I have already published on this site several articles explaining how, if we have suffered significant childhood trauma, we are far more likely than the average person (all else being equal) to behave in a self-sabotaging manner and to become, to use the colloquial term, ‘our own worst enemy.’ Certainly, that was true of me for more years than I care to recollect.
A recent study, carried out by the researcher Van der Kolk and his colleagues, looked at this link between having suffered childhood trauma and the subsequent development of self-destructive and self-damaging behaviour.
Each person in the sample of 74 individuals who participated in the study had a diagnosable psychiatric condition (either bipolar disorder or a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and each were monitored over various lengths of time (the average length of time and that a participant in the study was monitored was four years).
During the period of time that each individual was monitored the researchers recorded all instances of self-destructive/self-sabotaging behaviour (such as substance misuse, bulimia, anorexia, deliberate self-injury and suicide attempts).
The extent to which each of these individuals had experienced childhood trauma was measured by their own self-reports of their childhood experiences.
It was found that those who had suffered childhood trauma (including neglect and separation from the primary carer) were far more likely than average to self-injure (by cutting self), to attempt suicide and to behave, in general, in self-destructive ways.
It was also found that those who cut themselves did so in order achieve a dissociative state (in this case, the dissociative state is induced to distract the self from unbearable mental anguish by inducing physical pain which is more tolerable and, therefore, preferable to the mental pain. (To read my article about dissociation, click here).
FURTHER FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY:
Individuals who participated in the study were least likely to recover from their proneness to behave in self-destructive ways if, as a result of their childhood trauma, they had developed problems forming and maintaining relationships with others in their adult lives (click here to read my article on how these two things can be inter-related).
It has been suggested that those individuals who have a propensity to self-cut and/or attempt suicide find stress extremely difficult to cope with as adults as it triggers memories and feelings associated with their particular childhood trauma.
Stop Self-sabotaging. Click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).