenario. The latter, of course, becomes the family ‘scapegoat.’

family scapegoat

Whilst I have grown up with a profound inferiority complex, my step-brother has grown up, I think it is fair to say, puffed up with an impregnable sense of self-love, self-belief and self-pride; expecting others to admire him is his default position. Expecting others to despise me is mine. (And, in this regard, I’m seldom disappointed). This outcome, of course, would not be entirely unpredictable to anybody with an IQ above about 70.

Sadly, it invariably tends to be the most vulnerable and sensitive child who becomes the dysfunctional family’s scapegoat. It is also not uncommon that the child fulfilling the role of scapegoat has a characteristic, or characteristics, which a parent shares but represses, projecting his/her self-disapproval onto the scapegoat.

Denigration And Demonization

The family’s scapegoat will be blamed for the family’s deep rooted problems. Anger, disapproval and criticism will be directed at him/her, leading him/her to develop feelings of great shame, to lose all confidence and self-belief, and, in all probability, to experience self-loathing, depression and anxiety. And to expect everyone else to hate him/her too.

The motivation of the rest of the dysfunctional family, both consciously and unconsciously, for denigrating and demonizing the scapegoat is that it enables them to convince themselves that they are good and right. By telling relatives and friends that all the family’s woes derive from him/her they are also able to maintain a public image of blamelessness.

In this way, the family’s scapegoat finds him/herself not only rejected by his/her own immediate family, but, possibly, by those outside it too. S/he becomes utterly isolated and unsupported.

Also, by blaming the family’s scapegoat for the family’s difficulties, they not only evade their own responsibility but are also relieved, in their own minds, of any responsibility to support or help the scapegoat, who, because of the position in the family s/he has been allocated, and its myriad ramifications, will inevitably be suffering severe psychological distress.

Family Denial

Because the scapegoat is blamed for the family’s problems, the rest of its members are able to stay in DENIAL in relation to their own contributions to this sorry state of affairs; they will tend to reinforce one another’s false beliefs that whenever something goes wrong it is the fault of the family’s scapegoat – in this way, a symbiotic relationship develops between them : they all protect each other from feeling guilty and from shouldering their rightful portion of responsibility, drawing the strength of their fallacious convictions from being in a mutually reinforcing majority.

If the scapegoat is brazen enough to protest that not everything is his/her fault, these views are dismissed with scorn and derision – in this way, s/he is denied the opportunity to express them, allowing the other family members to conveniently side-step any searching questions being put to them which might otherwise produce deep discomfort.

If the scapegoat becomes too insistent about expressing his/her point of view, the rest of the family may cut him/her off from it entirely, thus totally isolating him/her.


Often, the rest of the family’s own guilt may be so profound that facing up to it would be psychologically overwhelming; in such a case there will be a powerful unconscious drive to maintain the illusion that everything is really the fault of the scapegoat – maintaining the illusion allows them to deflect blame which, more accurately, should be directed towards themselves.

It is likely, then, that they will not be fully aware that their projection of their own feelings of guilt onto the scapegoat is, in essence, a psychological defense mechanism necessary to allow them to maintain a positive image of themselves. Their views that they are in the right and the scapegoat is in the wrong become a necessary delusion.


Eventually, the scapegoat will come to INTERNALIZE (i.e. believe to be true) his/her family’s scathing view of him/her, and, therefore, his/her view of him/herself as a bad and unworthy person is in distinct danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. S/he is likely to develop feelings of intense psychological distress, perform well below his/her best academically and, later, vocationally, encounter serious problems with social interaction, and become hostile, aggressive and resentful towards both his/her family and those outside of it. This plays into the hands of the other family members, of course, as it facilitates their desire to continue projecting their own guilt onto the scapegoat.

As the scapegoat goes through life, s/he is likely, due to the powerful conditioning s/he has been subjected to as a child, to see him/herself as not merely unlovable, but, even, as unlikeable – unfit to be part of ‘decent’ society. Believing him/herself to be a terrible person, s/he may not even make any attempt to develop close, let alone intimate, relationships. After all, in his/her own mind, rejection would be ‘inevitable’, serving only to confirm and reinforce his/her wretched self-view.


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

Treatment for Trauma Related Nightmares

how to help someone with PTSD nightmares

About 1 in 20 people suffer from nightmares. However, amongst those who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), research indicates that this increases to approximately 70% – 95%. Those with PTSD may well also suffer from related psychological problems including intrusive memories, flashbacks and panic disorder.

Often, the content of the nightmare in those who suffer from PTSD will relate closely to the original trauma – resulting in a partial reliving of the experience/experiences. However, this is not always the case.

People who suffer from trauma related nightmares are more likely to have accompanying body movements (eg thrashing about – yes, that really does happen, as I can vouch for personally; it’s not just in the movies!) during their frightening dreams than those who have nightmares which are non-trauma related.

how to help someone with PTSD nightmares


The standard treatment for PTSD itself often improves nightmares. However, there is also a specific therapy available known as IMAGERY REHEARSAL THERAPY. This form of therapy involves the individual, under the guidance of the therapist, rehearsing content of the nightmare WHEN AWAKE repeatedly and changing the ending of the nightmare to make it less frightening.

More research needs to be conducted on the effectiveness of drugs at reducing nightmares, but, to-date, the most promising drug for this treatment is called PRAZOSIN.

Also, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) have been shown in studies to be effective.

Some therapists claim to be able to help individuals who suffer from nightmares to turn these nightmares into what are known as LUCID DREAMS ( a lucid dream is a dream in which a person is aware s/he is dreaming and can exercise control over what happens in the dream. It is a genuine phenomenon; I know this because I have had about half-a-dozen such dreams in my life-time). However, more research needs to be conducted into this subject.

Finally, hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis can be used to reduce and improve nightmares by helping with changing the dream content (see above) and helping the person transform the nightmare into a lucid dream (see above). More on this can be found in the paper : ‘Hypnotherapy for Sleep Disorders‘ (Beng-Yeong Ng).



Disclaimer : Always seek medical advice before taking medication to treat nightmares.

BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma Leading to Anhedonia (Inability to Experience Pleasure).

child trauma and anhedonia


There is an established relationship between having experienced trauma as a child and suffering from anhedonia (the inability to experience feelings of pleasure) as an adult. This has been one of the symptoms of my own illness, and I am sorry to report it is one that I am yet to overcome (although there has been some improvement, I suppose).

Anhedonia drains the colour from life, rather like seeing a film in high resolution colour suddenly fade into a grainy, blurred, black and white. One feels just intense emptiness and a complete blunting of positive emotional response. It can affect all areas of life including :

– social interaction

– career satisfaction

– food

– sex

– music

– sports

– previous hobbies and interests

– previously close and/or intimate relationships

Many who suffer anhedonia will have every aspect of their lives affected, whereas others may be affected in some areas but not in others.

In connection with research into the link between childhood trauma and anhedonia, Frewen et al have introduced the concept of ‘negative affective interference’. Essentially, this refers to the idea that in, in response to positive events, those suffering anhedonia are not only unable to feel any pleasure but the positive event may actually lead to them feeling worse. For example, when witnessing a beautiful sunset from the balcony of a luxury hotel in an idyllic setting, not only will those with anhedonia experience no joy, but experience an increase in negative affect (mood) such as intensified feelings of anxiety, guilt or shame. It is this increase in negative feelings in response to positive events which is referred to as ‘negative affect interference’.

Frewen et al’s study also showed that different types of childhood trauma led to different kinds of negative affective interference in response to positive events. For example, those who suffered emotional abuse as a child were more likely to experience increases in anxiety, whereas those who had suffered childhood sexual abuse were more likely to experience feelings of shame.


The above findings suggest that therapeutic interventions for those suffering from anhedonia should not only focus on increasing positive affect but also on strategies for regulating negative affect in response to positive events.

I hope you have found this post interesting.

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