Articles About Childhood Trauma And Related Topics

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Over 850 free, concise articles about childhood trauma and its link to various psychological conditions, including : complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), borderline personality disorder (and other personality disorders), anxiety disorders, depression, physical health conditions, psychosis, difficulties forming and maintaining relationships, addictions, dissociation and emotional dysregulation (such as dramatic mood swings and outbursts of rage). The site also comprises articles on treatments for childhood trauma and related mental health problems as well as articles on posttraumatic growth and other relevant topics. There is a search facility on the site to facilitate exploration of subjects covered.

Childhood Trauma, Inflammation, The Immune System And Severe Adult Health Implications.

A study conducted in New Zealand, involving 1,037 children, assessed these young people according to :

  • the degree to which they had suffered maltreatment as children
  • which socio-economic group they belonged
  • the extent to which they had suffered social isolation

Thirty years after this assessment had been made, the same individuals were assessed again, in a follow-up study, in order to determine to what degree their health had been negatively impacted by the above three factors (i.e. childhood maltreatment, socio-economic group in childhood and extent of social isolation in childhood).

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

It was found that those individuals who had experienced both significant social isolation and maltreatment as children, and, additionally, had grown up in poverty, were at double the average risk of :

  • inflammation
  • depression
  • obesity

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND THE INFLAMMATORY IMMUNE SYSTEM :

A meta-analysis conducted by Baumeister et al. (2015) found a significant association between childhood trauma and inflammation and the researchers concluded that there now exists strong evidence that individuals who suffer traumatic events during childhood are at greatly elevated risk of developing a dysregulated inflammatory immune system which, in turn, leads to an increased risk of developing both psychiatric and physical disorders in later life.

Indeed, it is now becoming increasingly recognized that the dysregulation of the immune system as a result of childhood trauma may be implicated in the later development of not just depression and obesity (as identified by the New Zealand study referred to at the beginning of this article) but it may also be the biological mechanism responsible for mediating the association between childhood trauma and the later development of many other physical and psychiatric conditions such as psychosis, anxiety, PTSD, complex PTSD, borderline personality disorder, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lung disease and metabolic syndrome and potentially, substantially reduce an individual’s life-expectancy.

eBook : 

The above eBook : ‘The Devastating Effects Of Childhood Trauma,‘ is now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

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

Does EFT Help Alleviate PTSD?

EFT stands for the emotional freedom technique and is used to treat sufferers of various disorders, including PTSD (complex posttraumatic stress disorder) and complex PTSD (and, in this article, I will be looking at its effectiveness in relation to these two disorders).

‘TAPPING’ :

EFT is also sometimes referred to as tapping for the simple reason that it involves using the tips of the fingers to tap on specific acupuncture (sometimes called acupuncture points or just acupoints) on the body.

EFT is based on the same theory as acupuncture (in which the acupuncture points are punctured with needles rather than being tapped with the finger tips) ; this theory proposes that ‘meridians’ run through the body which operate as pathways for the carrying of energy.

BLOCKAGES :

It is theorized that disease is caused by the occurrence of blockages along these meridians (or pathways) and that these blockages can be unblocked by tapping on specific points on the body (in EFT, these points are referred to as acupressure points, whereas, in acupuncture, they are referred to as acupuncture points ; in both cases, these terms can be abbreviated to acupoints). This unblocking, according to the theory, alleviates the corresponding disease.

SPECIALIZED TECHNIQUES FOR WORKING WITH TRAUMA :

Within EFT, there are three specific techniques which were devised for treating trauma. These are referred to as THE GENTLE TECHNIQUES, as described in the EFT MANUAL (Church, 2013).

EVIDENCE  :

RANDOM CONTROLLED STUDIES :

In terms of evidence for EFT, a random controlled study (Church et al., 2013), involving war veterans suffering from PTSD. found that 86% significantly improved after six sessions of EFT and 80% remained significantly improved after 3 and 6 month follow-ups.

This experiment was independently replicated by Geronilla et al. (2014), and this replication obtained similarly encouraging results.

TELEPHONE EFT VERSUS ‘IN PERSON’ EFT :

On further analysis of the data obtained from Church et al.’s (2013) study (see above), it was found that telephone EFT (in which the therapist talks to, and guides, the client over the telephone and the client ‘self-administers’ the taps) led to the significant improvement of 67% of the veterans with PTSD after six sessions, compared to 91% of the veterans with PTSD who significantly improved after the same number of ‘in-person’ EFT sessions. This suggests that whilst telephone EFT can be effective, it tends, overall, not to be as effective as ‘in person’ EFT.

GROUPS :

In a study by Gurret et al. (2012), seventy-seven victims of the Haiti earthquake were given a two-day training course in EFT. It was found that, before the EFT training, 62% fulfilled the criteria for having PTSD but this fell to zero per cent after the training had been administered, providing support for the effectiveness of group EFT.

META-ANALYSIS :

A meta-analysis, conducted by Sebastian and Nelms (2016), reviewed seven studies ; findings from this analysis found evidence that EFT for those suffering from the effects of trauma can :

  • regulate 72 different genes
  • increase the expression of immunity genes
  • decrease inflammation genes
  • is as effective as CBT and EMDR

and that :

  • EFT has no adverse side-effects
  • the number of EFT sessions required for the effective treatment of PTSD is 4 – 10 sessions

eBook :

Above eBook now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

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


Reducing Anxiety By Calming The Amygdala

We have seen from other articles published on this site that severe and protracted childhood trauma, resulting in the child being frequently subjected to extreme stress, can damage the development of the part of the brain known as the amygdala, which is intimately involved in generating feelings of fear and anxiety.

Indeed, in individuals who have experienced such serious childhood trauma that they have gone on to develop complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), the amygdala has been found to be overactive ; this can result in the affected person feeling constantly ‘on edge. hypervigilant, fearful, and, as it were, stuck on ‘red-alert’ / in a state of ‘fight or flight,’ with accompanying unpleasant bodily sensations such as a racing heart, rapid and shallow breathing (sometimes referred to as ‘hyperventilation), tense muscles, an unsettled stomach and nausea. Indeed, it is these very bodily symptoms that feed back to the brain leading to the perception of being afraid.

ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND THE AMYGDALA :

An overactive amygdala is not only associated with complex PTSD ; it has also been found to be associated with depressive and (as one, of course, would expect) anxiety disorders (e.g. Dannlowski et al., 2007).

THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX AND CALMING THE AMYGDALA :

Fortunately, another part of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex (which is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, rational, logical and abstract thought, speech, decision making, reappraisal of situations, active generative visualization and moderating social behavior) can be harnessed to inhibit the overactivity of the amygdala, thus calming it to allow symptoms of anxiety to dissipate and dissolve away.

PREFRONTAL CORTEX DEPRIVED OF OXYGEN WHEN WE’RE IN FIGHT / FLIGHT MODE :

If we suffer from PTSD or complex-PTSD we are prone to experience extreme fear and anxiety when it is not, objectively speaking, warranted. And, when we become fearful we can become locked into the fight / flight state, causing our body’s oxygen to be diverted to our muscles (particularly in out arms and legs) so that we may fight or flee more effectively. However, this reduces the amount of oxygen available to the prefrontal cortex which, in turn, means that we are limited in our ability to think rationally so that we are unable to reassure ourselves that the danger we perceive is not objectively justified, and, therefore, we are also unable to inhibit our amygdala’s overactivity.

MAKING SURE THE PREFONTAL CORTEX RECEIVES SUFFICIENT OXYGEN TO FUNCTION OPTIMALLY :

In this fearful state, we need to control our breathing so that sufficient oxygen can reach the prefrontal cortex to allow it to function optimally ; we can achieve this by breathing in a relaxed and slow manner, and, when exhaling, breath out slowly from the stomach so that the diaphragm moves upwards to increase the pressure on the lungs and heart to expel air. This type of breathing beneficially affects the part of the brain stem known as the medulla which, in turn, sends signals along the vagus nerve, leading to increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and decreased activity of the sympathetic nervous system : in combination, this produces feelings of relaxation and ameliorates feelings of stress and anxiety.

VISUALIZATION : THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX AND VISUALIZATION :

To calm the amygdala further, we can also take advantage of the prefrontal cortex’s ability to visualization (see above) and undertake sessions of relaxing, guided imagery either with a therapist or using self-hypnosis.

RESOURCES :

Improve Visualization | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Learn Deep Breathing Relaxation Techniques Rapidly | Self Hypnosis Downloads

eBook :


ABOVE EBOOK AVAILABLE FOR IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON. CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER DETAILS.

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

New eBook On Childhood Trauma And The Brain.

My new eBook, available for immediate download, was published in January 2019. See below for details or click here (United Kingdom) or here (United States) to view on Amazon.

Book Description :

Sadly, severe childhood trauma can actually physically affect brain development which can adversely affect how we feel and behave for years, or decades afterwards. Fortunately, however, due to the brain’s ability to continue to physically alter itself during our adult lives (due to a phenomenon known as ‘neuroplasticity’) it is possible for the brain to recover.
This book (2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded 2019) examines how childhood trauma can harm our brain, together with how this harm can be undone.
CONTENTS :
PART 1 :
BRAIN REGIONS THAT MIGHT BE DAMAGED BY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.
1) Introduction
2) The Prefrontal Cortex
3) Three Key Components Of The Limbic System
a) The Amygdala
b) The Hippocampus
c) The Thalamus
4) Other Limbic Regions
5) The Insula
6) Right Hemisphere
7) The Brain-Body Connection
8) Brain inflammation
PART 2 :
TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES THAT MAY CAUSE PHYSICAL DAMAGE TO THE DEVELOPING BRAIN.
9) Lack Of Emotional Security
10) Poverty
11) Constant Humiliation
12) Domestic Violence
13) Anger
14) Emotional Neglect
15) Guilt
16) Lack Of Love
PART 3 :
EFFECTS OF DAMAGE DONE TO THE BRAIN CAUSED BY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.
17) Risk Taking And Decision Making
18) Memory
19) Control Of Emotions
20) Inability To Articulate Severely Traumatic Experiences
21) Eye Contact
22) Risk Of Developing Complex PTSD
23) Risk Of Developing Narcissistic Personality Disorder
24) Risk Of Developing Borderline Personality Disorder
25) Constant Fearfulness
26) Structural Dissociation
PART 4 :
REPAIRING THE BRAIN.
27) Self-Directed Neuroplasticity
28) Seven Key Elements That Aid Brain Repair
29) Repairing The Amygdala
30) Repairing The Prefrontal Cortex
31) Raising Endorphin Levels
32) Raising Serotonin Levels
33) Raising Oxytocin Levels
34) Meditation And The Electrical Brain
35) Unlocking And Rewiring The Brain
36) Dialectical Behavior Therapy
37) Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
38) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
39) Treatment For Depression
40) Right Brain Therapy
41) Trauma Informed Yoga
APPENDICES
APPENDIX 1 : Childhood Trauma And Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
APPENDIX 2 : Childhood Trauma And Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD).
APPENDIX 3 : Dissociation.
APPENDIX 4 : Childhood Trauma And Psychosis.
APPENDIX 5 : Childhood Trauma And Avoidant Personality Disorder.
APPENDIX 6 : The Fight / Flight Response.
APPENDIX 7 : Anhedonia
APPENDIX 8 : Childhood Trauma And Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
APPENDIX 9 : Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy And My Experience Of It.

Click here (United Kingdom) or here (United States) to view on Amazon.

Depression : Anger Towards Parents Turned Inward?

The idea that depression is the result of our anger towards others (such as our parents) who have hurt and betrayed being turned inwards towards ourselves is usually thought to originate from the theories of Sigmund Freud, 1856 -1939 (who discussed the concept in his paper entitled ‘Mourning And Melancholia‘), although it is more likely to derive from the work of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) who, a few decades earlier during the 1880s, wrote that ‘no one blames themselves without the secret wish for vengeance’.

And, more recently, Horney (1885 – 1852) proposed that depression originates from having parents who lack warmth or are hostile, inconsistent and preoccupied with their own needs rather than with those of their children. This negative parental treatment leads to the child developing feelings of anger and resentment towards the parent. However, because the child is dependent upon his / her parents, s/he cannot risk expressing these angry and resentful feelings and so represses them (this repression may also be driven by feelings of guilt about resenting his / her parents, by fear of the consequences of openly expressing anger towards them, or by conflicting feelings of love for them – in relation to the latter, you may wish to read my previously published article : Why Children Idealize Their Parents). This process takes place on a largely unconscious level, of course.

However, rather than dissipate away, these feeling of anger and resentment are REDIRECTED TOWARDS THE SELF. This negative energy then combines with the child’s feelings of his / her own impotence, the negative attitude of his / her parents towards him / her, and a sense of his / her own feelings of hostility, to cause the young person to create a self-concept of being someone to be ‘despised’ (in relation to this you may wish to read my previously published articles : Childhood Trauma Leading To Self-Hatred And Intense Self-Criticism’ and How The Child’s View Of View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.’)

According to Horney, however, at the same time, the child simultaneously develops the compensatory concept of an ‘idealized’ self which is unrealistic and unobtainable, no matter how hard the child / later adult attempts to realize it.

However, in a desperate need to compensate for the ‘despised’ self, the child / later adult develops an insatiable and all-consuming, neurotic need to achieve this ideal state, even though s / he is not consciously aware of the origins of this need. This intense, neurotic need may manifest itself in various ways including perfectionism, an overwhelming need to be loved and admired by everyone (e.g. by becoming famous), or to be omnipotent.

Needless to say, living up to these standards is impossible and the inevitable failure to do so, according to Horney, generates feelings of self-hate. Indeed, the anger associated with these feelings may become so deeply entrenched and buried within the body that the result is psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and back ache, representing an unconscious, masochistic need to punish oneself.

Anger turned inwards against the self and self-hatred clearly suggests an utter absence of self-compassion which is why compassion-focused therapy may be helpful for some who find themselves trapped in this self-lacerating, masochistic frame of mind, whilst Horney recommended psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

RESOURCES :

Develop Self Compassion | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Appropriate Expression Of Emotions Improves Health.

We have seen from several other articles that I have previously published on this site that the experience of severe and protracted childhood trauma leaves us, as adults, at increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, other psychiatric disorders as adults, as well as to experiencing distressing and persistent negative emotions in general (e.g. shame, guilt, anger etc.).

Because the experience of negative emotions can be so painful, many try to suppress them and ‘hold them in the body‘ rather than, say, address both the emotions and the root causes of the emotions with the help of a therapist. However, the act of constantly expending energy on suppressing powerful feelings can create internal chemical and biological changes that take their toll upon the body in numerous ways and I describe the main ones below :

RESPIRATORY EFFECTS : e.g. nervous and / or irritable cough, a sense of breathlessness, yawning, sighing, hyperventilation, 

NEUROLOGICAL EFFECTS: e.g. headaches, dizziness, derealization, depersonalization, disturbances of vision, increased sensitivity to light, sound and touch, ‘pins and needles’

MUSCULOSKELETAL EFFECTS : e.g. clenched jaw, sense of tension in muscles, twitching muscles, cramps, extreme fatigue in response to exercise, joint pain

DERMATOLOGICAL EFFECTS: e.g. exacerbation of psoriasis, flushing, rashes, eczema

CARDIOVASCULAR EFFECTS : e.g. skipped heart beats, chest pain, palpitations, tachycardia.

GASTROINTESTINAL EFFECTS: e.g. bloating, constipation, nausea, dry throat, impaired ability to swallow, stomach ache, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

SPECIFIC NEGATIVE EMOTIONS AND THEIR POSSIBLE ADVERSE PHYSICAL AFFECTS :

Specific negative emotions (hurt, guilt, depression, anxiety, anger) can have different adverse affects upon the body and I provide examples below :

HURT : Sighing, down-turned mouth, crying, heavy feeling in stomach.

GUILT : Possible self-harm, eyes cast downward.

DEPRESSION : Psychomotor retardation, hunched shoulders.

ANXIETY : Psychomotor agitation, disturbed sleep resulting in impaired immune system and increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections.

ANGER : Dilated pupils, skin flushes.

SUPPRESSING EMOTIONS AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM :

Suppressing emotions and ‘holding them in the body‘ has been shown by research to impair the body’s ability to produce particular cells that protect us from illness and disease, or, in other words, weaken our immune system.

For example, one study that was carried out showed that simply expressing one’s emotions can be beneficial to one’s health. The participants in the study spent twenty minutes per day, for four days, writing about a powerful emotional experience they had had and carrying out this straight-forward task was shown to strengthen their immune systems.

IMPLICATIONS :

We can infer from the above that expressing our emotions appropriately and giving them a safe outlet (ideally under the guidance of a suitably qualified and experienced therapist) can improve not only our mental health, but our physical health, too.

RESOURCE :
How to express your emotions | Self Hypnosis Downloads.

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

Reducing The Pain Associated With Being Stuck In ‘Fight / Flight’ Mode.

We have seen how the experience of severe and protracted childhood trauma can damage the development of the brain’s amygdala, leaving us, as adults, prone to chronic anxiety and a sense of being ‘stuck on red alert’ / trapped in a state of perpetual ‘fight or flight.’ Indeed, being locked into this state of hypervigilance is a hallmark of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) which some victims of childhood trauma go on to develop.

Such a state, as I know from my own experience, can be intensely painful and affect one on four levels :

  • a cognitive level
  • a behavioral level
  • an emotional level
  • a physical level

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

According to Pullins, 2016, these four levels may be associated with the following types of pain :

THE COGNITIVE LEVEL :

  • proneness to interpreting people and situations negatively even when objectively unwarranted
  • proneness to view others as hostile even when not objectively warranted
  • a preoccupation with pain
  • dysfunctional alterations of personality
  • distortion of perception of personal control (this can involve both underestimation and overestimation)

THE BEHAVIORAL LEVEL :

  • irritability and hostility
  • social withdrawal
  • avoidance

THE EMOTIONAL LEVEL :

  • fear, anxiety, panic, chronic worry
  • depression
  • proneness to explosive rage

THE PHYSICAL LEVEL :

  • shaking
  • sweating
  • loss of libido
  • muscle tension
  • insomnia
  • vision disorders

REDUCING PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH THE ABOVE FOUR LEVELS :

According to Pullins, in order to reduce the above types of pain generated by being ‘stuck’ in the ‘fight / flight survival mode’, and the distress that it causes, it is necessary for us to : REDUCE THE OVER-ACTIVITY OF OUR SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM.

In order to achieve this, it is necessary to INCREASE THE ACTIVITY OF THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (so that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system return to an optimal level of balance) which is CONDUCIVE TO FEELINGS OF REST AND RELAXATION.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE A COMFORTABLE BALANCE BETWEEN THE ACTIVITY OF THE SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AND THE ACTIVITY OF THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM? 

Pullins suggests we can help ourselves achieve this balance, and, thus, free ourselves from being permanently locked into the pain-inducing fight / flight state, through the following activities :

  • mindfulness meditation
  • relaxation techniques
  • diaphragmatic breathing
  • engaging with others socially
  • undertaking meaningful activities persistently and with pacing
  • undertaking pleasurable activities / hobbies
  • writing about our thoughts and feelings in a journal
  • distracting our attention from an unremittingly negative focus
  • reframing pain
  • positive self-talk
  • verbal communication

RESOURCES :

Learn Deep Breathing Relaxation Techniques Rapidly | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Self Talk Coach | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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