The majority of individuals who seek psychiatric help as adults have a history of childhood trauma (e.g. Jacobson and Richardson; Briere and Zaidi, 1989; Draijer, 1989). Of course, many of those who suffered damaging and dysfunctional childhoods never come to the attention of psychiatric services and are therefore left to cope with related emotional and behavioral difficulties without professional support (indeed, many individuals who fall into this category may be completely oblivious to the link between their adult problems and their early life experiences.
Those individuals who do seek professional help may present with a wide-ranging and eclectic array of symptoms including depression, insomnia, anxiety (both general and phobic), somatization, paranoia, psychosis, dissociation, problems controlling anger and rage, problems relating to sexuality and sexual function, suicidal ideation, addictions (e.g. to drugs and alcohol) and self-harm (e.g Browne and Finkelhor, 1986; Bryer et al.; Briere, 1988). However, as readers of this website will discover, even such an extensive list as this is far from complete. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, for example, found that, additionally, the more adverse childhood experiences that an individual had suffered the more likely s/he is, as an adult, to contract liver disease/cancer/heart disease, smoke, perpetrate domestic violence and suffer rape (again, this is an incomplete list of the study's findings).
This site examines the link between childhood trauma and its potentially devastating psychological (and, indeed, physical) consequences in adulthood as well as roots to recovery (i.e. therapies and self-help) and the possibility of posttraumatic growth.
A brief overview of the potential effects of childhood trauma on adult mental and physical health:
The effects of childhood trauma can be devastating and, in the absence of effective therapy, can last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.
The most well-known study on the effects of childhood trauma is called The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study.
The main findings of this extremely important study were as follows :
Those who experience significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of:
- alcoholism/addiction to narcotics
- attempted suicide
- stress relating to inadequate finances
- significantly impaired work performance
- promiscuity/risky sex
- nicotine addiction
- adolescent/unplanned pregnancy
- significantly impaired academic attainment
- significantly impaired physical health including lung disease, heart disease, and liver disease
- And, if you explore this website, you will discover that the above list is far from exhaustive when enumerating the myriad effects of childhood trauma.
What Types Of Childhood Trauma Did The Study Focus Upon?
The study focused on the following types of childhood trauma :
- Abuse (emotional, sexual or physical)
- Living in a household within which a family member who was an alcoholic or drug addict
- Living in a household within which the mother was physically abused
- Parental divorce/separation
- Neglect (emotional or physical)
- Living in a household in which a family member went to prison
- Living in a household within which a family member suffered from mental illness
N.B. The study found that the more of these adverse childhood experiences the child suffered, and the more intense and long-lasting they were, the greater the child's risk of developing the problems listed above.
This website takes the ACE study as its starting point and, if you choose to explore it, you can find a wealth of information about :
- Why some are more resilient to the effects of childhood trauma than others
- How childhood trauma can actually damage the brain's physical development
- Therapies and self-help techniques that can help us overcome the adverse effects of childhood trauma, including any damage our developing brains, have incurred whilst we were growing up
- The relationship between childhood trauma and borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- The relationship between childhood trauma and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD)
- Posttraumatic growth: how, if we can overcome the negative effects of our childhood trauma, we may end up better people than we would have been had we never experienced our adverse childhood experiences in the first place
- and much more (over 500 articles in all). In order to view the full range of topics examined on this website, SEE MAIN MENU AT TOP OF PAGE.
David Hosier MSc holds two degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) and a post-graduate diploma in education (all three qualifications are in psychology). He also holds UK QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). He has worked as a teacher, lecturer, and researcher. His own experiences of severe childhood trauma and its emotional fallout motivated him to set up this website, childhoodtraumarecovery.com, for which he exclusively writes articles.
He has published several books including The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder, The Link Between Childhood Trauma ANd Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and How Childhood Trauma Can Damage The Developing Brain (And How These Effects Can Be Reversed).
He was educated at the University of London, Goldsmith's College where he developed his interest in childhood experiences leading to psychopathology and wrote his thesis on the effects of childhood depression on academic performance.
This site endeavors to take a scientific approach to the understanding of childhood trauma and related issues and is not about making value judgments. It has been created for educational purposes only.
The Irrefutable Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder And Childhood Trauma.
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