Author Archives: David Hosier Msc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

Growing Up In An Environment Of Unpredictable Stress : Possible Effects

unpredictable_stress

Many children who grow up in dysfunctional family homes find themselves living in a state of hypervigilance, never knowing how their parents are going to respond to them at any given time (for example, this is often the

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What Are The Effects Of Trauma On Young Children (0-6 Years)?

 What Are The Effects Of Trauma On Young ChildrenThe possible effects of childhood trauma on children under the age of six years are extensive and can be divided into three main categories. These three categories are as follows :
  • BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS
  • COGNITIVE EFFECTS (i.e. effects on thinking and conscious mental processes)
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS (i.e. effects on physical health and biological processes)

Below, I list the possible effects of being exposed to prolonged and significant trauma on young children :

A) FROM 0 YEARS OLD TO TWO YEARS OLD 

B) FROM THREE YEARS OLD TO SIX YEARS OLD 

A) POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON CHILDREN AGED 0 TO 2 YEARS :

BEHAVIORAL :

Aggression

Regressive behavior

Extreme temper tantrums

Fear of adults connected to the traumatic experiences

Fear of separation from the parent / primary caregiver (see my article about separation anxiety)

Irritability

Anxiety

Sadness

Withdrawn behavior

Highly sensitive ‘startle response’

Prone

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Arrested Psychological Development and Age Regression

arrested psychological development

Arrested Psychological Development

Traumatic life events can cause the child to become ‘stuck’ at a particular level of psychological development for an extended period of time – s/he may, therefore, often seem immature as development was frozen at an earlier stage.

For example, an eleven year old child who was abandoned by his/her primary carer at age four may throw tantrums similar to those one might expect of a four year old when left with an unfamiliar baby-sitter. In other

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Deep Feelings Of Shame Resulting From Emotionally Impoverished Relationships With Parents

shame due to dysregulating oyjers

According to DeYoung, author of the excellent book : ‘Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame : A Relational / Neurobiological Approach‘, the experience of shame comes about as a result of dysfunctional relationships with other people (in particular, of course, with our parents when we are growing up) who are of emotional importance to us as opposed to affecting us as isolated, independent individuals. Because of this, DeYoung describes the experience

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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

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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

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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,

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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, Including Prefrontal Cortex :

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 thatBPD sufferers experience abnormal

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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

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Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged

childhood-trauma-recovery

Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 : The 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?

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Explaining BPD In Terms Of The Diathesis-Stress Model

BPD, diathesis stress model

What Does ‘Diathesis’ Mean?

The medical definition of ‘diathesis’ is ‘a heriditary or constitutional predisposition to a disease or other disorder.‘ (The word ‘diathesis’ itself derives from the Greek word for ‘disposition).

What Is The Diathesis-Stress Model?

The diathesis-stress model is a psychological theory that proposes that a psychiatric disorder is caused not by heriditary factors (i.e. predispositional vulnerability) alone, NOR by psychologically stressful experiences

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The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Psychopathology And Sexual Orientation

high-and -low- functioning-BPD

Childhood Trauma And Sexual Orientation :

A study, based on statistics and information derived from the National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health (2001-2002) examined the link between sexual orientation and history of childhood maltreatment. This research involved analysis relating to 13,962 participants that comprised young people between the ages of 18 and 27, of which :

  • 227 were gay/lesbian
  • 245 were bisexual
  • 13,490 were heterosexual

One of the primary aims of the study was to examine how sexual orientation was linked to experiences of childhood trauma and it was found that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals
  • bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals

childhood trauma and sexual orientation

Psychopathology :

The

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