Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Effects

Why can Effects of Childhood Trauma be Delayed?


Delayed onset post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ,which can occur as a result of a severely disrupted childhood, is defined by the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) as PTSD which develops at least six months after the traumatic event/s; however, PTSD can take much longer than this to manifest itself.

One reason why PTSD may not become apparent immediately is that the individual who has been affected by  trauma is able, for a period of time, to employ coping mechanisms (either consciously or unconsciously) which keep the condition at bay. During this period, some of the effects of the traumatic experience/s lie dormant.However, due to the experiencing of  further triggers (stress-inducing reminders of the original trauma), the person’s neurobiological processes (already harmed by the original trauma) may be further adversely affected until a ‘tipping point’ is reached and the s/he meets the criteria for being diagnosed with the disorder.

In other words, there is an interaction between the original damage caused by the trauma and exposure to further stressors later on in life. It follows from this that the more severe the original trauma, and the more severe the stressors life throws at the individual subsequently, the greater is the his/her accumulated risk of developing PTSD. Indeed, this is borne out by the research.


The original trauma, then, makes the individual more susceptible to being affected adversely by further life stressors. In neurological terms, this is thought to be because the original trauma can damage an area of the brain known as the amygdala; damage to this region makes a person’s fear/anxiety response to stressors much more intense than is normally the case (click here to read my article on how the effects of childhood trauma can physically harm the brain).

The more the individual affected by the original trauma subsequently experiences stressful triggers (see above) which cause him/her to relive it, the more damaged, and hypersensitive to the effects of further stress, the amydala (see above) becomes. Eventually, the amygdala’s response to perceived threat and danger (there does not have to be any real threat or danger ; indeed, one of the hallmarks of PTSD is that it causes the sufferer to see threat everywhere, where it does not, in fact, exist)  become so exaggerated that the individual finds him/herself living in what amounts to a state of almost constant terror (indeed, I myself was in just such a state for more time than I care to recall).


As the individual starts to perceive, irrationally, threat everywhere, the range of triggers (see above) s/he experiences grows ever wider; this, in turn, yet further sensitizes the amygdala and reinforces the individual’s stress response. Thus, a vicious cycle develops.


I will finish with a quote from the psychologist Shalev, which I think speaks for itself and requires no further elucidation from me :

‘Following trauma there is a critical period of brain plasticity during which serious neuronal changes may occur in those who go on to develop PTSD.’

NB. To learn more about BRAIN PLASTICITY, and how we can take advantage of the phenomenon to aid our own recoveries,  click here to read my article).


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

Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

obsessive love disorder

This article examines the link between narcissistic disorder and childhood trauma. Several of my articles have already looked in some detail at the link between childhood trauma and the subsequent risk of developing a personality disorder (or disorders) if appropriate psychotherapeutic intervention is not sought.

narcissistic personaliy

Narcissus from Greek Mythology

Whilst precise mechanisms underlying the link between childhood trauma and subsequent development of a personality disorder are still being researched, it is a statistical fact that the experience of childhood trauma and personality disorder are very frequently indeed seen to be ‘comorbid’ (this is a psychological term used to mean existing in the same patient – ie if the patient has a personality disorder, he/she very probably also experienced severe childhood trauma).

Suffering from a personality disorder has a profoundly damaging impact on a person’s life if it is left untreated. People who suffer from personality disorders tend to have very rigid, inflexible and damaging (both to themselves and others) ways of managing vital areas of their lives such as work, relationships and even leisure time which, naturally, causes a whole host problems.


A good place to start is to look at how the DSM-IV (a diagnostic manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists) defines narcissistic personality disorder. Here’s the definition :

‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy’

Other features of narcissistic personality disorder are :

– a grandiose sense of self-importance
– expectations of being treated as special
– extremely fragile sense of underlying self-esteem

The psychologist Masterson (1981) expanded upon the definition to include two particular types of narcissist:

1) the manifest narcissist
2) the ‘closet’ narcissist

Let’s look at both of these :

1) the manifest narcissist : similar to the description provided in DSM-IV (above)

2) the ‘closet’ narcissist : the person suffering from this disorder tends to present him/herself as timid, shy, inhibited and ineffective but reveals in therapy elaborate fantasies of a grandiose self

Narcissistic personality disorder is thought to be due to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. In therapy s/he will tend to seek the admiration s/he craves from the therapist, and, if the therapist is skilled and experienced, s/he will often uncover an array of psychological defense mechanisms which the patient uses to protect him/herself from unbearable emotional pain. These can include :

1) IDEALIZATION : this is often the primary defense whereby the individual IDEALIZES HIS/HER RELATIONSHIPS at first, elevating both self and other in terms of status and specialness to (illusionary) high levels

2) DEVALUATION : this refers to the individual discounting and regarding as worthless anyone who undermines his/her grandiose vision of him/herself

3) DETACHMENT : this is linked to DEVALUATION (above) and refers to the individual’s propensity to sever links with anyone who threatens to undermine his/her exalted view of him/herself

4) ACTING OUT : this refers to performing extreme behaviours to express thoughts, feelings and emotions the person feels incapable of otherwise expressing

5) SPLITTING : this refers to the cutting off from consciousness the part of themselves that holds the emotional pain to prevent it from becoming integrated into consciousness, as, for this to occur, would be psychologically overwhelming

6) PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION : this is when the person (unconsciously) projects onto another (imagines the other to possess) parts of their own ego and then expects the other to become identified with whatever has been projected

7) DENIAL : in its simple form this just means not accepting certain unpleasant parts of reality to protect the ego

8) AVOIDANCE : also sometimes referred to as ‘escape coping’ – making efforts to evade dealing with particular stressors

9) PROJECTION : this defense mechanism involves attributing to others one’s own unwanted or socially/culturally unacceptable emotions, attributes or thoughts

In essence, the individual with narcissistic personality disorder lives in a world where everything is viewed in extremes of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Underneath the defense mechanisms, there invariably lies an extremely FRAGILE SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM. Therefore, the individual really feels EXTREMELY VULNERABLE and tends to have an overwhelming need to PROTECT HIM/HERSELF FROM ANY THREAT TO HIS/HER EXTREMELY PRECARIOUS SELF-IMAGE. The person with the disorder has a disturbance of the basic structure of the self.


Research suggests that one of the main keys to psychotherapeutic intervention is an acknowledgment of the person’s pain, their overwhelming sense of their own vulnerability and their consequent desperate need to protect themselves from further psychological suffering. The therapist needs to reassure them that their defenses have been identified as self-protective, and, as such, are understandable.





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

Addressing Effects Of Childhood Trauma With Dialectical Behavior Therapy : PART 1.

dialectic behavioral therapy(DBT)

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT) has been found to be particularly effective in treating those who, in part due to their childhood experiences, have gone on to develop BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD).

Five skills are central to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT); these are as follows:

3) DISTRESS tolerances

dialectic behavioral therapy

In this introductory post, I will concentrate upon 1 and 2 above. I will go on to examine 3, 4 an5 above in PART 2. So let’s start by looking at 1:

1) CORE MINDFULNESS: DBT describes the mind as having 3 components (these are concepts, not actual distinct physical part of the brain, obviously). The 3 components are:

a) the reasonable mind
b) the emotional mind
c) the wise mind

Let’s examine each of these in turn:

a) the reasonable mind: this can be summed up, according to DBT, as the part of the brain which acts according to reason, logic and rationality

b) the emotional mind: according to DBT, this is the part of the brain which operates on the basis of our feelings (when the ‘heart controls the head’)

c) the wise mind: ideally, according to DBT, we should allow this part of the brain to guide us; it is A BALANCE BETWEEN 1 and 2 above, when the reasonable and emotional brain are operating in effective HARMONY.

If we are able to operate in ‘wise mind mode’, this will mean we can maintain control and prevent ourselves from becoming a victim of our own intense emotions. In order to see the importance of this, we need only consider times in our lives when our behaviour has been dominated by our emotions and the negative effects this may have led to. Indeed, not learning to control emotions can leave our lives in ruins, not least due to the frequent self-destructive effects of our emotional outbursts.

2) TAKING THE MIDDLE PATH: This is a metaphor for avoiding the trap of constantly seeing issues in terms of BLACK AND WHITE (eg all good/all bad and a marked tendency to perpetually think IN TERMS OF EXTREMES). DBT stresses the importance of teaching ourselves to FOCUS MORE ON THE GREY AREAS and to try to take A BROADER RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES when considering issues, to think more FLEXIBLY and to THINK LESS IN ABSOLUTE TERMS.

Taking the middle path, according to DBT, also involves BOTH VALIDATING OUR OWN THOUGHTS/FEELINGS AND THOSE OF OTHERS. Even if others don’t understand, DBT stresses that we need to comfort ourselves when distressed by reminding ourselves that how we are feeling is real and makes sense under the current circumstances we find ourselves in. We can remind ourselves, too, that no matter what others may think, NOBODY UNDERSTANDS US AS WELL AS WE UNDERSTAND OURSELVES (others can’t understand what it is ‘to be in our heads’; we should not be ashamed of how we feel). By applying this compassion and understanding to ourselves, as part of ‘taking the middle path’ it seems fair that we should extend similar understanding to others – we can accept what they feel, as non-judgmentally as possible, irrespective of whether we approve or not.

My next post (PART 2) will look at the other 3 key skills DBT teaches us (3,4 and 5 above) namely: DISTRESS TOLERANCE, EMOTIONAL REGULATION and INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS.


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

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).


DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT) is an exciting new treatment option for those suffering with BPD. It is a therapy which has elements in common with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is an evidence-based treatment (ie it is backed by scientific research).

In the past, BPD was considered to be extremely difficult to treat, but, with the development of therapies such as CBT and DBT, the prognosis is now far more optimistic.

DBT was originally created by the psychologist Marsha Lineham; at first, it was developed with the treatment of females who self-harmed and were suicidal in mind. However, since then, its possible applications have become much broader; it is now used to treat both males and females suffering from a large array of different psychological conditions.

As already stated, DBT has many elements in common with CBT; in addition to this, it also borrows from ZEN and a therapy, which is becoming increasingly popular, called MINDFULNESS.

DBT has been particularly successful in the treatment of BPD (for information about BPD see Category 3 of the main menu : BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA). It is thought that one of the main CONTRIBUTING FACTORS of BPD is a traumatic childhood in which the child grows up in an INVALIDATING ENVIRONMENT (eg made to feel unloved and worthless). Such a childhood environment is especially likely to result in the child developing BPD in later life if he/she also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY (carries certain genes making him/her particularly vulnerable to stress).

When a person is suffering from BPD the condition causes him/her to REACT WITH ABNORMAL INTENSITY TO EMOTIONAL STIMULATION; the individual’s level of emotional arousal goes up extremely fast, peaks at an abnormally high level, and, takes much longer than normal to return to its baseline level.

This condition leads to the affected individual – a victim of his/her uncontrollable, intense emotional reactions – prone to stagger in life from one crisis to the next and to be perceived by others as emotionally unstable. It is thought that, due to the invalidating environment which the sufferer experienced in childhood, the normal ability to develop the coping strategies needed to regulate emotions is blocked, leaving the person defenceless against painful emotional feelings and leading to maladaptive (unhelpful) behaviors.

It is this problem which DBT was is now used to address. The therapy teaches individuals how to cope with, and regulate, their emotions so that they are no longer dominated and controlled by them. This is vital as the inability to control feelings will often wreck crucial areas of life, including friendships, relationships and careers. It is because of these possible effects that DBT also helps individuals develop SOCIAL SKILLS to help reduce the likelihood of them occurring.

DBT has been found to be effective in helping people suffering from a large range of psychiatric conditions; these include;

– self-harming
– depression
– suicidal ideation
– bipolar
– anxiety
– ptsd
– eating disorders
– substance abuse
– low self-esteem
– problems managing anger
– problems managing relationships/friendship

-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_childhood traumachildhood trauma therapies and treatments

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

Why We Worry.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The technique of hypnotherapy can be very effective at helping us to conquer our worries and reduce our anxiety :


My next post will examine further questions related to anxiety conditions. To receive instant notification of when posts are published, you can, of course, follow this blog. New posts are added at least twice per week, and, often, more frequently.

Please leave a comment if you would like to – I will respond as soon as I am able.

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

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


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

Researchers have, in particular, focused upon:

1) differences in the brain’s biochemistry

2) differences in brain structures.

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


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

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

– racing thoughts
– restlessness
– agitation
– insomnia

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

B) BENZODIAZEPINES: eg Valium, Librium, Ativan

PROS: – immediate effect
– initial help with insomnia

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

C) BETA-BLOCKERS: eg Inderal

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Trauma: How Cognitive Processing Therapy can Help.

It is always important to treat post-traumatic stress and this is particularly the case in relation to childhood trauma. This is because it is during childhood that we form our core beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in general. Childhood trauma can severely distort these beliefs in a highly destructive manner. Without treatment, these damaging views and beliefs can endure for a life-time, blighting the entire life of the affected individual, even ruining it.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a particular type of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and there is now much evidence from research studies that it can prove highly effective in the treatment of the effects of trauma:

Frequently, individuals who have suffered childhood trauma find themselves in a perpetual and distressing struggle with painful memories. Thoughts about these often become circular and overwhelming, never reaching a resolution. The person experiencing them can feel more and more conflicted as time goes on if effective treatment is not sought.Indeed, many who seek therapy do so because they find they have become ‘stuck’ or ‘caught up’ in their painful thoughts, memories and feelings and they feel unable to properly integrate or make sense these.

CPT helps people to understand what they went through, how it affected them, and how it has affected, in a negative and distorted way, their view of themselves, others and the world in general (psychologists refer to such thinking as a ‘negative cognitive triad’, one of the key symptoms of clinical depression).

CPT aims to help individuals rectify this negative cognitive triad and gain AUTHORITY over their trauma-related memories and feelings, or, to put it another way, CPT helps people to be IN CONTROL OF THEIR MEMORIES AND RELATED FEELINGS, rather than the other way around.

Many individuals who have experienced childhood trauma, also, very frequently, find themselves ‘living in the past’: continually brooding on what happened, why it happened and how it has adversely affected their lives; such ruminations may become obsessive. CPT helps break this pattern of thinking: one of the key elements of CPT is to help people CREATE A BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE PAST AND THE PRESENT so that the individual can free him/herself to finally live in the ‘now’ rather than the ‘then’.

For more information about CBT and help for recovery from trauma a good site is: http://www.psychologytools.org/ptsd.html

Because I found CBT very useful in my own recovery, and, additionally, because it has a very solid evidence base showing that it is an effective therapy, I have listed links to two online CBT courses below :

I found CBT an important part of my recovery and therefore highly recommend A Clinically Proven Online CBT Course For Panic and Anxiety Disorder Created By Professional Therapists. Adheres to the Ethical Guidelines set down by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapists (BABCP). FREE 30 DAY TRIAL.Click Here!

CBT program to address anxiety featuring the A.W.A.K.E.method. Full refund within 15 days of purchase if unsuitable. Click Here!.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please click on the FOLLOW icon if you would like instant notification of new posts. New posts are added to this site at least twice per week. You are also welcome, of course, to leave a comment, to which I will reply as soon as I am able.

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

Childhood Trauma: Its Link to Adult Anxiety.

childhood trauma and anxiety

childhood trauma and anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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