Effects Of ‘Bottling Up’ Feelings Related To Trauma

bottling up feelings

‘Bottling Up’ Emotions

It is often said that it is psychologically unhealthy to ‘bottle up’ (suppress) feelings connected to trauma, loss and grief. But what does the research tell us?

Bowlby’s Position :

Bowlby’s (1980) work on the effects of suppression (he mainly focused on the suppression of grief) of such feelings proposes that grief is a natural feeling and ‘bottling up.’ or suppressing, such feelings causes an important psychological process to become inhibited and that this, in turn, would lead to both psychological and physical ill-health.

effect of bottling up emotions

Challenges To Bowlby’s Position :

However, Wortman and Silver (1989) assert that the empirical evidence supporting Bowlby’s view is weak (but see later research conducted by Chapman et al. in 2013)and that those who strictly adhere to Bowlby’s view may unhelpfully cause individuals who do not experience a period of grief (that they define as ‘intense distress’) to be labelled as ‘abnormal’.

Furthermore, Wortman and Silver (1989) go on to suggest that, partly as a consequence of Bowlby’s view, individuals may be expected to ‘work through’ their feelings of grief/distress, as opposed to ‘bottling them up’, denying or suppressing them. Then, after a relatively short period of time, they may be expected to have ‘resolved’ their feelings of loss, and, therefore, cease their period of grieving.

Such expectations, Wortman and Silver (1989) suggest, can be potentially damaging as they may imply that those who do not go through this (according to Bowlby) ‘natural’ process are, as alluded to above, in some way reacting to their loss ‘abnormally’ or ‘inappropriately’ which is neither a sensitive, nor effective. approach to therapeutic intervention.

Bonanno et al., (1995) also conducted research that contradicted Bowlby’s theory. They concluded from their research that those who exhibited mild to moderate emotional detachment during the grieving process actually recovered better in psychological terms when compared to those who expressed their distress more overtly.

Support For Bowlby’s Position – Empirical Data Relating To Cancer And Cardiovascular Disease :

However, in contrast to Bonanno’s (see above) findings, Chapman et al. (2013) conducted a study which found those who tended to suppress their emotions were 1.7 times more likely to die from cancer at any given time and 1.47 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease at any given time than those who did not.

RESOURCE :

How To Express Your Emotions – click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

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Trauma And Persistent ‘Low Mood’ (Dysthymia) In Children

dysthymia in children

How Does Dysthymia Differ From Major Depression?

Children who experience significant and protracted trauma and/or stress during childhood are at increased risk of developing a condition known as dysthymia, which is sometimes described as a less severe/dramatic version of major depression.

Because its symptoms tend not to be as obvious as those of major depression (for example, a young person suffering from it may exhibit the symptom of frequent irritability but parents may dismiss this as ‘typical teenage touchiness’) this does NOT mean that it is necessarily less dangerous.

Whilst dysthymia is uncommon in very young children, some studies suggest that it can occur in children as young as five years old.

In the title of this article I have described dysthymia as ‘persistent low mood’. To elaborate upon this definition,  adjectives such as ‘gloomy’, ‘pessimistic’ and ‘down’ can be used to describe the dysthymic young person. Furthermore, children suffering from dysthymia are very frequently preoccupied with feelings of being ‘left out‘ by or unaccepted/disliked/unloved by others. On top of this, such individuals also tend to feelinferior to others and that they don’t ‘measure up’ to their peers in various definable – and more nebulous, indefinable – ways. (As I finish writing this paragraph, I realize it is an accurate description of how I felt about myself as a young person).

dysthymia in children

A Study Into How The Symptoms Of Dysthymia Differ From Symptoms Of Major Depression In Children :

A study conducted by Kovacs et al., (1994) examined how symptoms of dysthymia in children differed from symptoms of major depression in children. The major findings of the study were as follows :

Those children suffering from dysthymia, compared to those suffering from major depression, were, on average :

  • younger
  • less likely to suffer from disturbed sleep (22% versus 62%)
  • less likely to suffer from appetite disturbance (6% versus 47%)
  • less likely to suffer from severe loss of ability to feel pleasure – this is a condition that is clinically known as ‘anhedonia‘ (6% versus 71%)
  • about equally likely to suffer from depressed/sad mood (91% versus 80%)
  • about equally likely to feel unloved (55% versus 48%)
  • about equally likely to feel friendless (41% versus 40%)

Which Factors Increase An Individual’s Risk Of Developing Dysthymia?

Risk factors that increase a young person’s chances of developing the condition of dysthymia include the following :

  • significant trauma / stress
  • having a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) who suffers from a depressive disorder
  • having a history of other psychiatric conditions

What Problems Are Associated With Dysthymia?

I said at the beginning of this article that dysthymia can be just as dangerous as major-depression. This is because it can lead to myriad problems for the young person such as :

In the same study (Kovacs et al.) referred to above, more than two-thirds of the total number (fifty-five) of young people suffering from dysthymia went on to develop more severe symptoms of depression or full-blown major depression (in both cases without a complete absence of symptoms in between). In the group of young people who went on to develop major depression, the time at which they were most likely to do so was 2-3 years after the initial onset of dysthymic disorder.

It has, therefore, been theorized that ‘dysthymic disorder’ may, in fact, not be a separate and distinct mood disorder in its own right, but, rather, a subtype, or precursor, other mood disorders.

Treatment Of Dysthymia:

If a young person is suffering from dysthymia, early identification of the disorder and early therapeutic intervention is vital to help reduce the risk that the condition deteriorates or that the young person develops even more serious psychiatric conditions. Also, the level of stress that the young person is exposed to should be reduced as far as possible. Furthermore, the young person should be given as much social support as necessary.

USEFUL LINK :
Youngminds.org

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

 

 

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What Types Of Parents Are More Likely To Physically Abuse Their Children?

why do parents physically abuse their children?

Stith’s (2009) Meta-Analysis :

A study carried out by Stith et al. (2009) reviewed 155 other studies (this is called a meta-analysis) that had already been carried out in order to identify factors that put the child at risk of physical abuse by his/her parents.

In order to identify these factors, one part of Stith’s study examined which particular characteristics of the parent put that person at increased risk of physically abusing his/her child. I list these characteristics below :

Characteristics Of Parents That Increase The Probability That They Will Be Physically Abusive Towards Their Child/Children (according to Stith’s, 2009 meta-analysis of 155 previously published studies) :

  • alcohol abuse by parent
  • the parent is single
  • the parent is unemployed
  • the parent abuses drugs
  • the parent approves of corporal punishment as a means of instilling discipline in / control over the child
  • parent has poor coping skills
  • parent has health problems
  • parent has poor problem solving skills
  • parent lacks social support
  • parent is involved in criminal behavior
  • parent is under significant stress
  • parent suffers from significant anxiety
  • parents suffers from mental illness
  • parent suffers from depression
  • parent suffers from low self-esteem
  • parent has problems controlling own anger
  • parent had dysfunctional relationship with own parent/s
  • parent suffers from hyper-reactivity / has poor control of emotions

Which Of The Above Are The Biggest Risk Factors?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the 18 risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • parental hyper-reactivity
  • parental problems controlling own anger

Other Considerations : Family Factors :

Stith also found that, in addition to the above factors, certain factors relating to the family could also increase the risk of a parent physically abusing his/her child. These were as follows :

  • poor level of family cohesion
  • significant conflict within the family
  • low level of marital satisfaction
  • violence between the spouses
  • low socioeconomic status
  • the family includes a non-biological parent
  • size of family
Which Of These Family Factors Put The Child Most At Risk Of Being Physically Abused Within The Home?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the seven risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • significant family conflict
  • poor level of family cohesion

Resources :

hypnosis for angerMANAGE YOUR ANGER PACK – click here for further details.

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Childhood Trauma May Damage Prefrontal Cortex : How To Help Reverse Such Damage.

how to reverse damage to prefrontal cortex

Childhood Trauma May Damage Development Of Certain Brain Structures :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that severe and chronic psychological and emotional trauma in early life may adversely affect the physical development of various structures in the brain, including the prefrontal cortex. In individuals who have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) following childhood trauma, such impairment to the brain is thought to be particularly likely.

What Is The Prefrontal Cortex And What Is Its Function?

The prefrontal cortex is a brain region located in the front of the skull (see diagram below) and its main functions include :

  • complex planning and decision making
  • self-control in the context of social behavior
  • setting and achieving goals
  • impulse control

reverse damage to prefrontal cortex

ABOVE : Position of frontal cortex in the brain

Evidence For Damage To The Prefrontal Cortex In Individuals Diagnosed With BPD:

MRI Studies : have shown that individuals with BPD have reduced volume in the brain’s frontal lobe and left orbitofrontal cortex (although further studies are required in order to ascertain if this link is causal).

fMRI Studies : have shown that BPD sufferers experience abnormal activation in the brain’s inferolateral prefrontal cortex in response to stimuli that generate negative emotions as well as unusually elevated levels of activation of the orbitofrontal cortex during the recollection of traumatic memories

Other Brain Imaging Studies : have suggested that BPD sufferers have an abnormally low density of neurons and abnormal neuronal function in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as abnormally low blood flow to the ventrolateral right prefrontal cortex.

(More research needs to be conducted in order to shed further light upon the nature of the link between childhood trauma, BPD and impaired physiological development of the prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, there exists evidence to suggest that severe an chronic childhood trauma can adversely affect the development of other brain regions including the amygdala and the hippocampus).

Potential Adverse Effects Of Damage To The Prefrontal Cortex :

If a person incurs physiological damage to the development of their prefrontal cortex as a result of severe and protracted childhood trauma, it follows that the functions of the prefrontal cortex may be commensurately impaired, including the functions listed above (i.e. complex planning and decision making; self-control in social situations; setting and achieving goals; and impulse control).

Reversing The Damage :

We can employ various methods that mat help to reverse such damage and I list some of the main ones below :

RESOURCES :

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

 

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BPD And Rigid Thinking

bpd and rigid thinking

One of the main hallmarks of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the pronounced tendency of those who suffer from it to display marked rigidity in relation to both their thought processes and behaviors. 

This means that, when events occur, the way in which the BPD sufferer interprets them tend to be habitual and fixed and it is very difficult indeed for him/her to adopt a more flexible view or alternative perspective ; instead, once the rigid way of interpreting events formulated in his/her mind, it becomes a kind of idée fixe (the problem is compounded, of course, because, very frequently, such rigid thinking also leads to rigid, inflexible behavior) that s/he, terrier-like, refuses, seemingly at all costs (even if such incurred costs are extraordinarily, perhaps tragically, high), to relinquish (sometimes, it has to be said, provoking great exasperation, pain and frustration in others, particularly those who are not well versed in the disorder).

Rigid thinking is associated with poor mental health, not least because it can give rise to obsessive worry and rumination (intensely and chronically focusing on one’s problems) and a dysfunctional way of interacting with others.

rigid thinking

Examples Of Rigid Beliefs :

Examples of rigid beliefs include :

  • others should always agree with me and see things from exactly the same perspective as I do
  • others should never behave in ways of which I disapprove
  • if others don’t agree with me it’s because they’re stupid
  • I need to always be right
  • things must go perfectly
  • I must be liked and approved of by everyone at all times
  • others can NEVER be trusted and will always eventually screw you over

cognitive rigidity

Core Beliefs :

Our fundamental core beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in general develop early on in childhood and this period of development is closely related to how flexible / inflexible our ‘thinking style’ becomes. If this period is traumatic, stressful and involves chronically dysfunctional relationships with significant others (most of all, our primary carer) we are at high risk of developing negative core beliefs and a rigid way of thinking that can very seriously harm our adult lives including our intimate relationships, friendships and career. To read my article, previously published on this site, which explains more about core beliefs, click here

Possible Therapies :

Therapies that can help with correcting a dysfunctional, rigid thinking style that derive, at least in part, from the theories of Albert Ellis (a pioneer and expert in this field of psychology) include rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

 

RESOURCES :

STOP HAVING A CLOSED MIND (Self-hypnosis download). Click here for further details.

 

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

 

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Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged

majority of child maltreatment unreported and unacknowledged

Except in very extreme cases, such as severe physical abuse, the vast majority of parental mistreatment of children not only goes unreported, but is unacknowledged and, essentially, ignored (although this situation is gradually improving as people become more educated about the potentially devastating effects of bad parenting).

Emotional Abuse :

In particular, emotional abuse can be very subtle yet profoundly insidious and damaging (more so, even, than physical or sexual abuse) and very frequently goes ‘under the radar’. However, the UK government have recently started to take steps to rectify this travesty (in connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND THE LAW),

Examples Of Unacknowledged/Ignored Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

The above list, of course, is not exhaustive.

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Should BPD Treatment Be More Individualized?

should BPD treatment be more individualized?

Problems Relating To The Diagnosis Of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):

In order to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) an individual must suffer from AT LEAST FIVE SYMPTOMS out of a total of NINE listed in the DSM V (The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition). These nine symptoms are listed in the table presented below :

symptoms of BPD DSM 5

It logically follows, therefore, that two individuals could BOTH BE DIAGNOSED WITH FIVE OF THE ABOVE SYMPTOMS, YET HAVE ONLY ONE OF THESE SYMPTOMS IN COMMON WITH ONE ANOTHER.

However, despite the fact that BPD can manifest itself in very different ways in different individuals, when it comes to therapy we often find that a ‘one-size fits all‘ approach is taken.

Should BPD Treatment Be More Individualized?

 

Furthermore, the different therapies available for the treatment of BPD tend to focus upon a presumed, single, fundamental, underlying ‘core feature’ of the disorder, yet these features differ depending upon the selected form of therapy. In other words, different types of therapy for BPD are predicated upon differing theories the disorder. In his excellent book, Integrated Modular Treatment For Borderline Personality Disorder, Livesly, a leading expert in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, provides the following examples :

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY – this therapy focuses primarily upon the symptom emotional dysregulation or, in other words, the inability to control intense, volatile and quickly fluctuating emotions. (To read my article about dialectical behavior therapy, please click here).

MENTALIZATION BASED THERAPY – this therapy assumes the main difficulty that BPD patients suffer from is a marked impairment of their ability to ‘mentalize’ –(To read my post explaining what ‘mentalization’ is, and what may cause impairment to a person’s ability to mentalize,please click here).

TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED THERAPY – this therapy is predicated upon the notion that the BPD sufferer’s primary problem is a disturbance in his/her fundamental personality structure

SCHEMA-FOCUSED THERAPY – this therapy assumes that the BPD sufferer’s main underlying problem is his/her maladaptive schemas which s/he developed as a result of a dysfunctional childhood. (Click here to read my previously published article entitled : Childhood Trauma Leading To The Development Of Negative Schema.)

And, of course, Livesly points out, the ‘core features’ / symptoms that these different therapies focus, and the different theories that underpin them, dictate the ‘modus operandi in relation to the forms of treatment they provide.

Conclusion :

Because BPD is a multifaceted disorder and those who suffer from it will present with different constellations of serious symptoms, treating them with therapies that focus primarily on just one core feature (as in the case of the four therapies described above) may be inadequate – instead, more holistic forms of treatment may be appropriate that integrate methods from an array of therapies relevant to the unique pattern of symptoms manifested by each individual ; this is the main thesis Livesly’s book which can be purchased by clicking the image below :

 

 

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BPD Sufferers May Avoid ‘Mentalising’ Due To Parental Rejection

BPD Sufferers May Avoid 'Mentalising' Due To Rejecting Parents

Peter Fonagy, an internationally renowned clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and expert in borderline psychopathology and early attachment relationships, and who has produced some of the most influential work relating to this field, has stressed the importance of MENTALISING (or, more precisely, the avoidance of it) in relation to borderline personality disorder (BPD).

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Mentalising’?

The term ‘mentalising’ refers to a person’s ability to perceive, understand and make use of other’s emotional states (and their own).

Why Might Those Suffering From BPD Avoid ‘Mentalising’?

According to Peter Fonagy’s theory, children of cold and rejecting parents avoid mentalising because thinking about their parents’ lack of emotional warmth, rejection, absence of love and, perhaps, even, hatred would be too psychologically distressing and painful.

Prevention Of Recovery :

However, Fonagy also theorizes that this evasion (both conscious and unconscious) of the truth about how one’s parents treated one and felt about one prevents the individual from resolving the trauma and recovering from the emotional mistreatment. He proposes that it is necessary for those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to confront, and consciously process, the traumatic elements of their childhoods, and, in particular, their difficult, perhaps tortured, childhood relationships with their parents.

The Need For Understanding And Verbal Expression :

Only by understanding what happened to one in childhood, and by learning to express, verbally, this understanding, Fonagy proposes, is recovery possible.

Conclusion :

Whilst Fonagy’s theory has been influential, some researchers have criticized it for not placing enough emphasis upon the fundamental problem sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) frequently experience – namely their inability to control intense emotional reactions (often referred to as ’emotional dysregulation’ ; to read my previously published article relating to this, entitled ‘Three Types Of Emotional Control Difficulties Resulting From Childhood Trauma’, CLICK HERE. )

Resources :

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Early-Life Separation From Mother : What Experiments On Mice Tell Us.

 childhood trauma

The Study : A Mouse Model Of Early-Life Stress :

This experiment was conducted to look at the effects on mice of early-life stress. It involved separating baby mice from their mothers for three hours per day for each of the first ten days of their lives.

Results Of The Study :

It was found that the effect of this early-life separation from their mothers caused these baby mice to grow up into adults who were significantly more highly stressed than mice who had not been removed from their mothers in early life ; in particular, it was found that they ‘over-reacted’ to mild stressors.

maternal deprivation mice experiment

The Underlying Mechanism – The Effect Of Stress At A Genetic Level :

The study also found that the early-life stress that the baby mice suffered adversely affected (due to decreased DNA methylation) the ARGININE VASOPRESSIN (AV) GENE.

  • This led to an increase in the mice’s production of ARGININE VASOPRESSIN

which, in turn…

  • Increased their stress-response in adulthood.

In other words, it seems that the mice;s early-life stress harms their AV gene, which, in turn, makes them more susceptible to the adverse effects of stress when they become adults.

 

Other, Similar Research (But Involving Rats) :

Similar research has been carried out on rats, giving similar results (although, in the case of the rats, a different gene was adversely affected by early-life stress ; I wrote about this in an article I previously published on this website, it is entitled : What Studies On Rats Tell Us About The Effects Of Childhood Trauma – if you would like to read it, please click here).

To What Degree Can We Extrapolate From Such Findings In Order To Elucidate Effects Of Early-Life Trauma In Humans?

In a study (Meaney et al) of samples of human brains of individuals who had tragically committed suicide the researchers grouped the brains they were examining into two categories :

  • CATEGORY ONE : Brains of individuals who had committed suicide AND had experienced significant childhood trauma
  • CATEGORY TWO : Brains of individuals who had committed suicide but had NOT experienced significant childhood trauma

What Differences Were Found Between The Brains From CATEGORY ONE And The Brains From CATEGORY TWO :

Conclusion :

The parallels between the findings of the animal studies and the studies of human brains (as described above) suggest that some of the findings from the experiments on rodents in relation to the effects of early life stress may well be applicable in helping us to understand how early life stress can affect humans.

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Being Constantly Humiliated By Parents May Damage Brain’s Corpus Callosum

damage to corpus callosum

What Is The Corpus Callosum?

The brain is divided into two halves called the RIGHT HEMISPHERE and the LEFT HEMISPHERE. These two halves are connected by a structure called the CORPUS CALLOSUM. (It is located above the thalamus, underneath the cortex, see image below)
corpus callosum
Above : Thr location of the corpus callosum (marked in orange). Of all the brain’s white matter structures, it is the largest.

What Is The Function Of The Corpus Callosum?

The function of the corpus callosum is to allow communication to take place between the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere ; it facilitates this communication by transmitting neural messages between these two parts of the brain.

What Does The Corpus Callosum Communicate Between The Brain’s Right And Left Hemisphere?

The corpus callosum is responsible for the communication between the two hemispheres of emotion, arousal, sensory information, information relating to motor functions and higher cognitive abilities (including working memory, imagery and consciously controlled – or willed’ – action, amongst others).

The Effect Of Parental Maltreatment On The Corpus Callosum :

A study conducted by McCrory et al., 2001, found that children who were significantly maltreated by their parent (or parents) over a protracted period of time had corpus collosa that were, on average, significantly  smaller than those found in children who had been fortunate enough to have experienced relatively stable and happy childhoods.

 In more specific terms, their (i.e. the maltreated children’s corpus callosa had less thickness of the white fibre area.

Children Who Are Constantly Humiliated By Their Parents May Be At Particular Risk Of Incurring Impaired Development Of Their Corpus Callosa :

Subtle, emotional abuse by parents, due, not least, to its particularly insidious nature,  can be just as damaging, or even more damaging, than more blatant forms of abuse.

Indeed, studies suggest that children of parents who frequently mock and humiliate them are especially likely to sustain damage to the development of their corpus callosa. (To read my previously published article : Humor : How Parents May Use It To Emotionally Wound Their Children, click here.)

The effect of this is to impair communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres and it is theorized that this may explain why such  children are frequently found to lack confidence in their linguistic skills and/or  to develop difficulties controlling their emotions.

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