Category Archives: Whole Site (all 850+ Articles)

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.

Beliefs Instilled In Early Life Change Our Biology And Gene Expression

Bruce Lipton PhD, author of the book ‘The Biology of Belief’ proposes that our perception of our environment affects how our genes express themselves and this proposal is backed up by experimental data.

For example, if we grow up in an environment which we perceive to be threatening and are chronically exposed to an atmosphere permeated by fear so that we are chronically and repeatedly frightened by our environment, our brain activity (in response to our feelings of fear) will, whenever we are in this state, instruct our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (a hormone that helps to prepare us for ‘fight or flight‘).to circulate in the bloodstream.

This hormone, circulating around the body, Lipton explains, will then pass information to our biological cells via the cells’ membranes.

This, in turn, may then lead to alterations in how the DNA within the cells expresses itself.

It is important to stress that it is the individual’s PERCEPTION of his/her environment as frightening that is the crucial point here. In other words, if the same person grew up in exactly the same environment but (purely hypothetically) did not perceive it to be frightening, the effect upon his/her adrenal glands and, subsequently, upon his/her biological cells and DNA expression, would not be the same.

To reiterate then, it is the child’s perception of reality that is vital as s/he is growing up; his/her biological responses are directed by this perception and this is what Lipton refers to as the ‘biology of belief.’

In fact, even an embryo appears to be capable of perceiving its environment as dangerous. For example, research has been conducted showing that mothers subjected to chronic stress during pregnancy give birth to children who have a 50% increased risk of cranial malformation.

How does this happen?

Essentially, the pregnant mother suffering from stress produces stress-related hormones which, in turn, communicate a ‘sense of danger’ to the developing embryo. This results in the embryo’s hindbrain developing more than the forebrain.

We can infer from this that the mother’s perception of her environment (i.e. as stressful), via the activity the hormones that she produces in response to that stress, affects the cellular development of her embryo.

Lipton further argues that it is our belief system (which is often unconscious and developed mainly during our childhoods) that primarily affects how we perceive people, situations etc. in later life.

In other words, our belief system deriving from childhood experience affects our perceptions which, in turn, affects which parts of our genomes are expressed;.

To put it more simply still, it would seem that our beliefs affect our biology.

The good news is that, from the above, we can infer that we are not slaves dictated to by our genes, but that, by changing our beliefs, we can alter our own biology and change the behaviour of our cells, thus altering not only our physical health but our mental health (e.g. addictive tendencies) too.

RESOURCE:

SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS – HEALTH ISSUES (75 HEALTH ISSUES ADDRESSED THROUGH SELF HYPNOSIS).

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

 

 

Why BPD Sufferers Often See Others As Malevolent

This article is based upon ‘Object Relations Theory’ which places crucial importance upon interpersonal relationships, most of all interfamilial relationships, especially between the mother and the child. The theory, in particular, concerns itself with how we develop. in our early lives, inner, mental images of ourselves and others and how these images affect our interpersonal relationships throughout later life. The theory also incorporates the idea that humans are primarily motivated by a powerful desire to form positive relationships with others (breaking away from Freud’s belief that humans are primarily motivated by the instinctual drives of sex and aggression).

Research suggests (e..g. Malevolent object representations in borderline personality disorder and major depression. Nigg et al., 1992) that those suffering from BPD are prone to develop ‘malevolent representations’ of others. This article summarizes why this might be in terms of psychoanalytic theory.

First, it is necessary to introduce two terms: ‘Object Cathexis’ and ‘Object Hunger.’

According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, ‘object cathexis’ is a classical psychoanalytic term that refers to the process of the investment of libido or psychic energy in objects outside the self, such as a person, goal, idea, or activity.’

Object hunger, on the other hand, refers to an intense need of, and dependency upon, others (e.g. family, friends, intimate partners) or, especially in the case of BPD sufferers who experience profound feelings of emptiness, substitutes such as narcotics, tobacco, alcohol, promiscuous sex, overeating, overspending on material goods etc.

In simple terms, if we were brought up in early life by primary cares who made us feel safe and secure we are likely to have developed healthy object cathexis and a general trust in the world and others. However, if our primary carers failed to make us feel sufficiently safe and secure, we are much more likely to have developed a diametrically opposed general view (i.e. that the world and others are unsafe, threatening and not to be trusted). This, in turn, creates in us ‘object hunger.’

Introjection is a psychoanalytic term that means:

the unconscious incorporation of attitudes or ideas pf others into one’s personality’. [particularly in relation to the child and his/her parents/primary carers].

Loving and nurturing parents lead us to introject their positive attitudes about others, ourselves and the world in general whereas parents who are abusive or neglectful lead us to introject their negative attitudes about others, ourselves and the world in general which, in turn, creates a proneness in us to see ourselves as unlovable, the world as unsafe and threatening and others as essentially malevolent.

Furthermore, if we are unable to introject positive attitudes from our parents due to their abuse and/or neglect we will be unable to construct a positive, internal, mental representation of them to comfort us in times of stress when they are not physically present. And, because of this, we are likely to have an impaired ability to calm ourselves down and self-soothe when emotionally upset.

Our inability to effectively self-soothe, due to our failure (because of our parents’/primary carers’ abuse and/or neglect) to create for ourselves in early life a ‘soothing introject’ can mean that when feeling fearful and under threat we create instead in our minds a ‘malevolent other’ in order to help us to make sense of the situation and to rationalize it. For example, if a friend unconsciously triggers in us the feelings of rejection we felt in childhood we may demonize and devalue them because we are unable to draw on the emotional resources a ‘soothing introject’ would otherwise have provided. In this sense, the mental creation of the ‘malevolent other’ operates as a defence mechanism based upon the process of transference (‘transference refers to an individual’s displacement or projection of feelings originally directed at parents/primary carers in the individual’s childhood onto others.

Of course, if, due to our childhoods, we have developed this in-built tendency to view others as malevolent, we are likely to encounter serious problems in relation to our interpersonal relationships. To learn more about how these problems may arise, you may wish to take a look at my previously published article about how our adult relationships can be ruined by our childhood experiences.

BEAT FEAR AND ANXIETY SELF-HYPNOSIS PACK

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

 

Three Important Theories On Why Some Develop BPD And Others Do Not.

Although most people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) report having experienced childhood trauma, this is not invariably the case (although, of course, just because a person does not report having suffered childhood trauma does not mean s/he didn’t experience it. For example, s/he could be in denial, may have suppressed or repressed memory of the trauma or may have been too young to have stored the trauma in conscious memory).

However, it is also the case that not all of those who suffer childhood trauma go on to develop BPD. This means that there must exist individual differences which make some vulnerable to developing BPD whilst making others resilient.

In order to help cast light upon this, various diathesis-stress models have been proposed and below I summarize three of the most important ones. But, first, let’s define what is meant by a diathesis-stress model:

According to the APA Dictionary Of Psychology, a diathesis-stress model is: ‘a theory that mental and physical disorders develop from a genetic or biological predisposition for that illness (diathesis) combined with stressful conditions that play a precipitating or facilitating role. Also called a diathesis-stress hypothesis, or paradigm or theory’.

 

THREE IMPORTANT THEORIES ABOUT WHY CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS DEVELOP BPD (ALL BASED UPON THE DIATHESIS STRESS MODEL):

  1. The Schema-Focused Therapy Model (Young et al., 2003):

According to this theory, dysfunctional family characteristics such as rejection and deprivation prevent the child from having his/her core emotional needs met which, in turn, leads to frustration.

These frustrations then lead to the child developing ‘maladaptive schema.’ Young defined ‘maladaptive schema’ as:

‘a broad pervasive theme or pattern regarding oneself and one’s relationship with others, developed during childhood and elaborated throughout one’s lifetime, and dysfunctional to a significant degree.’

Information is then processed via the lens of these dysfunctional schemas and it is this distorted informational processing which lies at the heart the BPD sufferer’s maladaptive cognitions, behaviours and emotional reactions, according to Young’s theory.

Core emotional needs include :

An example of a dysfunctional schema that might result from childhood trauma (e.g. rejection and betrayal) is: ‘nobody can ever be trusted.’

Children who are most at risk of being significantly psychologically damaged by the behaviours of the dysfunctional family are those children who are emotionally temperamental due to pre-existing biological/genetic influences, according to this theory.

2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy Model (Linehan, 1993a):

According to Linehan’s theory, children are at risk of going on to develop BPD if they are temperamental, highly sensitive, emotionally vulnerable and predisposed to emotional dysregulation (diathesis) AND ALSO grow up in an environment which is invalidating and dismissive/undermining of the child’s personal experience (stress).

3. Transference Focused Therapy Model (Kernberg, 1984):

According to Kernberg, children who are highly prone to negative emotions, especially aggression (diathesis) and experience certain environmental factors such as emotional frustration (stress) may, as a consequence, develop the dysfunctional defence mechanism known as ‘splitting’ (click here to read my article on ‘splitting’) and it is this that underlies the development of BPD. According to the APA Dictionary Of Psychology, ‘splitting’ is defined as:

‘…a primitive defence mechanism used to protect oneself from conflict, in which objects [i.e. person’s] provoking anxiety and ambivalence are dichotomized into extreme representations (part-objects) with either positive or negative qualities, resulting in polarized viewpoints that fluctuate in extremes of seeing the self or others as either all good or all bad.’

THERAPIES RELATED TO THE ABOVE MODELS:

You may wish to read my previously published articles about the therapies relating to each of the above models which I list below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon. Click here for further information.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Reducing Risk Of Intergenerational Transmission Of BPD

A study conducted by Stepp et al. (2012) adds further evidence in support of the theory that children of mothers with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are at increased risk of developing their own psychosocial problems (i.e. impaired mental health and difficulties relating to social interaction).

The authors of the study acknowledge that, to some extent, genetics may play a part in this. Although there is not a gene for BPD, children of BPD mothers may be at increased risk of inheriting problematic characteristics such as d difficult temperament, a predisposition towards behaving impulsively and emotional dysregulation((the experiencing of intense emotions which the individual finds extremely difficult to keep under control), Such inherited characteristics may make the child at higher than average risk of developing BPD.

However, the researchers also stress the importance of environmental factors on the child’s psychosocial development, particularly parenting skills or lack thereof. They point to other research showing that BPD mothers are prone to oscillating between the extreme idealization of others and intense devaluation of them (which, as I have said in other posts on this site, is an accurate description of how my mother interacted with me, culminating in her finally throwing me out of the house when I was thirteen years old, then, not being one who could ever be accused of doing things by halves, telling anyone who would listen that I’d ‘chosen’ to go and live with my father as I was a snob and he lived in a bigger house than she did). The authors go on to say that if mothers behave in this way towards their children (i.e. fluctuating between the extreme idealization of them and the intense devaluation of them) this is likely to have a significantly injurious effect upon their (i.e. the children’s) psychosocial development.

Furthermore, it is pointed out by those who ran the study that previous research has also shown that those suffering from BPD often swing between behaving in a very hostile and controlling way towards others and behaving with passivity/coldness towards them.  Again, it is observed that, if mothers behave with similar inconsistency towards their children, this too is likely to grossly impair their psychosocial development.

BPD mother’s, too, may be prone to behaviours that frighten the child.

Such mothers may also have a marked tendency to invalidate the  child’s emotions (for example, in my own case, when I was very young my mother would behave in a verbally sadistic way towards me, then mock me if I became visibly upset as if I was ‘over-reacting’ or being ‘too sensitive.’

Sadly, the above list examples of dysfunctional behaviour exhibited towards children by PDD mothers is far from exhaustive.

Effects On Child :

Evidence exists to suggest that children of BPD mothers are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, interpersonal difficulties, problems with authority. problems relating to identity, and various other psychological difficulties. (For more on this, see my previously published articles: ‘The Effects Of BPD Mothers On Their Children’ and Four Types Of Borderline Mother: Witch, Hermit, Waif And Queen.)

Possible Interventions Which May Help To Reduce The Likelihood Of Intergenerational Transmission Of BPD And BPD-Type Symptoms:

 

  • Attachment-based interventions
  • Psychoeducational interventions
  • Skills to promote consistency in scheduling and monitoring
  • Skills to promote consistency in warmth and nurturing
  • Mindfulness-based parenting skills to facilitate behavioural and emotional consistency

For much more on this, see the original study by clicking here.

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

 

 

 

 

Therapy: The Importance Of Rapport Between The Therapist And Client

Many of us who have suffered significant trauma during our childhoods turn to psychotherapy as adults in an attempt to resolve our trauma-related psychological problems. Whilst there are many different kinds of therapy available for this purpose, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), whichever type of psychotherapy we opt for it is crucial that, if the therapy we choose is to be effective, we have a good relationship with our therapist – a relationship that includes rapport, trust, mutual respect and that evokes a feeling of being safe in the client.

Indeed, one study, undertaken by Stamoulos et al., 2016, identified the relationship between the client and the therapist to be the most important factor contributing to a successful outcome of therapy.

Rapport, Trust And Mutual Respect:

One quality in the therapist that helps to ensure a successful psychotherapeutic outcome is his/her ability to draw on his/her own past life experiences and mental health struggles in order to facilitate his/her ability to relate to, and understand, his/her client; this, in turn, can increase insight into his/her (i.e. the client’s) problems, and help in the development of a healthy rapport and alliance solidly and firmly rooted in trust and mutual respect.

Of course, it is nor necessary for the therapist to have experienced the same life experiences and psychological problems as the client, but understanding mental health problems from both the perspective of the therapist and the client enhances his/her credibility as well as his/her ability to relate to the challenging psychic journey upon which the client has bravely embarked.

To build rapport, some therapists may choose to share their own life experiences (though see below for when this may and may not be appropriate) and mental health difficulties in order to help develop the aforementioned trust with their client and to encourage the client to open up more in relation to what s/he verbally discloses about him/herself.

Furthermore, if the client is made aware that the therapist has had his/her own significant psychological difficulties in life and has gone on to overcome them, this may well inspire the client to continue with the challenge of achieving his/her own recovery and help him/her to feel less alone and isolated within the experience of his/her mental suffering.

Sharing Past Experiences With The Patient. When Is It Appropriate And When Is It Not Appropriate?

It is important that the therapist who chooses to use self-disclosure as a way of helping his/her client to get better has undergone appropriate training in the strategy. This is because it is a difficult skill to master and should be used extremely judiciously as there are times in the therapeutic process when it may be advantageous to self-disclose but also times when it may be disadvantageous. Knowing what to share with the client, when to share it, and the level of detail about past experiences to disclose (or not to disclose) to the client is also vital.

When To Share And When Not To Share:

As already mentioned, if the therapist shares his/her own past difficulties with the client it can encourage him/her (i.e. the client) to recognise that others have suffered mental health issues, too, including those whom one might not suspect have suffered such problems. In this way, if the client can be encouraged to grasp the fact that psychological difficulties are a fairly universal experience (despite whatever distorted images of success in life people may try to project of themselves, and hide behind, in public), it can help him/her to feel less of a pariah and social-outcast.

Generally speaking, though, the therapist should avoid sharing psychological difficulties and problematic life experiences that have occurred in the recent past because s/he is likely still to be too emotionally connected to them and therefore unable to analyse them objectively and rationally. Furthermore, talking about one’s own problems can obviously be therapeutic (a good thing if the client is doing the disclosing) so the therapist must be sure to steer clear of the error of disclosing information which is primarily motivated by self-interest.

It is also generally acknowledged that self-disclosure is less likely to be appropriate at the start of the therapeutic relationship and that it is important that the therapist discerningly restricts what s/he discloses to the client.

When we consider all of the above, it is clear that for many people considering a career as a psychotherapist, one’s own past mental health battles may well prove a substantial advantage, not a hindrance.

RESOURCE: To learn more about training as a therapist, click here.

 

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

 

How Childhood Trauma Can Alter Brain’s Reward Circuits

There is increasing evidence to suggest that chronic, severe stress during childhood can lead to changes in the brain’s reward circuitry that leads individuals to prefer short term gains and immediate gratification over postponed, long-term gains and pleasures.

So, for example, rather than save up money to start a business or for an exotic holiday or undertake a diet and fitness regime to improve one’s health and fitness, an individual who has undergone chronic, early-life stress may prefer the kind of instant highs obtainable from alcohol, smoking, junk food, gambling, casual sexual encounters and narcotics.

It is hypothesized that this dysregulation of the appetites may be linked to damage (caused by chronic childhood stress) to the prefrontal cortex which, in turn, reduces its ability effectively to send signals/chemical messages that would otherwise be able to inhibit the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is a region of the brain that drives our sense of desire, or, to put it more simply, makes us want what we want. And, if the prefrontal cortex is unable to keep it under control due to the factors explained above, it can run amok and, potentially, turn us into chain-smoking, alcoholic, drug-addicted, morbidly obese, gamblers and sex-addicts. Clearly, quite apart from other relevant considerations, this would not be good for our physical health (indeed, statistics show that, all else being equal, those who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma, on average, die significantly earlier than those who have had more fortunate early life experiences).

In other words, if we have suffered significant early life stress we are at increased risk of impulsivity and of seeking and obtaining immediate rewards whilst ignoring the harm and potential losses such behaviour may cause us in the long term

EXPLAINING THE PRIORITIZING OF IMMEDIATE REWARDS OVER GREATER, LONG TERM REWARDS IN EVOLUTIONARY TERMS:

Such impulsive behaviour and prioritizing of short term gains due to the effects of excessive stress and of living in the constant anticipation of danger can be explained in evolutionary terms: If our ancestors were chronically stressed and perpetually feeling under threat because their survival was in danger due to scarce resources and/or because they could at any time be attacked and killed by a predator, it would have been evolutionarily adaptive to consume as many calories as possible when the opportunity presented itself (as there was no way of knowing how long it would be until the next meal became available) and to mate as early and frequently as possible (to maximize the chances of their genes being passed on), as well as to exploit opportunities to achieve other short term ‘wins.’

Indeed, in support of this idea, there exists research (Sweiitzer et al., 2008; Gianaros et al., 2011) to suggest that those from the lowest socioeconomic echelons of society have a greater propensity than those from wealthier backgrounds to opt for immediate rewards and instant gratification at the expense of forfeiting larger, future rewards.

RELATED POSTS:

Can’t Control Impulses? Impulse Control Activities For Adults.

    Impulse Control: Study Showing Its Vital Importance.

 

RESOURCE:

 

CONTROL IMPULSIVE BEHAVIOUR: SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

 

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

Can Childhood Trauma Be Genetically Passed On To Future Generations?

A study conducted by Santavirta et al., (Uppsala University) and published in the journal of JAMA Psychiatry.sought to answer the question as to whether the adverse effects of childhood trauma could alter a person’s genes and, if so, whether these genetic changes could be passed on to the next generation in a damaging way.

The study involved examing the medical records of 3000 children of Finnish people who, as children, were evacuated during World War 2 to Sweden. Many were under the age of 5 years and were required to learn Swedish; all were placed with Swedish foster families. The medical records of these 3000 children of former evacuees were compared with the medical records of children of parents who were NOT evacuated as children.

FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY:

Children of parents who were evacuated during WW2 were found to have quadruple the risk of developing serious mental health conditions compared to children of the non-evacuated.

Children of mothers who were, as children, evacuated during WW2 were found to be at an elevated risk of being hospitalized for a mental health condition. However, no such elevated risk was found to be associated with children of fathers.

INTERPRETATION OF THESE FINDINGS:
The researchers who conducted the study suggested that it was probable that these findings were due to the childhood trauma experienced by those who had been evacuated as young individuals altering their gene expression (technically known as epigenetic alterations) which were subsequently inherited by their offspring, making them more susceptible to developing problems with their mental health.
However, the researchers also conceded that children of parents who were evacuated during WW2 may also have been at greater risk of developing poor mental health because the childhood trauma experienced by their parents impaired there ability to parent effectively.
Furthermore, more research will be needed in the future to help cast light upon the finding that children of formerly evacuated mothers were at greater risk of being hospitalized with a mental health condition whilst this was not found to be the case in relation to children of formerly evacuated fathers.
EVIDENCE FROM ANIMAL STUDY:
In an animal study (Franklin et al., 2010) investigating if high levels of stress in early life experienced by animals can adversely affect future generations, mice were subjected to chronic and unpredictable stress (by being separated from their mothers) for the first fortnight of their lives). As adults, these ‘traumatized’ mice, as would be expected, were found to have developed depressive symptoms.
However, it was also found that the offspring of the male, ‘traumatized’ mice also developed depressive symptoms, despite the fact that they were raised in a normal manner. The conclusion drawn by the researchers was that the third generation mice must, therefore, have inherited their depressive symptoms via the process of epigenetic transmission.
CONCLUSION:
Such research suggests that the effects of trauma can be passed on to future generations via epigenetic transmission both in animals and humans; however, research in this sphere of study is in the early stages, and more will be needed in the future.
A DEFINITION OF EPIGENETICS: the study of how alterations in how genes express themselves (e.g., as a result of early life trauma) can be inherited by the next generation. However, it should be noted that the underlying DNA structure of these affected genes is not changed (i.e., there is a change in phenotype, not genotype).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).