Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Why Is Emotional Abuse So Harmful?

effects of emotional abuse

What Does Research Into Emotional Abuse Tell Us?

Research shows that emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual abuse (although it is only relatively recently that this has been acknowledged). In this article, I want to look at some of the reasons that its effects can be so devastating.

Emotional abuse not only negatively affects the child at the time it is going on (by lowering his/her self-esteem and causing him/her to live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear, for example), but, if there is no therapeutic intervention, leads to a deeply unhappy adulthood as well.

When a person has grown up in an environment which is emotionally abusive, his/her adult experiences will be viewed through the negative filter which was laid down during his/her childhood. This, in turn, is likely to lead to maladaptive (unhelpful) behaviours in adult life which may well jeopordise his/her career prospects, relationships and physical health, for example.

EFFECTS OF AN UNSTABLE EMOTIONAL ENVIRONMENT ON THE CHILD :

If as a child, you lived in an emotionally unstable environment, as I did with my mother until I was thirteen (when I was made to leave to go and live with my father and step-mother) you may, as I did, have felt that you were robbed of security and value.

As children, we desperately needed consistency and the knowledge that we were unconditionally accepted and valued by those who were supposed to deeply care for us. But, because an emotionally unstable environment is one which is devoid of consistency, children brought up in such a home never learn what to expect (their parent’/carers’ behaviour can wildly fluctuate in unpredictable ways) they are never able to feel the environment is under control – they never know what might happen next or what lies ahead; there is constant uncertainty and fear about how they will be treated. Anything seems possible. There exists in such children a permanent state of nervous anticipation, if not outright terror.

If there seem to be no boundaries on the parents’/carers’ behaviour, fear is the result. There is never a sense of safety. There is never a sense of securiy. The child can never relax. At any moment, unprovoked, can come verbal or physical violence. There develops a never ending sense of dread, there is always the question of how far the abuse might go. There is never a truly safe moment.

SUMMARY OF MAIN ADVERSE EFFECTS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

I will end this article with a short list and summary of some of the possible main damaging effects of emotional abuse. They are:

– a necessity to be in a state of constant hypervigilence; this will often lead to acute sensitivity and easily triggered hostility (attack, in this case, being a form of defense)

– if, as children, we are constantly told we are in the wrong, this can lead to procrastination, indecision and inaction (we become constantly concerned anything we try will turn to disaster)

– if we are constantly provoked, we may start reacting with outbursts of rage

– being constantly treated in an unfair way can lead us to become obsessed with getting justice

– the constant psychological strain can lead to a state of emotional exhaustion – this can easily result in apathy and depression (including losing motivation and an inability to derive any pleasure from activities or social interactions)

– being perpetually criticized can lead to feelings of insecurity, shame and guilt

RESOURCE : ESCAPE EMOTIONAL ABUSE

 

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


Deep Brain Stimulation – A Cutting-Edge Treatment for Depression

treatment for depression

depression and deep brain stimulation

In some people, severe clinical depression does not respond to established forms of treatment such as psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, drug treatment or electrconvulsive therapy (ECT). Such a depressive state is medically referred to as TREATMENT RESISTANT DEPRESSION (TRD).

However, there is new hope for people with TRD due to the discovery of a new, cutting -edge treatment known as DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION (DBS).

DBS is still in the relatively early stages of being researched and evaluated for efficacy but some initial studies have provided extremely promising results. At present, it is expensive and not very easy to access, but this state of affairs could, of course, change in the future.

WHAT DOES DBS TREATMENT INVOLVE?

DBS treatment involves an electrode being inserted deep within the brain ; once inserted, it sends out small pulses of current which help specific brain regions involved in contributing to symptoms of depression regain normal functioning.

WHAT DOES RESEARCH INTO THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DBS INDICATE SO FAR?

Research into the effectiveness of DBS is ongoing and is trying to ascertain the specific brain regions where electrodes should be inserted in order to produce the maximum possible benefit to the patient. This is quite a complex area of study due to the fact that several areas of the brain are involved in giving rise to symptoms of depression. Different adversely affected brain regions correspond to different symptoms (such as intense and pervasive sadness, weight fluctuations, low self-esteem, sleep problems and anhedonia – anhedonia means an ‘inability to experience feelings of pleasure’ and is one of the hall-marks of clinical depression).

Another complication is that the different regions of the brain which give rise to the different symptoms of depression are all INTERCONNNECTED so that a change in functioning of one region has knock-on effects in relation to the other brain regions to which it is connected. The main brain regions which have been focused on so far are :

– the ventral striatum

– the nucleus accumbens

– the medial forebrain bundle

THE MAIN STUDIES :

One study showed that six months after DBS treatment patients were able to recover psychologically from negative events in their lives significantly better than they were able to prior to treatment.

Another study showed that six months after treatment patients’ symptoms of depression had significantly improved.

A third study has given particularly exciting results – the region of the brain that was targeted in the study was the medial forebrain bundle, and, out of the 7 people who received the DBS treatment in the study, 6 experienced a RAPID and very significant alleviation of their depressive symptoms.

I hope you have found this post interesting.

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

 


Childhood Trauma and Major Depressive Disorder.

link between childhood trauma and depression

childhood trauma and major depressive disorder

Studies overwhelmingly show a strong link between childhood trauma and the development of major depressive disorder in later life (in fact, nearly every study into this link has shown that the two are correlated to a statistically significant degree). However, it continues to be treated most often as primarily a disorder caused by faulty brain chemistry and there is, because of this, likely to be an over-emphasis on treating the condition with drugs (mainly anti-depressants).

It has been argued that drug companies have promoted the idea that depression is caused by neurochemical abnormalities in order to keep their vast profits flowing in. However, anti-depressant medication is not without its risks and undesirable side-effects. Furthermore, studies are increasingly revealing that these drugs work little better than placebos.

Studies on the effects of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) on the individual are now suggesting that childhood trauma may well be the greatest cause of later depression. Indeed, research has shown that people who have suffered four or more ACEs are about 5 times more likely to experience depressive disorder in later life. Additonally, they are about 12 times more likely to commit suicide, 7 times more likely to become alcoholics and 10 times more likely to inject drugs.

It is therefore extremely important to recognize the effects of childhood trauma and to treat those effects appropriately even if the psychological disorder develops decades after the actual experiences of the trauma.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER?

Some of the most important features of the disorder are as follows:

anxiety

– low mood

– a marked increase or decrease in appetite

– loss of interest or pleasure

– insomnia or increased need to sleep

– low energy levels/fatigue

– marked reduction in psychomotor activity

– difficulties with concentration/memory

low self-esteem

suicidal ideation/attempts

Depressive disorder can also be split into different sub-groups. Two major subgroups are :

1) ENDOGENOUS DEPRESSION – depression thought to be caused by internal factors such as brain chemistry and genetic inheritance

2) EXOGENOUS DEPRESSION – depression thought to be caused by external factors such as trauma, relationship breakdown etc

(it should be noted that there is some dispute about how valid the above distinction is and I myself feel a split into these 2 categories is something of an over-simplification – this will be discussed in later posts.)

ENDOGENOUS depression is thought to account for about 30-40% of all depressive disorders diagnosed and if a person suffers from this treatment with anti-depressant drugs may be appropriate.

In the case of EXOGENOUS depression, however, it is clearly important to focus on the outside events which have caused it and to tailor therapeutic interventions appropriately.

THE OVERLAP BETWEEN SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION AND SYMPTOMS OF POST – TRAUMAIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD).

Not only does depression commonly occur as part of PTSD, but PTSD symptoms can mimic many of the symptoms of depression. From these observations it is now being suggested amongst many researchers that those diagnosed with depression may well be PRIMARILY SUFFERING FROM PTSD, which clearly makes sense in terms of the link between childhood trauma and the condition which is, at present, being diagnosed as primarily depression.

Therefore, if what is currently being diagnosed as depression would more accurately be diagnosed as PTSD, there is clearly a strong argument in favour of reviewing how current ‘depressive disorders’ are being treated by the medical profession. This will be examined further in later posts.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you wish.

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

DISCLAIMER : Do not make decisions about treatment of depression without seeking the appropriate professional advice.

 

 


Overcoming Social Anxiety : The ‘Acting As If’ Technique.

adolescent_vulnerability

Social Anxiety And The ‘Acting As If’ Technique

I have already examined in detail in other posts how our traumatic childhoods can adversely affect our social confidence. However, there are techniques which can rectify this and, in this post, I want to concentrate on a technique related to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which I shall call the ‘Acting As If Technique’.

social_anxiety

Many people assume that confidence is something that you either have or you don’t ; however, this is not actually the case. It is not a case of either being born confident or not. Also, feelings of confidence are not fixed. A person may be confident in some areas of life (eg about a hobby, their work or the ability to play a sport or musical instrument etc, but not confident in others). So it is not a question of being a confident person or not. Rather, it is a question of which areas of life you are confident in already, and which areas of life you have the potential to be confident.

Feeling a lack of social confidence does not set a person apart, nor does it make them in any way inadequate or inferior. Indeed, many people who we think of confident may well, beneath the veneer, be consumed by inner doubt. Even the most confident person’s confidence can take a severe knock by, for example, being rejected by someone they are in a relationship with or suffer a run of bad luck and misfortune.

social_anxiety

In social situations, if we see others around us behaving very confidently, it is worth reminding ourselves that this is quite possibly not a true reflection of how they feel inside – they may simply have learned to hide their inner anxieties.

However, because some people are very good at putting on a confident social mask, others tend to take them at face value and assume that they are as confident as they appear.

Perhaps one of the most powerful strategies for overcoming social anxiety is to take a leaf out of these people’s book and, in social situations, start to ‘act as if’ we are confident. We can ask ourselves how a confident person would enter a room, how they would move, how they would behave, how they would use body language and meet others’ gazes etc, and then act in a similar manner ourselves. Doing this has a very powerful effect – acting confidently actually leads us to feel confident. It also causes others to respond to us differently which instills further feelings of confidence and initiates a virtuous circle of feeling and behaving.

The ‘acting as if’ technique can be made even more effective if, as well as acting in a confident manner, we train ourselves to start thinking confidently in social situations as well. We can practice positive self-talk and give ourselves positive messages like ‘there’s no reason these people should dislike me’ or ‘these people don’t represent a threat to me’ etc.

By employing such strategies as the ‘acting as if’ technique, success builds upon success and results can begin to show surprisingly quickly. 


 

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


The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Future Suicide Attempts.

child trauma and suicide

childhood trauma and risk of suicide attempts

Research has shown that the experience of childhood trauma and the risk of the individual who suffered it attempting suicide in later life (as a teenager or as an adult) are extremely strongly correlated.

A particular study, carried out by Dube et al (2001), which involved gathering data related to this issue, found that those most seriously affected by childhood trauma were a staggering 51 Xs (ie 5100%) at greater risk of suicide attempts as a teenager compared to those who had experienced a settled childhood.  As an adult they were found to be at 30Xs (ie 3000%) greater risk of attempting suicide compared to their more fortunate contempories.

Other findings in the study by Dube et al were that about 67% of adult suicide attempts were linked to the experience of childhood trauma, and, also, that about 80% of teenage suicide attempts were connected to the experience of childhood trauma.

THE SPECIAL ADVERSE EFFECT OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

The same study also found that the type of abuse that was most strongly predictive of the individual who experienced it making suicide attempts in later life was emotional abuse.

OTHER TYPES OF ABUSE FOCUSED UPON BY THE STUDY :

Dube et al’s study also found many other types of abuse to be powerfully correlated with increased risk of suicide. These were :

– domestic violence

– loss of a parent (eg through divorce or abandonment)

– family member in prison

– parent with mental illness (eg depression

– parent with addiction

– physical neglect

– emotional neglect

– physical abuse

– verbal abuse

 

POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO TAKE IN LIGHT OF ABOVE FINDINGS :

Given the above facts, it is necessary to ask what may be done to address this tragic problem. I provide some suggestions below :

– more training for those who work with children about the effects of childhood trauma and how best to treat these effects

– more education to be given to the public in general about the effects of childhood trauma

– rather than expel or suspend ‘difficult’ children, schools should keep them in education and provide the appropriate counseling and/or other professional support

– respond more sensitively and compassionately to ‘problem behaviour’ (or, ‘acting out’) by young people, both in schools and other applicable environments.

 

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


Overcoming Fear.

‘Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give to it ourselves’

T. Harv Eker

PERCEPTION AND FEAR – how we perceive something determines how we respond to it, including our behavioural response. This is true even if our perceptions are inaccurate, distorted and misleading.

When we fear something (even if, in reality, what we are afraid of presents no real danger to us) we will tend to avoid it.

Very often, avoidance behaviour, caused by fear, spoils our quality of life. For example, someone may be afraid of interacting with others and therefore avoid social situations and become reclusive and lonely.

One way to overcome such a problem would be for the individual to ANALYZE THE REASONS FOR HIS/HER FEAR ; the question needs to be asked : ‘is the situation I fear truly dangerous to me, from an objective and realistic perspective, or is my imagination inventing/exaggerating reasons to be fearful which have no real basis in reality?’

It is important to overcome fears which are spoiling our chances of living more fulfilled lives.

FEARS ARE LEARNED AND CAN BE UNLEARNED :

Our fears are not innate – we are not born with them. They are learned as we go through life and can be unlearned. Let’s look at an example :

Suppose an individual grew up with  parent/s who made him/her feel worthless and made him/her feel very awkward and uncomfortable. And let’s say, as a result, the individual grew up fearing social situations as s/he believed other people would also make him/her feel worthless  (even though, in reality, there is no reason to make such a supposition). How could such a fear be overcome? Two main psychological approaches that could be effective at helping the individual overcome such an irrational fear are :

1) BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY

2) COGNITIVE THERAPY

Let’s briefly examine these two approaches in turn :

1) BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY – if an individual fears social situations, behavioural therapy would approach the problem by gradually introducing the person, in small steps, to the feared interpersonal interaction. For example :

Stage 1 – meet up with old friend

Stage 2 – meet up with well known acquaintance

Stage 3 – meet up with less well known acquaintance

Stage 4 – attend a small gathering of old friends

etc…etc…

Obviously, the above is just an example, but the idea is to gradually build up to attending increasingly challenging social situations  (or, in more general terms, to gradually increase the individual’s exposure to the feared stimulus) – the individual can tailor the stages in any way s/he wishes, ideally under the guidance of a therapist.

Behavioural therapy works by indirectly challenging the irrational beliefs the person holds which are maintaining his/her fear. Over time, in our example, the individual will come to realize that social situations are not a danger to him/her in any real sense – slowly, s/he will become more comfortable and at ease.

2) COGNITIVE THERAPY – this therapy involves a therapist talking to the individual who has the irrational fear and helping that individual to diretly CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF HIS/HER FEAR. The therapy aims to dismantle the very foundations (ie the deeply held, irrational, underlying belief) that the fear is built upon.

Often, in order to achieve this aim, the therapist will use what is called the ABC model  which was originally devised by the psychologist Albert Ellis. Below I explain what the letters stand for:

A – activating event (ie the trigger that led to the sensation of fear).

B – belief (the person’s assumptions about the situation)

C – consequence (ie the feelings and behaviours which arise as a consequence of the above).

If C (consequences) is undesired and spoiling the person’s quality of life, cognitive therapy encourages the individual to move on to steps D and E. I explain these below :

D – dispute ie what are the more positive alternatives to the belief which is causing the fear? For example :’ just because I got on badly with my parent/s, this does not mean I will not get on with other people’ would be a preferable alternative.

E – energizing alternative ie what would be a more empowering belief to adopt? eg’ the more I interact with others, the better I will become at doing it’.

I hope you have found this post of use. Please leave a comment if you would like to. I’ll respond asap.

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


Recovery: How the Brain can ‘Rewire’ Itself (Neuroplasticity).

childhood_trauma_effects

Severe childhood trauma can adversely affect the way in which the brain develops, leading to, for example, extremes in anxiety or great difficulty in controlling emotions. However, there has been exciting research conducted showing that the brain is able, under certain conditions, to ‘rewire’ itself, correcting its own faulty circuitry, and, thus, alleviating the behavioural and emotional problems caused by the original damage.

The adult brain is much more changeable and modifiable than had previously been believed. There is now a large amount of evidence to show that damaged neural (brain) circuitry resulting from severe childhood trauma can be corrected, reshaping our brain anatomy and consequent behaviour, with the right kind of therapeutic interventions. In other words, it is now clear that brain architecture continues to change throughout adulthood and this can be manipulated in highly beneficial directions.

Many people who suffer extreme childhood trauma go on to develop personality disorders as adults; one hallmark of these disorders is rigid, destructive behavioural patterns. Research is now showing, however, that certain therapeutic interventions, due to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself), can change those behaviours to become more flexible and adaptive (helpful in creating a more successful life).

Another problem those who have suffered extreme childhood trauma  develop later on is extreme and obsessive worry which can be so severe it is pathologically categorized as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). For the purposes of explaining how neuroplasticity works, let’s take that (ie OCD) as our example of a problem which needs to be alleviated.

With OCD, obsessive worries can become so extreme that the person experiencing them becomes actively suicidal. Such a tortured state of mind can persist for months or even (as in my own case) years. Indeed, one suicide attempt nearly killed me and I even underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) — to no avail, most regretably (see the ‘My Story’ category if you want to read a bit more about this profoundly distressing period of my life). When anxiety is this pathological, medications may dampen the symptoms somewhat, but, this, of course, fails to address the root psychological cause of the problem.

With this kind of anxiety, terrible and terrifying events are unremittingly anticipated – whether these are largely imagined or not is not the point : the problem is that the threats FEEL real. When something truly appalling is even remotely possible, in the mind of the individual experiencing obsessional anxiety, it FEELS INEVITABLE.

In order to address such life-threatening (due to risk of suicide) conditions, the psychologist Jeffrey Schwartz has developed a NEUROPLASTICITY-BASED TREATMENT; it has already yielded excitingly successful results.

To understand his form of treatment, let’s first examine the theory of why those suffering from OCD become mentally fixated on their intense anxieties.

Schwartz, first of all, compared the brains of those who suffered from OCD with the brains of those who did not (by taking scans). After he delivered his form of psychotherapy, he took the scans again which revealed the brains of the patients had normalized.

In ‘normal’ people, when something goes wrong, there is a period of anxiety which gradually wears off. However, with OCD sufferers, the period of anxiety is not only much more intense but also maintains an iron mental grip on the sufferer – the individual becomes ‘stuck’ in this intense anxiety phase. So what is going on in neurological terms?

Schwartz generously enlightened us in the following manner :

1) When something anxiety inducing occurs, a region of the brain, known as the ORBITAL FRONTAL CORTEX, is alerted. Activity in this region of the brain is far greater in those who suffer OCD – it becomes HYPERACTIVE.

2) A chemical message is then sent from that brain region to another brain region – the CINGULATE GYRUS, triggering the anxiety response. IN PEOPLE WITH OCD, the activity here is, again, far more than normally intense. Crucially, too, in people with OCD, the intense activity in this brain region STAYS ‘LOCKED ON’ (as if the ‘ON SWITCH’ which has activated it CANNOT BE ‘SWITCHED OFF’). Indeed, Schwartz referred to this phenomenon as ‘BRAIN LOCK’. (In ‘normal’ individuals the activity in the stimulated brain regions gently fades away, as the brain designed it to do).

The treatment Schwartz developed is designed to ‘UNLOCK’, and normalize, the manner in which the brain’s circuitry works.

THE FIRST STEP in the therapy is for the OCD sufferer to RELABEL what s/he is experiencing AS A SYMPTOM OF HIS/HER OCD. S/he should remind him/herself that it is ‘just’ the neurological malfunctioning (the ‘brainlock’) which is the true cause of his/her discomfort, NOT the content of the anxiety itself. This relabeling provides some mental distance from the content of the obsessive concern. The more the person can concentrate on the physiological reasons for the feeling of distress, and the more s/he can distance her/himself from its actual content, the more effective the therapy tends to be.

Once this has been acknowledged, THE SECOND STEP is to REFOCUS THE ATTENTION ON SOMETHING POSITIVE and, ideally, pleasure-inducing.

As the person gets better at implementing these steps, new brain circuits start to develop : the obsessive circuits begin to be bypassed. Of course, changes do not materialize instantaneously – the brain takes time to ‘rewire’ itself.

If the person finds implementing the above two steps difficult to do, s/he should remind him/herself that even distancing him/herself from the content of the anxiety and doing something pleasurable instead for just one minute will help develop the beneficial new brain circuitry.

Two rather pithy sayings, often quoted by psychologists, help us to remember the theory behind the therapy :

– ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’

– ‘neurons that fire apart, wire apart’

To end this post with an encouraging statistic, it is worth recording that 80% of Schwartz’s patients got better when this therapy was combined with medication.

RESOURCES:

EBOOKS :

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Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download.CLICK HERE.

 

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


Mindfulness Meditation: An Escape Route Away from Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.

 

mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness :

MINDFULNESS is a very effective and evidence-based therapy for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other conditions related to childhood trauma. Mindfulness helps individuals to develop the skill to DELIBERATELY FOCUS ATTENTION AND AWARNESS on THE PRESENT MOMENT. WHILST BEING INTENSELY AWARE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT, MINDFULNESS TEACHES US TO ACCEPT THINGS AS THEY ARE IN A NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY.

Mindfulness helps us to become aware of our CURRENT experience, of things we would normally take for granted. These may include becoming aware of our breathing, of the feeling of our clothes against our skin, the furniture on which we sit, the feel of the temperature in the room etc; anything, in fact, which we are presently experiencing through one of our five senses. It teaches us, as I have said, to accept things as they are rather than to fret about want them to be. We may, too, become aware of our thoughts; again, we are encouraged to accept them non-judgmentally – to simply observe them floating through our minds in a detached manner and not get caught up in them.

Negative Ruminations :

This state of mind of existing intensely in the present, accepting it as it is in non-judgmentally, is, at its best (it takes time to master the skill), the polar opposite of obsessive, negative ruminative thinking which can be so painful and destructive.

mindfulness meditation

Below, I summarize the principles which underpin MINDFULNESS :

1) IT IS INTENTIONAL – it helps us to become aware of current reality and the choices which are open to us. This is in direct contrast to rumination (in which we are caught up and trapped in the destructive downwaed spiral of our automatic negative thoughts).

2) IT IS EXPERIENTIAL – mindfulness trains us to experience the present moment (unlike rumination, which fills us with concerns about the past and the future and causes us to be preoccupied with abstract thoughts detached from present experience).

3) IT IS NON-JUDGMENTAL – mindfulness helps us to accept things as they are right now rather than to get caught up in judgments and frustrations about how we think things should be.

By cultivating MINDFULNESS, it stops us from becoming stuck in a futile cycle of depressive and anxiety creating negative ruminations; instead, it helps us to develop new and wiser ways to relate to our actual experience IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

However, MINDFULNESS is about more than noticing things around us that we had previously taken for granted and ignored; it also helps us to develop awareness of THE HABIT OF A PARTICULAR STATE OF MIND WE USED TO FIND OURSELVES IN, WHICH GOT US STUCK AND CAUGHT UP IN RUMINATIONS DESTRUCTIVE TO US AND TO OUR EMOTIONAL LIVES. The skill of mindfulness allows us to DISENGAGE from such destructive, ruminative thinking and shift to an enormously healthier frame of mind which frees us from our self-defeating emotional struggles. Mindfulness allows us to accept the different emotions which drift through our minds non-judgmentally and with self-compassion.

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Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon. CLICK HERE (Other titles available).

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


The Vicious Cycle of Adult Problems Stemming from Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma

‘WE NEED TO SEE THE SYMPTOMS WE HAVE AS A RESULT OF OUR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA LESS AS THE RESULT OF SOME CHARACTER FLAW, AND MORE AS THE RESULT OF HAVING SUFFERED EXTREME AND PAINFUL EXPERIENCES WHEN WE WERE LEAST ABLE TO COPE WITH THEM. BY CONSIDERING THE IDEA THAT OUR SYMPTOMS COULD BE SEEN AS NORMAL REACTIONS TO ABNORMAL AND TRAUMATIC EVENTS IN CHILDHOOD, IT IS POSSIBLE TO USHER IN THE IDEA OF CHANGE.’

– CHARTED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND EXPERT ON EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

People who have suffered childhood trauma frequently go on to develop multiple problems in adult life which tend to build up over the long-term. A range of difficulties like the ones given in the fictional scenario below would not be untypical:

Losing interest in school and unable to concentrate resulting in leaving at age 15 ; becoming disruptive and difficult leading to home-life problems, so leaving home at 16 ; this could then lead to homelessness or insecure housing (eg sleeping on friends’ sofas) ; depression and unsettled life style and lack of direction could then lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol ; unable to hold down job for long (eg due to having problems getting on with authority figures (stemming from problems with relationship in childhood with parent/s) and inability to accept criticism (eg becoming angry and aggressive when criticized, this, again, stemming from earlier relationship with parent/s, perhaps because they were physically abusive leading to a an intense need to ‘stand up for self’ and protect self).

The above example of how life can unravel as a result of childhood trauma, a whole string of problems feeding in to one another and compounding one another, are likely, too, to be underpinned by feelings of LOW SELF-ESTEEM, EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY and EMOTIONAL SCARS, A POOR SENSE OF OWN IDENTITY, AN INABILITY TO TRUST AND ‘PUT DOWN ROOTS’ – all these factors, also, stemming from the problematic childhood.

imagesCAEH7Z1BimagesCA24B8VY

STOPPING THE VICIOUS CIRCLE : The key to BREAKING OUT OF THE VICIOUS CYCLE IS TO BECOME AWARE AND RECOGNIZE THAT OUR PROBLEMS IN ADULT LIFE HAVE THEIR ROOTS IN OUR DISTURBED CHILDHOOD. By doing this, we can begin to understand that our unhelpful behaviours are rooted in our disturbed childhood and start to discard them. By understanding the enormous, destructive impact the past has – up until now – had upon our life, we can begin to loosen the past’s invidious grip on us.

We need to understand that our traumatic childhood experiences have affected how we THINK, FEEL and BEHAVE as adults. Apart from all the potential effects I have already described, our disturbed childhood is likely, too, to have had a VERY ADVERSE IMPACT UPON THE RELATIONSHIPS WE HAVE HAD, SO FAR, IN ADULTHOOD, perhaps due to feelings of FEAR, SHAME, FRUSTRATION, MOOD DISORDERS, ANXIETY and DEPRESSION. Again, these symptoms will almost certainly have their roots in our adverse childhood experiences.

LEARNING NEW WAYS OF COPING : Because our childhood experiences, the effects of which then become compounded by the adult experiences we have which stem from these childhood experiences, we are likely to have suffered EXTREME EMOTIONAL DISTRESS in our adult life, at worst leading to such horrors as compulsive self-harm and suicide attempts. Due to such intolerable distress, we are likely to have turned, in desperation, to any WAYS OF COPING possible. Often, these will have been unhelpful in the long-term and will have made matters yet worse. The coping mechanisms may have included alcohol abuse, drug abuse, withdrawal from society etc. These coping mechanisms may have become habits which we find difficult to change. We may, too, have become so enmeshed in the damaging life-style we now find ourselves in, it is difficult to step back and reassess why we are suffering our futile, negative, repeating pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Often, the only viable option will be to seek therapy and start the process of stepping back, understanding how our lives have become as they have, stop blaming ourselves and feeling bad about ourselves, and, gradually, seek new and more positive ways of approaching life.

We may have come to see the personal characteristics we have displayed up until now (our anxiety, our depression, our bleak outlook, our problematic relationships etc, etc) as just ‘who we are.’ This, though, is a mistake which will only perpetuate matters. We need to detach these SYMPTOMS of our traumatic childhood from our TRUE IDENTITY. We may need to realize we are not ‘bad’ even though are childhood experiences and the symptoms they have caused may have made us (FALSELY) believe that we were ‘bad’.

CONCLUSION : AN IMPORTANT NOTE OF CAUTION:

Those who played a part in causing the childhood trauma (parents, step-parents, siblings etc) will often ENTER A STATE OF DENIAL to PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THEIR OWN GUILT. It will often suit them to regard you as ‘innately bad’, and to regard this ‘badness’ as having nothing whatsoever to do with their treatment of you. Freud, of course, would regard this as a flagrant example of the psychological defense mechanism known as PROJECTION. I am inclined to concur.

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


Childhood Trauma : Defense Mechanisms Resulting from Stress.

Childhood Trauma And Defense Mechanisms

In response to stress resulting from our childhood trauma and other factors we often develop psychological DEFENSE MECHANISMS in an attempt to protect ourselves (though, very often, we are not consciously aware that many behaviours/defense mechanisms we have developed have developed in order to try to reduce the adverse effects of stress (though not all, eg CONVERSION – see below).

Often, however, the behaviours we develop which serve as these defense mechanisms to protect ourselves against stress are, at best, unhelpful, and, at worst, extremely damaging. I list and give a brief description of the main defence mechanisms that may develop below:

1) COMPENSATION: this behaviour occurs to offset a weakness or failing in ourselves eg someone who has very low self-esteem becoming a workaholic in an attempt to gain social status.

2) CONVERSION : anxieties can be CONVERTED into physical symptoms eg racing heart, sweating, high blood pressure, psychosomatic illnesses.

3) DENIAL : this defense mechanism is well known and the term has entered into the realms of popular vocabulary. It refers to a situation in which someone will not acknowledge something is wrong (eg after being told by a doctor one has only 3 months to live).

4) DISPLACEMENT : this is when we transfer the emotions we feel caused by one person onto somebody else who has nothing to do with how we’re feeling eg a man badly treated by his boss at work coming home and taking his anger and frustration out on his children.

5) DISSOCIATION : this is when we avoid examining how our behaviours relate to our beliefs by avoiding looking, too closely, at this relationship eg seeing ourselves as caring and compassionate but doing little or nothing to help others

6) FIXATION : this is when we have behaviours which stay fixed at an earlier stage of development and are therefore not appropriate to the life stage the individual is at eg a middle-aged remaining highly emotionally dependent upon his parents

7) IDENTIFICATION : this is when we behave, dress etc in a way which duplicates the way the person we are modelling ourselves on would behave and dress etc (this can occur on both conscious and unconscious levels and is not considered abnormal in young people).

8) INTROJECTION : this is when we turn our feelings towards others onto ourselves. Freud, for example, believed someone who is clinically depressed has, unconsciously, turned his/her anger with another/others onto himself and is, therefore, in effect, punishing him/herself with his/her depressive feelings in a way he/she unconsciously wishes to inflict upon others.

9) INVERSION : this is where we REPRESS a desire which we are uncomfortable having and act in a way which expresses the opposite eg a repressed homosexual who acts in an obsessively homophobic manner. This often occurs on an unconscious level.

10) PROJECTION : this is really the opposite of introjection (see above). It is where we constantly see faults in others which we, ourselves, are ashamed of and feel guilty about having eg constantly pointing out selfishness in others when we ourselves are ashamed of our own selfishness. Again, this can occur on an unconscious level.

11) RATIONALIZATION : this is when we, in effect, deceive ourselves and tell ourselves that something we have, in fact, done due to bad motives we have really done for socially acceptable reasons eg a man who divorces his wife and leaves his young family may tell himself it’s in the best interests of everyone, when, really, deep down, he is doing it purely in his own interest

12) REGRESSION : this is when we go back to behaving in a way that is no longer appropriate and would usually only occur at a much younger age eg a middle-aged man having a child-like tantrum.

13) REPRESSION : this is when we, unconsciously, bury feelings and attitudes which are unacceptable to us, and contrary to our moral beliefs, deep in the mind away from conscious access eg an illicit sexual attraction. When we consciously bury feelings that we are not comfortable with (often referred to in popular language as ‘putting something to the back of our mind’) it is called SUPPRESSION.

14) RESISTANCE : this is where there is a barrier between what we have repressed/banished into the unconscious mind. In other words, what we have repressed is not allowed conscious access. Freud believed this process meant the psychological tension produced by keeping the feeling, memory etc repressed can’t be resolved and so perpetuates the emotional pain that the individual is feeling.

15) SUBLIMATION : this is where the energy associated with feelings that are unacceptable to us (usually sexual, according to Freud) and buried in the unconscious mind is channeled into something else that is socially acceptable. Unlike many of the other defence mechanisms that I have described, this can be very positive, and, even, Freud thought, produce great art.

16) TRANSFERENCE : this is where feelings and emotions we have about a particular individual are transferred onto somebody else who was not the original cause of them. For example, an individual in therapy who transfers the feelings of hatred he feels towards his mother onto the therapist.

17) WITHDRAWAL : this is when we just cut off from a stressful situation, give up, lose interest and become apathetic eg a man who stops trying to make conversation with his wife or take any interest in her after the relationship has been very difficult for a long period of time and he can no longer cope with it

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depression and anxiety

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