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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: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (with Questionnaire).


complex post traumatic stress disorder questionnaire

Survivors of extreme trauma often suffer persistent anxiety, phobias, panic, depression, identity and relationship problems. Many times, the set of symptoms the individual presents with are not connected to the original trauma by those providing treatment (as certainly was the case for me in the early years of my treatment, necessitating me to undertake my own extensive research, of which this blog is partly a result) and, of course, treatment will not be forthcoming if the survivor suffers in silence.

Any treatment not linked to the original trauma will tend to be ineffective as THE UNDERLYING TRAUMA IS NOT BEING ADDRESSED. Also, there is a danger that a wrong diagnosis may be given; possibly the diagnosis will be one that may be interpreted, by the individual given it, as perjorative (such as a personality disorder).


Individuals who have survived protracted and severe childhood trauma often present with a very complex set of symptoms and have developed, as a result of their unpleasant experiences, deep rooted problems affecting their personality and how they relate to others. The psychologist, Kolb, has noted that the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms survivors of severe maltreatment in childhood might develop ‘may appear to mimic every personality disorder’ and that ‘severe personality disorganization’ can emerge.

Another psychologist, Lenore Terr, has differentiated between two specific types of trauma: TYPE 1 and TYPE2. TYPE 1 refers to symptoms resulting from a single trauma; TYPE 2 refers to symptoms resulting from protracted and recurring trauma, the hallmarks of which are:

– emotional numbing
– dissociation
– cycling between passivity and explosions of rage

This second type of trauma response has been referred to as COMPLEX POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (COMPLEX PTSD) and more research needs to be conducted on it; however, an initial questionnaire to help in its diagnosis has been developed and I reproduce it below:


1) A history of, for example, severe childhood trauma

2) Alterations in affect regulation, including
– persistent dysphoria
– chronic suicidal preoccupation
– self-injury
– explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate)
– compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate)

3) Alterations in consciousness, including
– amnesia or hypernesia for traumatic events
– transient dissociative episodes
– depersonalization/derealization
– reliving experiences, either in the form of intrusive post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or in the form of ruminative preoccupation

4) Alterations in self-perception, including
– a sense of helplessness or paralysis of initiative
– shame, guilt and self-blame
– sense of defilement or stigma
– sense of complete difference from others (may include sense of specialness, utter aloneness, belief no other person can understand, or nonhuman identity)

5) Alterations in perceptions of perpetrator, including

– preoccupation with relationship with perpetrator (includes preoccupation with revenge)
– unrealistic attribution of total power to perpetrator (although the perpetrator may have more power than the clinician treating the individual is aware of)
– idealization or paradoxical gratitude
– sense of special or supernatural relationship
– acceptance of belief system or rationalizations of perpetrator

6) Alterations in relations with others, including

– isolation and withdrawal
– disruption in intimate relationships
– repeated search for rescuer (may alternate with isolation and withdrawal)
– persistent distrust
– repeated failures of self-protection

7) Alterations in systems of meaning
– loss of sustaining faith
– sense of hopelessness and despair

Why Is Complex PTSD Becoming More Common?

And the incidence of complex PTSD is increasing. What are the possible reasons for this increase in the prevalence of this very serious psychiatric disorder?

First, it is possible that as the general population and clinicians become more aware of the existence of the disorder and its link to childhood trauma it is becoming increasingly reported and diagnosed. However, there are several other possible explanations and I examine these briefly below :


1) Growing up in unstable environments :

More and more young people are growing up in unstable environments. Increasing rates of divorce and separation means that a higher and higher number of children and adolescents are growing up in single parent households (to read my article about the possible effects of divorce upon the child, click here).

2) Reduction in social support systems :

Research shows that a lack of social support makes individuals much more vulnerable to the adverse effects of stress. And, today, children tend to have less access to others who could provide them with emotional support than has been the case in the past due to, for example :

  • communities that are not as close-knit as in the past
  • less contact with wider family (e.g. aunts, uncles, grandparents) than in the past as wider family members are becoming more geographically dispersed than in past

3) Increase in number of working mothers :

This can lead to infants having inconsistent early care as they me be shuttled around from day-care to nursery care to babysitters and so on possibly leading to a variation in quality of care and less opportunity for the infant to develop his/her bond with the mother

4) Parental preoccupation with their careers :

In a ‘go-getting’ society, in which status and wealth are of fundamental importance to many people, individuals are becoming very driven, even obsessively driven, in connection with their careers, sometimes leading to workaholism; this leaves such persons with less time to interact in any really meaningful way with their offspring or leads to such exhaustion that they simply do not have enough energy left over for such meaningful interactions.

5) Unhelpful effects of media :

Young people are becoming increasingly obsessed with media, such as computer games and so on, which leaves them with less time for psychologically nourishing face-to-face interaction with friends and family.

6) Unhelpful effects of living in  consumer society :

Society has become increasingly obsessed with acquiring consumer goods and the accumulation of these is often linked in people’s minds to their ‘status’ and ‘worth as a human being.‘ Such attitudes may lead young people to develop false values which in turn may aggravate psychological problems.

Anyone who feels their condition may be reflected by the above is urged to seek professional intervention at the earliest opportunity.

Related post :  Complex  PTSD Treatment


Childhood Trauma: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (with Questionnaire). 1

Above eBook, Childhood Trauma And Its Link To CPTSD, now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here.


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

Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.


Do You Ever Ask Yourself The Question : Am I A Bad Person?

When a child is continually mistreated, s/he will inevitably conclude that s/he must be innately bad. This is because s/he has a need (at an unconscious level) to preserve the illusion that her/his parents are good; this can only be achieved by taking the view that the mistreatment is deserved.

The child develops a fixed pattern of self-blame, and a belief that their mistreatment is due to their ‘own faults’. As the parent/s continue to mistreat the child, perhaps taking out their own stresses and frustrations on her/him, the child’s negative self-view becomes continually reinforced. Indeed, the child may become the FAMILY SCAPEGOAT, blamed for all the family’s problems.


The child will often become full of anger, rage and aggression towards the parent/s and may not have developed sufficient articulacy to resolve the conflict verbally. A vicious circle then develops: each time the child rages against the parent/s, the child blames her/himself for the rage and the self-view of being ‘innately bad’ is further deepened.

This negative self-view may be made worse if one of the child’s unconscious coping mechanisms is to take out (technically known as DISPLACEMENT) her/his anger with the parent/s on others who may be less feared but do not deserve it (particularly disturbed children will sometimes take out their rage against their parent/s by tormenting animals; if the parent finds out that the child is doing this, it will be taken as further ‘evidence’ of the child’s ‘badness’, rather than as a major symptom of extreme psychological distress, as, in fact,it should be).

The more the child is badly treated, the more s/he will believe s/he is bringing the treatment on her/himself (at least at an unconscious level), confirming the child’s FALSE self-view of being innately ‘bad’, even ‘evil’ (especially if the parent/s are religious).

What is happening is that the child is identifying with the abusive parent/s, believing, wrongly, that the ‘badness’ in the parent/s actually resides within themselves. This has the effect of actually preserving the relationship and attachment with the parent (the internal thought process might be something like: ‘it is not my parent who is bad, it is me. I am being treated in this way because I deserve it.’ This thought process may well be, as I have said, unconscious).

Eventually the child will come to completely INTERNALIZE the belief that s/he is ‘bad’ and the false belief will come to fundamentally underpin the child’s self-view, creating a sense of worthlessness and self-loathing.

Often, even when mental health experts intervene and explain to the child it is not her/his fault that they have been ill-treated and that they are, in fact, in no way to blame, the child’s negative self-view can be so profoundly entrenched that it is extremely difficult to erase.

In such cases, a lot of therapeutic work is required in order to reprogram the child’s self-view so that it more accurately reflects reality. Without proper treatment, a deep sense of guilt and shame (which is, in reality, completely unwarranted) may persist over a lifetime with catastrophic results.

Any individual affected in such a way would be extremely well advised to seek psychotherapy and other professional advice as even very deep rooted negative self-views as a result of childhood trauma can be very effectively treated.







E-books :


Above eBooks now available on Amazon for instant download. (Other titles available).CLICK HERE.

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

Childhood Trauma : Kurt Cobain’s Childhood

Kurt Cobain's childhood

I was a big fan of Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) and his band, Nirvana. I therefore remember where I was when I first heard news of his death – it came on the TV in the gym I was in at the time (in an uninspiring town called Watford just north of London, UK, as you ask). I had three things in common with him.

I was born in the same year as he was (1967) and, also like him, had developed a considerable degree of both emotional and behavioural instability (despite doing, somehow, an MSc at the time). Thirdly, we had both experienced significant childhood trauma. (Actually, his parents divorced when he was seven years old, whilst mine had divorced when I was eight years old, so that’s very nearly four things in common. I was not, however, to the best of my recollection, an international grunge rock superstar.)

Like many sensitive children, it was obvious from an early age that Kurt Cobain was very creative. Also, like an increasingly large number of young people these days ( and it is certainly argued in some quarters that this ‘condition’ is over-diagnosed) he was labelled ‘HYPERACTIVE’ – now usually described as having ADHD (‘ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER’) and prescribed the drug called RETALIN (paradoxically, retalin is a derivative of amphetamine which, itself, more usually has a stimulant effect).

Due to his extreme sensitivity, Kurt Cobain experienced great distress and emotional trauma as a result of his parents’ divorce. When this shattering event occurred, he was just seven years old. It is recorded that he reported feeling unloved and deeply insecure after the divorce took place.

On top of all this, his life was made chaotic and disorganized by frequent moves to different geographical locations during which period he stayed with various different sets of relatives; this pattern of constant transience meant relationships he tried to form became disrupted and truncated.

Like many young people suffering from emotional distress, Kurt Cobain learned to mentally ‘escape’ – in his case by losing himself in his music and developing his enormous musical talent.

The psychological symptoms of his tortured emotional state started to manifest themselves in the form of INSOMNIA and a chronic stomach complaint which may well have been PSYCHOSOMATIC in origin ( the word ‘psychosomatic’ refers to the mechanism whereby mental stress causes physical problems – in other words, the mind’s effect upon the body).

In order to try to cope with his feelings of intense pain (both mental and physical) he started to ‘self-medicate’ with narcotics. (Psychologists would describe this as ADOPTING A MALADAPTIVE COPING MECHANISM IN ORDER TO DISSOCIATE FROM INTOLERABLE PAIN; see my post entitled: CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD) AND DISSOCIATION in order to learn more about the phenomenon of dissociation acting as a psychological defense mechanism.)

When his band, Nirvana, became an international sensation, the effects of fame (as many famous people discover too late) caused him further severe stress. He was not comfortable around the media and found the attention, in general, overwhelming and intrusive. He became deeply, clinically depressed, complained that he derived no pleasure whatsoever from performing in front of thousands of adoring fans, and, eventually, attempted suicide in March 1994. He entered a coma and was hospitalized.

Very soon after this, he entered a drug rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles in an attempt to address his drug addiction. Within two days, however, he fled the hospital, and, overwhelmed by feelings of despair and utter hopelessness, committed suicide in his home by first injecting himself with a massive overdose of heroin and then shooting himself in the head using a shotgun.

It is a very sad fact that many talented and creative people seem to be more prone than average to extreme mental turmoil. Kurt Cobain was one such person, and, this, tragically, led to a vastly talented, perceptive and sensitive human being’s life coming to a far too premature end.

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

Childhood Trauma: Aiding Recovery through Diet and Lifestyle.

high-and -low- functioning-BPD

Neurotransmitters :

Several of my posts have discussed research that shows childhood trauma can profoundly influence the biochemistry of the brain and that these biochemical changes can, and do, lead to problems with the individual’s psychological state and behavior.

Fortunately, however, research has also demonstrated that these adverse biochemical changes and their negative effects may be, at least in part, reversed by the individual adopting an appropriate diet and lifestyle.

The brain is able to naturally produce its own mood-benefitting neurochemicals (technically known as ENDOGENOUS neurochemicals).

Exercise :

One way to do this (which many of us are already familiar with) is through EXERCISE – research suggests that regular and mild exercise causes the brain to produce ENDORPHINS which work in a similar manner to prescribed anti-depressants (eg Prozac, Setraline etc).

Massage :

BODY MASSAGE, too, has been shown to be helpful; indeed, a study by Field (2001) revealed that it can REDUCE STRESS HORMONES in the body.

Mindfulness :

Furthermore, a study by Jevning et al (1978) demonstrated that MEDITATION can be of great benefit. Indeed, more and more therapies are integrating meditative techniques (eg the therapy known as MINDFULNESS) to help alleviate patients alleviate their anxiety. It has been shown that meditation works by reducing the levels of the stress hormone CORTISOL in the body (which is of particular importance as high levels of cortisol can physically harm the body).

Omega-3 :

The brain is a physical organ so it should come as no surprise to us that what we eat affects its NEUROCHEMICAL BALANCE. Research shows that FATTY ACIDS are VITAL TO EMOTIONAL WELLBEING. In particular, LOW LEVELS OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID have been shown to be linked to DEPRESSION, ANXIETY and ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID can be purchased as a supplement in most pharmacists. It has been used to treat ADHD in children; also, a study by Gesch et al (2002) showed that giving young offenders OMEGA-3 supplements reduced their offending rate by 37%.

Serotonin :

Another neurochemical which ENHANCES MOOD and helps to COMBAT ANXIETY and DEPRESSION is SEROTONIN. Many prescribed medications work by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain, but SEROTONIN LEVELS CAN ALSO BE RAISED THROUGH DIET; research suggests that a diet RICH IN PROTEIN can help to achieve this and that research remains ongoing.

NOTE: One GP, who became so ill with bipolar depression that she had to be sectioned in a psychiatric ward and featured in an award winning documentary on mental illness, recovered sufficiently to return to her profession as a doctor. She has remained symptom free for 15 years (most people with bipolar disorder frequently relapse) and ATTRIBUTED THIS TO TREATING HERSELF BY CHANGING HER DIET. THE MAIN FEATURE OF THE DIET WAS THAT SHE TOOK 3 GRAMMES of COD LIVER OIL (a source of fatty acids) per day. Because this evidence, if it can be deemed as such, comes from just one individual it is obviously very far removed from providing a proper scientific sample or study. Nevertheless, I felt it to be of sufficient interest to make reference to it here. For those who are interested, the documentary is entitled ‘The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive‘ and, in my view, makes compelling viewing.


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

Childhood Trauma, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociation.

childhood trauma

I have previously published articles on this site articles explaining the connection between childhood trauma and borderline personality disorder (BPD). An important symptom of BPD is DISSOCIATION, which this article will examine in greater detail.

Dissociation is generally considered to be a COPING MECHANISM in response to severe trauma (including, of course, childhood trauma) or stress. The phenomenon of dissociation can involve feeling disconnected from one’s emotions, one’s memories, one’s thoughts or even from reality itself.

Dissociation is, essentially, a way of ‘mentally escaping’ from the stressful situation, or memory of the stressful situation, by changing one’s state of consciousness (this often occurs automatically and without intention). sometimes people describe the experience of dissociation as a feeling of psychological ‘numbness.’ or ‘deadness.’

In situations of terror, one may dissociate, and, paradoxically, feel a detached state of calm. It may feel, too, that the traumatic event is not happening to oneself, but that one is ‘observing the traumatic event from outside of the body’, leading to passivity and emotional detachment.

Dissociative feelings of ‘being outside of oneself’ are described as DEPERSONALIZATION and dissociative feelings of being disconnected from reality are described as DEREALIZATION.

Some experts have described dissociation as working a bit like morphine – dampening down emotional and physical pain. However, the exact biological mechanisms are that underpin the dissociative experience are yet to be fully explained.


The four main types of dissociation are:


Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1) Dissociative Amnesia: here, large parts of, or all, the traumatic event/s cannot be remembered.

2) Dissociative Identity Disorder: this is also known as MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Here, the person adopts two or more distinct, utterly different personas. The different personas talk in different voices, use different vocabularies etc (they can also actually differ in handedness). The different personas do not have access to ‘each others” memories, studies have shown, so they have distinct ‘personal histories’. It is likely that each persona represents a different strategy for coping with stress.

3) Dissociative Fugue: in this state, individuals can disconnect from their previous personalities, and, then, often, travel far from home to take on, and live under, a completely new persona. They may appear normal to others who have never met them before, even though they are living under a completely new identity, having left a whole life and set of memories behind.

4) Depersonalization Disorder: in this state, individuals can feel detached from their bodies or experiences. A phrase I read in a novel recently may aptly illustrate the sensation: ‘it’s like living in a dream underwater.’

A large number of people who have suffered extreme childhood trauma report experiencing such automatic dissociative states. Furthermore, they may often seek to induce dissociative states, deliberately and artificially, as a way of escaping the constant psychological pain resulting from the initial trauma by, for example, USING ALCOHOL TO EXCESS, USING NARCOTICS, SELF-HARMING or GAMBLING. The kinds of psychological state from which the individual is seeking to escape through dissociation include INSOMNIA, NIGHTMARES, FEELINGS OF RAGE and INTENSE ANXIETY.


Dissociation may be helpful (adaptive) in the short-term but problems develop when the state persists long after it has served any beneficial purpose. The psychologist, Lifton, described prolonged states of ‘psychic numbing’ and ‘mental paralysis’ often resulting from a dissociative response to severe trauma. This can make even basic day-to-day functioning extremely problematic and requires professional intervention.

eBook :

childhood trauma

Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Borderline Personality Disorder.

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

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

Childhood Trauma: What Experiments on Causes of Aggression in Rats Tell Us.

Effect Of Trauma On Young Rats’ Brains :

A recent Swiss study by Marquez et al. (2013) has looked at the effects of trauma on ‘adolescent’ rats. It was found that those rats who were exposed to trauma (fear and stress inducing stimuli) suffered adverse PHYSICAL EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN (specifically, the PREFRONTAL CORTEX). This, in turn, leads to them displaying significantly more aggressive behavior than non-traumatized rats.

Effect Of Separation From Mothers :

A very similar effect has been found to occur in young rats SEPARATED FROM THEIR MOTHERS.
Furthermore, ‘adolescent’ rats exposed to trauma also develop ANXIETY and DEPRESSION type behaviors. They were found to also have increased activity in the brain region known as the AMYGDALA (which is linked to FEAR and VIOLENCE in humans). Additionally, they developed abnormally high levels of TESTOSTERONE ( a hormone which, in humans, is linked to AGGRESSION and VIOLENCE). Even the rats’ DNA was found to be affected by the trauma (specifically, MAOA genes). These genes act to break down SEROTONIN (a brain chemical, or neurotransmitter) and damage to it leads to too much serotonin being broken down which, in turn, leads to aggressive behaviour.

Comparison With Adult Rats :

However, ADULT RATS exposed to trauma did not undergo the same behavioral changes, so:


Childhood Trauma: What Experiments on Causes of Aggression in Rats Tell Us. 2


To what degree can we apply these findings to the effects of childhood trauma in HUMANS?

In fact, the findings I’ve outlined above mirror very accurately findings from studies on humans; this suggests that similar physiological processes are going on in both rats and humans as a result of early trauma.

Studies on non-human primates have also given rise to very similar findings.

It is hoped that such research showing that physiological effects of early trauma seem to underlie a development of a greater propensity towards violence and aggression will help lead to drugs being developed that can reverse these physiological effects and therefore reduce levels of aggression in individuals affected by early trauma. With this aim in mind, further human and non-human studies are being conducted.

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

Effects of Childhood Trauma: The Interaction between Nature and Nurture.

TONY SOPRANO: And to think I’m the cause of it.

DR. MALFI: How are you the cause of it?

TONY SOPRANO: It’s in his blood, this miserable fucking existence. My rotten fucking putrid genes have infected my kid’s soul. That’s my gift to my son.

Studies have shown that male children who are severely maltreated are more prone to anti-social and violent behaviour in later life. Is this due to their parents passing on ‘bad’ genes, the child growing up in a ‘bad’ environment, or a combination of the two?

A study by Moffit et al looked at how children’s genes interacted with their environment to produce (or not to produce) later anti-social behaviour.

The study focused upon one particular group of genes known as MAOA genes (MAOA is an abbreviation for the brain chemical MONOAMINE OXIDASE A).

It was found that those with high activity MAOA genes were, in the main, protected from the potential adverse effects of the problematic environment in which they were brought up:


The opposite was the case for those who had low activity MAOA genes:


In the study, those in the second group (low activity MAOA genes) commited four times as many assaults, robberies and rapes.


It seems, therefore, that PARTICULARLY BAD OUTCOMES, IN TERMS OF PROPENSITY TO DEVELOP ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR, are much more likely if the individual in question has had BOTH a ‘bad’ childhood environment AND has inherited ‘bad’ genes (low activity MAOA genes). Indeed, it would appear that the JOINT EFFECT of BOTH is GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS of the two factors.

This finding has been confirmed by other studies showing that low activity MOAO genes are connected with the development of anti-social behaviour.


These findings have implications for treatment of psychological conditions associated with aggression as there are drugs which alter brain neurochemistry by acting upon monoamine oxidase. However, it should be noted that these drugs are not without risk and cannot always be guaranteed to be helpful. All treatment options require consultations with the relevant medical experts.

If you would like to view an infographic which shows how childhood trauma and genes interact to produce vulnerability to various conditions please click here,


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

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