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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.

What Studies on ‘Unloved’ Rats Tell us about Effects of Childhood Trauma

It is being increasingly recognized by research psychologists that the environment we are brought up in has a critical effect upon our later development and functioning. As in all areas of medical research, animal studies play a vital role in helping us to understand the possible causes of human psychological pathology.

Key studies on how early experiences can have adverse effects on psychological functioning have been conducted on rats. In one important study, it was found that baby rats who were raised by mothers who showed them little affection (affection in the rat world being demonstrated by licking) and were rarely licked by their mothers incurred damage to the way in which their brains developed (this was discovered by dissecting and examining their brains after death).

Baby rats who had been raised by their mothers in an affectionate way, however (i.e they received their fair quota of loving maternal licks), developed completely healthy brains; specifically, they had far more receptors in a brain region called the HIPPOCAMPUS – these receptors, greatly lacking in the ‘unloved’ rats, are considered to be crucial in the role of regulating (controlling and damping-down) stress responses (meaning they would be much better at tolerating stress in later life).

Further study has demonstrated that a deprivation of affection damages vital DNA strands in rats and it is a knock on effect of this damage which depletes the quantity of stress reducing receptors in the brain.


It can clearly be inferred from the above findings that the problems the ‘unloved’ rats developed with their ability to tolerate stress as adults was NOT caused by inherited genes, but by damage down to their DNA
by THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THEY WERE RAISED (an environment in which they were deprived of maternal affection).

The perennial question may be raised in response to the above findings that that’s all very well, but can we extrapolate those findings to human beings? (my own view, for what it’s worth, is, not least because of our evolutionary history and the similarities between human brains and those of our furry, nose-twitching, be-whiskered little ratty friends, is that we can do so quite legitimately). However, for those who remain unconvinced, related studies have been conducted on human beings . I summarize one such study below:


– the study involved the dissection and examination of 36 human brains, post-mortem (obviously)

– of the 36, 12 had died of natural causes (GROUP A) and 24 had died by suicide

– of the 24 who had died by suicide, 12 had suffered serious childhood trauma (GROUP B). The other 12 had no (GROUP C).


GROUP B (those who had died by suicide AND suffered severe childhood trauma), like the ‘unloved’ rats, were found to have A GREATLY DEPlETED NUMBER OF BRAIN RECEPTORS RELATED TO STRESS REGULATION/CONTROL. This was not true of groups A and C.


These studies suggest that both rats and humans can incur serious damage to the way in which their brains physiologically develop, due to early life trauma, affecting their abilities to tolerate stress in later life.


Were You Unloved As A Child? | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

How Is a Personality Disorder Defined?

definition of personality disorder


In order to address this question, it seems sensible to first outline what psychotherapists mean by a HEALTHY personality. In general, one would expect someone with a healthy personality to exhibit the following characteristics:

– an ability to engage in satisfying personal relationships
– generally has age-expected thoughts and feelings
– can function relatively flexibly when stressed
– has a clear sense of own personal identity
– are generally well-adapted to their own particular set of life circumstances
– don’t generally experience significant distress or impose it on others

An UNHEALTHY, or DISORDERED PERSONALITY, in stark contrast to the above, will display a personality characteristic, or, far more frequently, a group of personality characteristics (or TRAITS, as they are referred to by psychologists), so extreme as to be way outside the normal range of experience and to subsequently cause the person suffering from the personality disorder SERIOUS PROBLEMS FUNCTIONING IN NEARLY ALL AREAS OF THEIR LIVES.

Problems encountered by the personality disordered individual will often include:

– an inability to maintain relationships
– an inability to interact successfully in the work-place (eg problems with authority)
– inability to integrate successfully into the community
– inability to provide (consistently, or at all) for self

We need not be surprised to learn, given these life-ruining problems, that a person with a disordered personality will, almost invariably, be unhappy, frustrated, angry, and, quite possibly, at times, suicidally distressed.

As if this abject state of affairs were not enough for our heroic sufferer to contend with, the personality problems s/he exhibits will tend to make others impatient, uncomfortable and angry. In short, the person with a personality disorder will frequently alienate, and even make enemies, of others. The irony, of course, is that the sufferer will often have a profound need for the acceptance and support of the very people s/he seems so intent on driving away. It is a tragedy, however, that terror of rejection (stemming, frequently, from psychologically devastating rejection in childhood from those supposed to be in the role of primary-carers) will prevent this from being articulated.

In order to avoid the tremendous difficulties which result from having a personality disorder – a tormented, emotionally impoverished and deeply lonely life, it is essential to seek therapy. The problems a personality disorder gives rise to tend to interact with, and aggravate, each other (I’ll look at this in detail in my next post) in such a way that the sufferer will often find him/herself caught in a vicious downward spiral from which it is almost impossible to escape from without intervention by professionals highly trained and experienced in the relevant area of psychiatric care.

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

Compassion Focused Therapy for Effects of Childhood Trauma


Therapy which emphasizes self-compassion (as well as compassion for others), not inappropriately called COMPASSIOIN FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT), has become increasingly utilized for the treatment of the effects of childhood trauma over the last decade or so. It is based on 3 main components :

  • being mindful of one’s own suffering.
  • being kind to oneself (with positive internal ‘self-talk’, for example). and non-self-critical
  • being open about own suffering and communicating it without feelings of shame or weakness.


CFT is a particularly useful and effective therapy for those of us who tend to be ashamed of our internal emotional state, prone to severe self-criticism and come from an abusive and neglectful background (ie suffered such an environment during our childhood).

CFT motivates and helps individuals to develop a compassionate self-view as well as a compassionate view of others. Research suggests that many of us who suffered disturbed childhoods are fearful of giving compassion to ourselves or receiving it from others.

Neuroscience (the scientific study of the brain) has shown that giving oneself compassion or being self-critical (ie where the compassion or criticism is INTERNALLY GENERATED) has very similar biochemical effects upon the brain as would be generated by EXTERNAL STIMULI (ie others showing us compassion or criticizing us). For more about this very interesting area of research it is well worth reading the study on EMPATHY AND MIRROR NEURONS by Decety and Jackson (2004).

Because CFT is based on similar theory to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) it focuses on reasoning, rumination, behaviors, emotions and motives in a similar way to how CBT does.


– A study carried out by Lutz et al (2008) demonstrated that showing compassion towards others led to beneficial changes in the PREFRONTAL CORTEX (a specific brain region) and a much increased sense of personal well-being.

-A study by Fredrickson et al (2008) demonstrated that 6, one hour COMPASSION FOCUSED MEDITATION sessions per week increased POSITIVE EMOTIONS, MINDFULNESS and FEELINGS OF PURPOSE.

A study by Gilbert and Proctor (2006) focused on individuals with long-term mental health problems and found that COMPASSION TRAINING significantly reduced their feelings of shame, depression and anxiety; it also greatly reduced their previously pronounced tendency towards self-criticism.


Develop Self Compassion | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Mindfulness Meditation: An Escape Route Away from Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.


mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness :

MINDFULNESS is a very effective and evidence-based therapy for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other conditions related to childhood trauma. Mindfulness helps individuals to develop the skill to DELIBERATELY FOCUS ATTENTION AND AWARNESS on THE PRESENT MOMENT. WHILST BEING INTENSELY AWARE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT, MINDFULNESS TEACHES US TO ACCEPT THINGS AS THEY ARE IN A NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY.

Mindfulness helps us to become aware of our CURRENT experience, of things we would normally take for granted. These may include becoming aware of our breathing, of the feeling of our clothes against our skin, the furniture on which we sit, the feel of the temperature in the room etc; anything, in fact, which we are presently experiencing through one of our five senses. It teaches us, as I have said, to accept things as they are rather than to fret about want them to be. We may, too, become aware of our thoughts; again, we are encouraged to accept them non-judgmentally – to simply observe them floating through our minds in a detached manner and not get caught up in them.

Negative Ruminations :

This state of mind of existing intensely in the present, accepting it as it is in non-judgmentally, is, at its best (it takes time to master the skill), the polar opposite of obsessive, negative ruminative thinking which can be so painful and destructive.

mindfulness meditation

Below, I summarize the principles which underpin MINDFULNESS :

1) IT IS INTENTIONAL – it helps us to become aware of current reality and the choices which are open to us. This is in direct contrast to rumination (in which we are caught up and trapped in the destructive downwaed spiral of our automatic negative thoughts).

2) IT IS EXPERIENTIAL – mindfulness trains us to experience the present moment (unlike rumination, which fills us with concerns about the past and the future and causes us to be preoccupied with abstract thoughts detached from present experience).

3) IT IS NON-JUDGMENTAL – mindfulness helps us to accept things as they are right now rather than to get caught up in judgments and frustrations about how we think things should be.

By cultivating MINDFULNESS, it stops us from becoming stuck in a futile cycle of depressive and anxiety creating negative ruminations; instead, it helps us to develop new and wiser ways to relate to our actual experience IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

However, MINDFULNESS is about more than noticing things around us that we had previously taken for granted and ignored; it also helps us to develop awareness of THE HABIT OF A PARTICULAR STATE OF MIND WE USED TO FIND OURSELVES IN, WHICH GOT US STUCK AND CAUGHT UP IN RUMINATIONS DESTRUCTIVE TO US AND TO OUR EMOTIONAL LIVES. The skill of mindfulness allows us to DISENGAGE from such destructive, ruminative thinking and shift to an enormously healthier frame of mind which frees us from our self-defeating emotional struggles. Mindfulness allows us to accept the different emotions which drift through our minds non-judgmentally and with self-compassion.

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

Some Lesser Known Therapies for Treating Effects of Severe Trauma

trauma therapy

There are some less well known treatments for trauma which I thought it would be useful to take a brief look at in this post (I have covered the more mainstream treatments in other posts in the THERAPIES AND SELF-HELP category of this site. The specific therapies I am going to outline are:

1) THE COUNTING METHOD (intense, short-lived recollection)

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) THE COUNTING METHOD (intense, short-lived recollection) :

This therapy derives from cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Its two main benefits are – a) it is a fast form of therapy ; b) it affords the individual undergoing the therapy a significant degree of PRIVACY.

The therapist begins the therapy by asking the client which specific trauma s/he wishes to recall. When this has been agreed upon, the client is asked to intensely recall the traumatic incident whilst the therapist counts aloud to one hundred (one count lasts about one second so the client recalls the incident for approximately 100 seconds). During this 100 seconds, the incident is recalled intensely for about the first 90 seconds ; the last 10 seconds are used to ‘mentally come back’ to reality.

After the one hundred seconds are up the therapist asks the client what s/he recalled and what was learned by revisiting the trauma.

therapy for severe trauma


– the voice of the therapist has the comforting effect of keeping the client safely mentally rooted in the present whilst s/he is recalling the trauma

– because the memory of the trauma is strictly contained witin an ‘experiential period’ of 100 seconds, its power is weakened

– intensely mentally revisiting the trauma helps the client become desensitized to it and to gain mastery over it

One study showed that 80% of those who underwent this therapy gained benefit from it.


This therapy focuses primarily on the treatment of panic attacks (which are extremely common amongst those who have undergone extreme trauma). It involves educating the client about what panic attacks are and then helps them develop breathing techniques to control the panic. One technique the therapy uses is to recreate the symptoms of a panic attack artificially in the client. For example:

a) the therapist gets the client to breathe through a straw for a while (this mimics the adverse effect of how we breathe during a panic attack) ; b) the client spins on a swivel chair (which mimics the dizziness which is often felt during panic attacks), and c) the client is asked to repeatedly tense and untense the stomach (this mimics the queasy feeling we often experience in our stomachs when we are having a panic attack).

Artificially recreating the feelings which accompany a panic attack help to DEMYSTIFY them in our minds and help us to see them as merely a temporary inconvenience which is not dangerous and can be easily dealt with (after the artificial symptoms have been brought on, the therapist guides the client through the breathing exercises which stop the symptoms. The client can apply the same breathing exercises the next time s/he experiences a real panic attack).

Once the client has been shown how to overcome the symptoms of panic, s/he need no longer fear them and they start to lose their power over him/her.


This therapy encourages the client to confront their trauma. It is a short therapy and usually allocates on session per traumatic incident. The therapist acts more as a FACILITATOR and the client does most of the work. The therapy consists of the following stages :

a) The client is asked to specify the particular trauma s/he wishes to confront.

b) The client is then asked to mentally view the trauma as if it was a film being watched on DVD (so the client feels MENTALLY DETACHED from it).

c) The client is asked to say what happened and what s/he felt about it

d) The client mentally views the imaginary film again and again explains to the therapist how s/he feels about it.

In the case of complex post traumatic stress disorder (meaning the client will usually need to address multiple traumas), 10-15 sessions may be necessary.

Therapists typically report that the client’s emotional response will increase during the first few imaginary viewings of the trauma but this will then start to fade so that, eventually, there is no negative emotional response. The therapy continues until the client reaches the point at which s/he feel calm about their imaginary viewings of the traumatic incidents.

Research into the effectiveness of this type of therapy is at an early stage.

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

The Vicious Cycle of Adult Problems Stemming from Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma



People who have suffered childhood trauma frequently go on to develop multiple problems in adult life which tend to build up over the long-term. A range of difficulties like the ones given in the fictional scenario below would not be untypical:

Losing interest in school and unable to concentrate resulting in leaving at age 15 ; becoming disruptive and difficult leading to home-life problems, so leaving home at 16 ; this could then lead to homelessness or insecure housing (eg sleeping on friends’ sofas) ; depression and unsettled life style and lack of direction could then lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol ; unable to hold down job for long (eg due to having problems getting on with authority figures (stemming from problems with relationship in childhood with parent/s) and inability to accept criticism (eg becoming angry and aggressive when criticized, this, again, stemming from earlier relationship with parent/s, perhaps because they were physically abusive leading to a an intense need to ‘stand up for self’ and protect self).

The above example of how life can unravel as a result of childhood trauma, a whole string of problems feeding in to one another and compounding one another, are likely, too, to be underpinned by feelings of LOW SELF-ESTEEM, EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY and EMOTIONAL SCARS, A POOR SENSE OF OWN IDENTITY, AN INABILITY TO TRUST AND ‘PUT DOWN ROOTS’ – all these factors, also, stemming from the problematic childhood.


STOPPING THE VICIOUS CIRCLE : The key to BREAKING OUT OF THE VICIOUS CYCLE IS TO BECOME AWARE AND RECOGNIZE THAT OUR PROBLEMS IN ADULT LIFE HAVE THEIR ROOTS IN OUR DISTURBED CHILDHOOD. By doing this, we can begin to understand that our unhelpful behaviours are rooted in our disturbed childhood and start to discard them. By understanding the enormous, destructive impact the past has – up until now – had upon our life, we can begin to loosen the past’s invidious grip on us.

We need to understand that our traumatic childhood experiences have affected how we THINK, FEEL and BEHAVE as adults. Apart from all the potential effects I have already described, our disturbed childhood is likely, too, to have had a VERY ADVERSE IMPACT UPON THE RELATIONSHIPS WE HAVE HAD, SO FAR, IN ADULTHOOD, perhaps due to feelings of FEAR, SHAME, FRUSTRATION, MOOD DISORDERS, ANXIETY and DEPRESSION. Again, these symptoms will almost certainly have their roots in our adverse childhood experiences.

LEARNING NEW WAYS OF COPING : Because our childhood experiences, the effects of which then become compounded by the adult experiences we have which stem from these childhood experiences, we are likely to have suffered EXTREME EMOTIONAL DISTRESS in our adult life, at worst leading to such horrors as compulsive self-harm and suicide attempts. Due to such intolerable distress, we are likely to have turned, in desperation, to any WAYS OF COPING possible. Often, these will have been unhelpful in the long-term and will have made matters yet worse. The coping mechanisms may have included alcohol abuse, drug abuse, withdrawal from society etc. These coping mechanisms may have become habits which we find difficult to change. We may, too, have become so enmeshed in the damaging life-style we now find ourselves in, it is difficult to step back and reassess why we are suffering our futile, negative, repeating pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Often, the only viable option will be to seek therapy and start the process of stepping back, understanding how our lives have become as they have, stop blaming ourselves and feeling bad about ourselves, and, gradually, seek new and more positive ways of approaching life.

We may have come to see the personal characteristics we have displayed up until now (our anxiety, our depression, our bleak outlook, our problematic relationships etc, etc) as just ‘who we are.’ This, though, is a mistake which will only perpetuate matters. We need to detach these SYMPTOMS of our traumatic childhood from our TRUE IDENTITY. We may need to realize we are not ‘bad’ even though are childhood experiences and the symptoms they have caused may have made us (FALSELY) believe that we were ‘bad’.


Those who played a part in causing the childhood trauma (parents, step-parents, siblings etc) will often ENTER A STATE OF DENIAL to PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THEIR OWN GUILT. It will often suit them to regard you as ‘innately bad’, and to regard this ‘badness’ as having nothing whatsoever to do with their treatment of you. Freud, of course, would regard this as a flagrant example of the psychological defense mechanism known as PROJECTION. I am inclined to concur.

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

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

rational emotive behavior therapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy :

People are disturbed not by things, but by their view of things.


REBT emphasizes that the key to emotional health, even in the face of life’s adversities, is RATIONAL THINKING. In the context of REBT, it is useful to consider the reasons the 4 words: RATIONAL, EMOTIVE, BEHAVIOUR and THERAPY have been used to make up the name:

1) RATIONAL – REBT stresses that irrational thinking leads to emotional problems. Irrational thinking, in the context of the therapy, has the following characteristics: it is rigid, it is extreme, it is false and it is unconstructive. Rational thinking, on the other hand is seen to be flexible, true, non-extreme and constructive.

Irrational thinking tends to lead to unhelpful emotional responses such as anxiety, which, in turn, lead to unhelpful behaviours.

2) EMOTIVE – in this context, the word ’emotive’ means ‘relevant to emotions’. REBT is concerned with reducing feelings of emotional distress, but, importantly, it also recognizes the fact that, in life, people will, inevitably, experience NEGATIVE FEELINGS WHEN FACED WITH ADVERSITY, BUT THESE NEED NOT BE UNHEALTHY.




The theory states that UNEs we experience as a reaction to adversity are a result of IRRATIONAL BELIEFS ABOUT OURSELVES, OTHERS and THE WORLD IN GENERAL. We need to change our irrational beliefs to rational ones so that we may experience HNEs rather than UNEs. The theory incorporates the ABC model to help illustrate this. In the ABC model A,B and C stand for the following:

A : Adversity

B : Beliefs

c : Consequences of beliefs (eg emotions)

Let’s consider, with this model in mind, the following scenario :

First, an adverse event occurs (A) – a colleague at work snaps at you

this leads to you having a belief (B). The belief (B) may be IRRATIONAL or RATIONAL. Let’s look at examples of both:

(B) IRRATIONAL : ‘It is imperative that my work colleague likes me’


(B) RATIONAL : ‘I would prefer it if my work colleague liked me, but it is not a catastrophe if she does not.’

These opposing two responses then give rise to commensurate emotional responses:

(B) IRRATIONAL leads to UNEs eg Anxiety


(B) RATIONAL leads to HNEs eg Concern (the emotion of concern, whilst a negative emotion, is also a healthy one).

In order to illustrate further how negative emotions can be both healthy and unhealthy, below are two lists. The left hand column is a list of unhealthy negative emotions (UNEs), whilst the list on the right gives the healthy negative emotion equivalents (HNEs):








INTELLECTUAL VERSUS EMOTIVE UNDERSTANDING : it has already been stated that REBT views irrational beliefs as rigid, false, not sensible and non-constructive. The example given of an irrational belief was ; ‘it is imperative that my work colleague likes me’ whereas the rational response would be : ‘it would be nice if my work colleague liked me but it is not a catastrophe if she does not.’ REBT states that we need to understand ON AN INTELLECTUAL LEVEL that the second response is the rational one but that this INTELLECTUAL UNDERSTANDING is not sufficient on its own.

rational emotive behavior therapy


Above : A diagrammatic representation of the mental process encouraged by REBT.

If we only understood intellectually, our ‘head would understand but our heart wouldn’t’ – this would mean we would not FEEL any different : we would still have a UNE (ie anxiety), consistent with an IRRATIONAL BELIEF. So, REBT emphasizes that our understanding that the rational belief is the correct one needs to be not only INTELLECTUAL, BUT ALSO EMOTIVE. Only then can we feel, think and act in a way that is consistent with the rational belief (ie in a CONCERNED rather than ANXIOUS manner).

3) BEHAVIOR : REBT states that IRRATIONAL BELIEFS lead to NON-CONSTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR whereas RATIONAL BELIEFS lead to CONSTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR. In our example about the work colleague, this idea might be illustrated by the irrational belief leading us to AVOID our work colleague whereas the rational belief might lead us to approach her assertively and talk the problem through calmly and maturely.

Below are examples of how UNEs can lead to unhelpful behavior whilst HNEs can lead to helpful behavior:

UNE – DEPRESSION leading to withdrawal from enjoyable activities/EQUIVALENT HNE – SADNESS leading to participation in enjoyable activities after period of adjustment

UNE – GUILT leading to begging for forgiveness/EQUIVALENT HNE – REMORSE leading to asking for forgiveness

UNE – SHAME leading to withdrawal from others/EQUIVALENT HNE – DISAPPOINTMENT leading to contact with others and talking things over

UNE – HURT leading to sulking/EQUIVALENT HNE – SORROW leading to assertiveness and communicating with others.

4) THERAPY – in order to get the most out of REBT it is necessary to first address one’s maladaptive (unhelpful) responses to life’s adversities BEFORE dealing with the practical side of the actual problems. The rationale behind this is that otherwise the unhelpful responses will impede the individual’s ability to deal with the particular adversities in an effective way.


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