Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Treatment

The Association Between Child Abuse, Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood_trauma_and_early_signs_of_psychosis

‘Character depends essentially on whether a person is given love, protection, tenderness and understanding during the formative years or is exposed to rejection, coldness, indifference and cruelty.’

Alice Miller.

 

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.’

Albert Camus.

 


THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CHILDHOOD ABUSE, TRAUMA AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.

Many research studies have shown that individuals who have suffered childhood abuse, trauma and/or neglect are very considerably more likely to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

it is thought marilyn munroe suffered from BPD

It is thought Marilyn Monroe suffered from BPD

Kurt Cobain bpd
Did Kurt Cobain Suffer From BPD?

 

WHAT IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD)?

 

BPD sufferers experience a range of symptoms which are split into 9 categories. These are:

1) Extreme swings in emotions
2) Explosive anger
3) Intense fear of rejection/abandonment sometimes leading to frantic efforts to maintain a relationship
4) Impulsiveness
5) Self-harm
6) Unstable self-concept (not really knowing ‘who one is’)
7) Chronic feelings of ’emptiness’ (often leading to excessive drinking/eating etc ‘to fill the vacuum’)
8) Dissociation ( a feeling of being ‘disconnected from reality’)
9) Intense and highly volatile relationships

For a diagnosis of BPD to be given, the individual needs to suffer from at least 5 of the above.

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandoment

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandonment

A person’s childhood experiences has an enormous effect on his/her mental health in adult life. How parents treat their children is, therefore, of paramount importance.

BPD is an even more likely outcome, if, as well as suffering trauma through invidious parenting, the individual also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY.

In relation to an individual’s childhood, research suggests that the 3 major risk factors are:

– trauma/abuse
– damaging parenting styles
– early separation or loss (eg due to parental divorce or the death of the parent/s)

Of course, more than one of these can befall the child. Indeed, in my own case, I was unlucky enough to be affected by all three. And, given my mother was highly unstable, it is very likely I also inherited a biological/genetic vulnerability.

 

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGING PARENTING STYLES:

 

1) Dysfunctional and disorganized – this can occur when there is a high level of marital discord or conflict. It is important, here, to point out that even if parents attempt to hide their disharmony, children are still likely to be adversely affected as they tend to pick up on subtle signs of tension.

Chaotic environments can also impact very badly on children. Examples are:

– constant house moves
– parental alcoholism/illicit drug use
– parental mental illness and instability/verbal aggression

 

2) Emotional invalidation. Examples include:

– a parent telling their child they wish he/she could be more like his/her brother/sister/cousin etc.
– a parent telling the child he is ‘just like his father’ (meant disparagingly). This invalidates the child’s unique identity.
– telling a child s/he shouldn’t be upset/crying over something, therefore invalidating the child’s reaction and implying the child’s having such feelings is inappropriate.
– telling the child he/she is exaggerating about how bad something is. Again, this invalidates the child’s perception of how something is adversely affecting him/her.
– a parent telling a child to stop feeling sorry for him/herself and think about good things instead. Again, this invalidates the child’s sadness and encourages him/her to suppress emotions.

Invalidation of a child’s emotions, and undermining the authenticity of their feelings, can lead the child to start demonstrating his/her emotions in a very extreme way in order to gain the recognition he/she previously failed to elicit.

 

3) Child trauma and child abuse – people with BPD have very frequently been abused. However, not all children who are abused develop BPD due to having a biological/genetic RESILIENCE and/or having good emotional support and validation in other areas of their lives (eg at school or through a counselor).

Trauma inflicted by a family member has been shown by research to have a greater adverse impact on the child than abuse by a stranger. Also, as would be expected, the longer the traumatic situation lasts, the more likely it is that the child will develop BPD in adult life.

 

4) Separation and loss – here, the trauma is caused, in large part, due to the child’s bonding process development being disrupted. Children who suffer this are much more likely to become anxious and develop ATTACHMENT DISORDERS as adults which can disrupt adult relationships and cause the sufferer to have an intense fear of abandonment in adult life. They may, too, become very ‘clingy’, fearful of relationships, or a distressing mixture of the two.

This site examines possible therapeutic interventions for BPD and ways the BPD sufferer can help himself or herself to reduce BPD symptoms.

 

 

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

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Treating Conditions Related to Childhood Trauma by Getting Right Fats in Diet.

As far as diet is concerned, there are good fats and bad fats. The fats we put into our bodies are of particular importance because of their effect upon brain functioning. Again, some fats have a very positive effect upon the brain, whilst others have a damaging effect.

Fats of great benefit to the brain include OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID – such fats are vital to good mental functioning (in fact, the composition of the brain is 60% fat).

An intake of the correct fats enables the brain to manufacture its cells effectively – the specific type of fats required are called LIPID FATTY ACIDS. A lack of these has a detrimental effect upon brain function. The type of fat required by the brain cannot be manufactured by the body so needs to be taken in by the diet. Food sources for the fat include:

– vegetable oils
– sesame oils
– corn
– walnuts
– green leafy vegetables

Lack of OMEGA-3 leads to neurons (cells in the brain) not working properly; at worst, it can even mean some neurons will die.

SATURATED FATS:

This type of fat can be damaging to the brain. It can lead to brain cell membranes becoming rigid – this undesirable occurrence, in effect, means that communication between the brain cells becomes inefficient; the brain, therefore, develops problems transmitting information between these cells.

CONCLUSION: RESEARCH SHOWING BENEFITS TO BRAIN FUNCTION OF GOOD INTAKE OF OMEGA-3:

Research has shown that as intake of OMEGA-3 goes up (within limits, obviously), so to does the quantity of the neurotransmitter known as SEROTONIN available in the brain. This is of great benefit as SEROTONIN helps to keep our mood CALM, STABLE and POSITIVE. Research has also shown that OMEGA-3 improves the effective functioning of another neurotransmitter in the brain known as DOPAMINE – this helps us to REGULATE OUR MOOD AND EMOTIONS.

I include a link for the purchase of OMEGA-3 and other brain supplements in the advert section (right-hand column of site).

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you would like to, to which I will respond asap. It is also possible to follow this blog for immediate notification of all newly published posts (new posts are added at least twice per week). Alternatively, you may wish to sign up to my newsletter.

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

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Addressing Effects of Childhood Trauma with Dialectical Behavior Therapy : PART 1-Introduction.

I have already written one post about the very promising new therapy for treating the effects of childhood trauma called DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT); this therapy 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 DBT; these are as follows:

1) CORE MINDFULNESS
2) TAKING THE’MIDDLE PATH’
3) DISTRESS TOLERANCE
4) EMOTIONAL REGULATION
5) INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS

In this introductory post, I will concentrate upon 1 and 2 above. I will go on to examine 3,4 an5 above in later posts (to be published very soon). 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 posts will look at the other 3 key skills DBT teaches us (3,4 and 5 above, namely: DISTRESS TOLERANCE, EMOYIONAL REGULATION and INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please leave a comment if you would like to; I’ll respond a.s.a.p.

New posts are added frequently to this blog, please click on ‘FOLLOW’ if you would like immediate notification of all newly published articles.

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

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

childhood_trauma_effects

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:

1) DIFFERENCES IN THE BRAIN’S BIOCHEMISTRY:

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).

2) DIFFERENCES IN BRAIN STRUCTURE:

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.

GIVEN THE ABOVE, IS MEDICATION USEFUL IN TREATING ANXIETY?

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

D) BUSPAR:

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

E) ANTIHISTAMINES: -eg Vistaril

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).

F) ANTICONVULSANTS: -Neurontin

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).

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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).

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The Use of Hypnosis to Treat Trauma.

childhood_trauma_effects

Research has shown that hypnosis can be of benefit for individuals suffering from trauma related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hypnosis is not used in isolation to treat such conditions, but in conjunction with other therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy.

Research studies have demonstrated that the use of hypnosis as part of the therapy for trauma based conditions can be particularly effective in:

– reducing the intensity and frequency of intrusive, distressing thoughts and nightmares
– decreasing avoidance behaviours (ie avoidance of situations which remind the individual under treatment of the original trauma)
– reducing the intensity and frequency of the mental re-experiencing the trauma
– reducing anxiety, hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal that the trauma has caused
– helping the individual to psychologically INTEGRATE the memory of trauma in a way which reduces symptoms of dissociation (I have written a post on dissociation which some of you may like to look at)
– helping the individual to develop more adaptive coping strategies

On top of the above benefits, the use of hypnosis has been shown to be very likely to improve the therapeutic relationship between the individual undergoing treatment and the therapist.

However, it is not recommended that hypnosis be used to ‘recover buried memories of trauma’ as this has been shown to be unreliable and it is also likely that the use of hypnosis for this purpose can create FALSE MEMORIES in the person being treated.

Some individuals have been significantly helped by the use of hypnosis as part of their therapy for trauma related conditions such as PTSD in as little as just a few sessions. As one would expect, however, the more complex the trauma related condition is, the longer that effective treatment for it is likely to take.

childhood_ trauma _workbook

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

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Childhood Trauma: Treating the Root Cause of Related Symptoms.

I had been perplexed for a very long time, given the emotional symptoms I was experiencing, which, it had always been obvious to me, were in large part related to my childhood experiences, why I had never been offered therapy, by the NHS, which could specifically address this issue. In fact, the professionals I had seen, incuding GPs and psychiatrists, rarely, if ever, asked me about my childhood, nor did they seek, in any way that I could ascertain, to link my symptoms to it. I can only assume that therapy addressing emotional problems which are linked to childhood experiences are deemed to be too expensive; perhaps it relates to where you happen to live, as different regions have different budgeting priorities. I know, though, that such therapies are available.

It is a common problem. In the UK, mental illness is almost invariably addressed using the MEDICAL MODEL (ie drugs are used to alter brain biochemistry). Some studies have shown, however, that anti-depressants work no better than PLACEBOS. We must ask, then, if, in many cases, treating mental illness with drugs is simply inappropriate? Would it not be better, in a lot of cases, to address the root cause of the symptoms -childhood trauma and/or other relevant life experiences?

PSYCHODYNAMIC AND PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY:

These tharapies both seek to address root causes of adult psychological difficulties. Many of my posts have already discussed the fact that childhood trauma, very often, lessens (often, through physiological effects on the brain) the individual’s ablility to cope with stress in adult life. Here is a recap of symptoms childhood trauma can lead to:

– alcohol/drug misuse
– dissociative disorders (see my post on this in the ‘EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA’ category).
– self-harm (eg cutting self with sharp instrument, burning self with cigarette ends – see my post on this in above category)
– suicide attempts, suicide
– eating disorders
– acute depression
– extreme anxiety
– post-traumatic stress disorder (see my post on this in above category)
– obsessive-compulsive disorder

Clearly, such difficulties can cause the individual severe distress, so it is important to investigate ALL the possible treatment options.

Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy aims, as I have already said,to address the root cause of distressing psychological symptoms: they are based upon the idea that we all SUPPRESS (ie bury deep down in the mind) feelings that, if they were allowed full access to consciousness, would OVERWHELM us with ANXIETY and EMOTIONAL PAIN. However, this requires psychological effort, and, in order to keep them suppressed, we must employ DEFENSE MECHANISMS (these may be employed both on conscious and unconscious levels). Examples of such defense mechanisms are PROJECTION and REACTION FORMATION:

– PROJECTION: this refers to how we EXTERNALIZE things we dislike about OURSELVES. For example, someone who is (needlessly) ashamed of being homosexual may go around calling everybody else ‘gay’ (using the word in a perjorative sense, of course)

– REACTION FORMATION: here, the individual feels the need to constantly proclaim s/he is not what, deep down, perhaps unconsciously, s/he feels s/he actually is. For example, someone who suppresses their aggressive instincts may feel the need to constantly proclaim how peace loving they are and how incapable of inflicting physical harm on others. In Shakespeare’s play, HAMLET, Iago seems to be aware of this psychological concept of reaction formation when he states, heavy with insinuation: ‘Methinks she protests too much’. Indeed, many of Freud’s ideas were anticipated in Shakespeare’s works.

There are other defense mechanisms which would take up too much space to go into here, but they all involve CUTTING OURSELVES OFF FROM OUR TRUE FEELINGS or trying to banish them in other ways, due to real, or perceived, societal and cultural demands.

It is thought that the MORE PAINFUL AND DIFFICULT KEEPING THE FEELINGS SUPPRESSED IS, THE MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFORT THE MECHANISM OF SUPRESSION TAKES UP, and, therefore, THE MORE INTENSE THE REPERCUSSIONS, OR COSTS, IN TERMS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS, ARE (see list above for examples of these symptoms).

Psychotherapy aims to get us in touch with the feelings we are suppressing and work through them; some types of psychotherapy aim to bring what is buried in the unconscious into conscious awareness to enable such a process.

TYPES OF THERAPIES AVAILABLE:

1) SHORT-TERM PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this usually consists of about 20 sessions spread over 20 weeks.

2) PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this can consist of 2 or 3 sessions per week. There is no time limit – as many sessions are provided as required.

3) PSYCHOANALYSIS: this can comprise up to 5 sessions per week. Again, there is no time limit and as many sessions are provided as required.

By working through suppressed feelings (such as anger or fear) with the therapist, the rationale is that the past gradually loses its grip on the present, and, thus, its power to cause continued suffering.

DOES IT WORK?

Certainly, if considering such therapy, great care is needed when selecting a suitable therapist (eg checking their training, success rate, recommendations etc) as it is possible the treatment can do more harm than good if not properly implemented.

The psychologist, Hans Eysenck, argued that patients who underwent psychoanalysis recovered from their psychological difficulties no better than untreated controls. HOWEVER, there is, in fact, plenty of research which SUPPORTS its effectiveness; for example: Roth et al (1996) and, also, Holmes et al (1995).

I hope you have found this post of interest. New posts are added to this blog at least twice per week.

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

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Childhood Trauma: Identity Problems and How to Tackle Them.,

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

One outcome of childhood trauma can frequently be that the person who has suffered it is prone to develop IDENTITY PROBLEMS.

A person’s identity represents their attempt to pin down the essential elements s/he sees (rather than what others see) that make the individual who s/he are. One’s identity develops over time.

Our identity can be helpful to our psychological health (if we see ourselves in largely positive terms) or unhelpful to it (if we see ourselves in largely negative terms). People, especially if suffering from depression, lacking in confidence etc, extremely often view themselves FAR MORE NEGATIVELY THAN WOULD BE OBJECTIVELY WARRANTED; whereas many others (not suffering from mental illness, in many cases) may see themselves in far too glowing terms (this ‘over self-congratulatory’ view adopted by many is thought to have developed to confer evolutionary advantages on those who have it – appearing confident to potential mates, for example – provided, I suppose, it is not absurdly exaggerated).

Aspects of our lives which can affect our identities include:

– our values
– our physical appearance
– our mental/physical health
– our education
– our achievements (or lack, thereof)
– our work (Freud attributed especial importance to this, as he did to sexual fulfilment, the thwarting of which, he proposed, could lead to extreme neurosis)
– our relationships
– our age (please, don’t remind me)
– our financial situation
– our perception of our social status (or lack, again, thereof)

The identity which emerges from such factors is strongly related to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT:

This begins very early in our lives. Ages 4 years to 6 years are thought to be a critical time; TRAUMA during this period is LINKED to the DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY PROBLEMS IN LATER LIFE. From the ages of about 6 years to 12 years, the child normally develops the skills necessary to MANAGE EMOTIONS, a skill strongly linked to identity (eg ‘cool’ versus ‘volatile’); indeed, if TRAUMA INTERFERES WITH THIS PROCESS AN EXTREMELY TEMPESTUOUS ADOLESCENCE CAN FOLLOW).

In ‘normal’ development, adolescents may experiment with various identities and this process gradually leads to the stage in which there is a sense of the identity becoming crystallized. Again, however, individuals affected by trauma will often find this period exceptionally stressful and find that NO CLEAR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY EMERGES – THEIR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY CAN BE CONFUSED AND THEY MAY FEEL THAT THEY ‘DON’T KNOW WHO THEY REALLY ARE’.

CONFUSED IDENTITY IN ADULTHOOD AS A RESULT OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA:

By adulthood, then, those who have experienced childhood trauma will often find that their identity is UNSTABLE and FRAGILE – this will often mean that their attitudes, values and sense of who they are are all prone to wildly fluctuation; these changes are frequently dramatic (eg oscillating between feeling deep love and deep hatred towards the same person; or, sometimes, perhaps, feeling exceptionally important only to shift without warning or obvious trigger into a feeling of despair, self-loathing and worthlessness).

IDENTITIY PROBLEMS AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD):

Identity problems in adulthood are often a symptom of BPD. BPD frequently occurs as a result of childhood trauma and much more about the condition can be discovered in the by clicking here to read my article about it.

DEVELOPING A MORE CONSISTENT AND STRONGER SENSE OF ONE’S IDENTITY:

How can people with identity problems make their sense of identity stronger? One possible place to start this process, which needs to be gradually worked on over time, is for the individual suffering from the crisis in identity to consider the things which are of most importance to him/her in life; identities are largely formed based on these considerations. Prorities in life which people choose to concentrate on, and, which, therefore, contribute to making up their identities include:

– friendships/relationships/family
– academic interests
– career
– creativity (eg painting, writing, acting)
– hobbies
– choice of entertainment (eg musical taste, taste in film/cinema/theatre, favourite kinds of books etc)
– material possessions
– spirituality/religion/atheism/agnosticism
– charity work (eg for homeless, rehabilitation of ex-prisoners, environment, hospice, Amnesty International)
– physical appearance
– financial situation

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list and there may well be other areas that can be added, depending on preferences.

A starting point might be to pick out 3 or 4 areas of interest (this, in itself, reflects identity, and, therefore, can be seen as providing foundational pieces of the jig-saw yet to emerge, as it were) and to concentrate on these at first (other elements can be added later; merely starting the process may lead to other ideas emerging at a later time).

For each of the factors selected, it can then prove of use to set some goals relating to how these areas may be incorporated, or, more fully incorporated, into one’s life (these goals need to be quite specific and achievable; there is little point starting with such challenging goals that they may prove impossible to meet and thus damage morale).

Here are some examples:

– because academic achievement is important to me, I will enrol in a night-school class (investigate and specify appropriate course) and complete the course
– because family and/or friends are important to me I will attend an anger management course
– because creativity is important to me I will set aside two hours a week to write poetry/novel
– because my mental health is important to me I will seek out appropriate counselling and complete the sessios recommended (provided the therapy proves of potential value, of course)

The more the individual is able to incorporate and develop areas such as those listed above, which reflect his/her true values, interests and priorities, the more AUTHENTIC and REWARDING the person’s life is likely to be; the more, too, will the individual’s true and stable sense of self continue to evolve.

RESOURCES :

OVERCOME IDENTITY PROBLEMS MP3. CLICK HERE.

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

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