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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 And Self-Harm.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Childhood Trauma And Self-Harm

Many research studies (eg Arnold, 1995) have demonstrated a link between having been abused as a child and self-harm. In one study,84% of individuals who self-harmed reported that childhood trauma had contributed to their condition.

WHAT IS SELF-HARM?

The following are examples:

-skin cutting
-skin burning
-compulsive skin picking
-self-hitting
-self-biting
-hair pulling
-interfering with wound healing
-swallowing foreign objects
-pulling off nails

Whilst it sounds counter-intuitive, self-harm is fundamentally a COPING MECHANISM born out of trauma and a profound sense of powerlessness.

childhood trauma and self-harm

‘PAIN-EXCHANGE’.

Self-harm has been described as a kind of ‘pain-exchange’. This means invisible, extreme emotional pain is converted into visible, physical wounds. After a period of self-injury individuals report feeling calmer and more able to cope. Self-injuring causes the brain to release ‘natural pain killers’ which may have the twin effect of diminishing psychological pain. A further theory is that, due to an individual’s self-loathing (see later in the post), self-injury acts as a form of self-punishment which the individual consciously or unconsciously believes s/he deserves.

Typically, people who self-harm are emotionally fragile and highly sensitive to rejection.

INDIRECT SELF-HARM.

Not all self-harm is direct. Indirect methods include:

-substance misuse
-gambling
-extreme risk taking
-anorexia/bulimia
-staying in an abusive relationship

With these, the damage is not immediate, but, rather, they are physically and/or psychologically damaging over the long-term.

TYPES OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA ASSOCIATED WITH SELF-HARM.

The following have been found to be associated with self-harm:

-physical/sexual/emotional abuse
-loss of primary care giver (eg through divorce)
-having ’emotionally absent’ parent/s
-growing up in a chaotic family (eg due to parental mental health problems)
-being raised in the care system
role reversal in child-parent relationship (eg child acting as a disturbed parent’s counselor)

Furthermore, many who self-harm have NEGATIVE CORE BELIEFS such as the following:

-I am bad/evil
-I am worth nothing
-I shouldn’t have been born
-I’m never good enough
-I don’t deserve to be happy
-I’m unlovable
-I’m inferior
-I don’t fit in anywhere
-there’s something wrong with me

Such beliefs lead to: SELF-LOATHING and EXTREME LOW SELF-ESTEEM. This in turn leads to emotional distress which can trigger acts of self-harm such as those illustrated in this post. My next post will look at ways we can minimize our risk of self-harming.

 

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

My Own Story : A Brief Overview.

childhood trauma story

My own childhood was highly chaotic and traumatic.

I started to suffer severe emotional problems very early on (for example, when I was 8 the teachers at the prep school I was at thought I had gone deaf, so I was taken to see my GP. It transpired, however, that there was nothing at all wrong with my ears, rather, the problem was psychological in origin: I had been ‘retreating into my own inner world’). Psychiatrists term this ‘dissociation’, which is a topic I refer to in my posts in the EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA category.

As an adolescent I became deeply depressed and my behaviour became erratic, compounded by heavy drinking.

In adulthood, I became very ill indeed. I was hospitalized many times with depression so acute in nature I underwent electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT) during more than one admission.

I made several suicide attempts, one of which left me in a coma on life-support for five days in intensive care.

It is these experiences which motivate me in my study of childhood trauma, its effects and what one can do to help oneself recover. I am fortunate in having a relevant academic background which helps facilitate this.

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

Repression Of Traumatic Childhood Memories.

repression

 

Repression Of Traumatic Childhood Memories

Most of us are familiar with the idea that people who have experienced severe traumas sometimes REPRESS the memory of them (i.e. bury them deep in the unconscious where they cannot be consciously recalled). This process is known as REPRESSION.

This is thought to be an automatic process (ie. not under conscious control) which operates as a defense mechanism (when people deliberately try to push disturbing thoughts/memories out of conscious awareness, the process is known as suppression). Freud thought that such repressed memories festered in the unconscious, causing neurotic symptoms or hysteria, and that they needed to be brought back into consciousness and worked through in order for healing to take place.

Psychologists refer to the inability to recall traumatic events DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA.

Many have claimed that repression of traumatic memories is very common. For example, one therapist, Renee Frederickson (1992), claimed: ‘millions of people have blocked out frightening episodes of abuse, years of their lives, or their entire childhood.’ Indeed, today, many psychotherapists regard uncovering repressed memories as vital to the treatment of their patients.

repression

But what does the research indicate?

Loftus (1993) found that most people seemed to have no trouble recalling traumatic events, up to, and including, the Holocaust. Indeed, such memories disturbed many in the form of FLASHBACKS.

The scientific community has also become increasingly aware that the ‘memory recovery’ procedures some psychotherapists use, such as hypnosis, can generate false memories of traumatic events, due, often, to a combination of SUGGESTION and LEADING QUESTIONS. So, patients can be encouraged to ‘recall’ something that, in fact, never actually happened. Indeed, so powerful can the effect be that the patient may truly believe the ‘recalled’ event happened, despite documentary evidence disproving it.

HOWEVER, NOT ALL RECOVERED MEMORIES (EVEN AFTER DECADES) ARE FALSE (eg. Schooter et al. 1997) SO RECOVERED MEMORIES OF TRAUMA SHOULD BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AND CERTAINLY NOT DISMISSED. Instead, corroborating evidence should ideally be sought.

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

Childhood Trauma: The Statistics

Is Childhood Trauma Common?

The following statistics relate to the UK. However, it should be pointed out that childhood trauma and abuse tends to be under-reported and under-recorded so the figures presented should only be taken as a guide. The statistics were gained by interviews with a large sample of young adults.

– a quarter of young adults were severely maltreated in childhood

– at present, there are approx. 50,000 children officially deemed to be at risk.

-approx. 15% of young adults have been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian during childhood

childhood-trauma-statistics

PHYSICAL ABUSE :

-just over 10% of young adults experienced violence by an adult during childhood.

NEGLECT :

– in family settings, this is the most common form of child abuse

– approx. 15% of young adults experienced neglect during their childhood

– approx. 10% of young adults experienced SEVERE neglect during childhood.

SEXUAL ABUSE :

– about one quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood ( either by peer/s or adult/s).

– about 10% 0f children in the 11-17 year old age group have experienced sexual abuse in the last year

EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

– approx. 7% of young adults have experienced emotional abuse during childhood.

EXPOSURE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE :

– about one quarter of young adults experienced domestic violence between adults during their childhoods

Finally, it is worth pointing out again that due to both cover-ups and sometimes reluctance to report incidents these figures could be underestimates.

Because the statistics derive from young adults in the UK, it is likely that they give a fairly up-to-date picture of the situation.

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

Serotonin And Childhood Trauma

As we have seen from other articles that I have previously published on this site, neurological problems resulting from childhood trauma can be reversed, and it is to the research into this exciting and fast developing area of study that I now turn.

Studies have shown that because SEROTONIN (a chemical, also known as a neurotransmitter, in the brain) can become depleted by childhood trauma, ANTI-DEPRESSANTS (for example, Setraline) which increase the availability of serotonin in the brain can help to REVERSE the harmful effects of childhood trauma on it.

However, the beneficial effects of anti-depressant treatment is greatly increased if, in addition, the childhood trauma survivor’s ENVIRONMENT is also significantly improved, providing as many positive experiences as possible. Indeed, positive experiences can BENEFICIALLY AFFECT BRAIN CHEMISTRY (for example,  by increasing the availability of serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain), just as anti-depressants can.

serotonin

So: brain chemistry can be affected by environmental factors, as well as by medication.

Because survivors of childhood trauma often FEEL OVERWHELMED BY THEIR EMOTIONS, studies have been conducted which also show that activities that discharge these emotions in a creative or constructive manner can also change brain chemistry for the better. Examples include drawing, painting, writing or undertaking what are called TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES.

In addition to human studies, there have also been some studies on animals. There is now a growing body of evidence that new experiences can regenerate animals’ brain cells. Studies in this area are likely to be conducted on humans in the near future.

Because many of these studies are new, their implications have not yet been fully taken advantage of in the construction of treatment programs. Indeed, it is estimated that fewer than 10% of childhood trauma survivors are receiving appropriate therapeutic interventions.

The exciting conclusion that we are able to draw from all of the above is that there is now good evidence that even if the brain has undergone neurological damage as a result of childhood trauma, this CAN BE REVERSED due to the fact that THE BRAIN CONTINUES TO CHANGE THROUGHOUT LIFE.

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Challenging Our Negative Thoughts.

 

 

Challenging Negative Thoughts :

This article examines how we can use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge our negative thoughts.

When we have negative thoughts, it is important to ask ourselves:

‘What is the evidence to support this negative thought/belief?’ OFTEN, WILL WILL FIND THERE IS VERY LITTLE OR AT LEAST NOT THE COMPELLING EVIDENCE WE’D ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED.

It is important for us to get into the habit of challenging negative thoughts in this way because very often the negative thoughts come to us automatically (due to entrenched negative thinking patterns caused in large part by our traumatic childhoods) without us analyzing them and examining them to see if they are actually valid.

So, to repeat, we need to try to get into the habit of CHALLENGING OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND ASKING OURSELVES IF THERE REALLY IS PROPER EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEM.

A SUGGESTED EXERCISE FOR CHALLENGING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS :

1) Think of two or three negative thoughts that you have experienced lately.

2) Ask yourself what evidence you have to support them.

3) Ask yourself how strong this evidence actually is.

4) Now think of evidence AGAINST THE NEGATIVE THOUGHT.

Step 4 above is very important.This is because when we are depressed and have negative thoughts we tend to focus on the (often flimsy) evidence which supports them BUT IGNORE ALL THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM (in other words, we give ourselves an ‘unfair hearing’ and , in effect, are prejudiced against ourselves). This is sometimes referred to as CONFIRMATION BIAS.

Challenging our negative thoughts and FINDING EVIDENCE TO REFUTE THEM is a very important part of CBT. It is, therefore, worth us putting in effort to search hard for evidence which weakens or invalidates our automatic negative thoughts/beliefs.

ALTERNATIVE THOUGHTS:

When we have successfully challenged our negative thoughts, and found, by reviewing the evidence, reason not to hold them anymore, it is useful to replace them by MORE REALISTIC APPROPRIATE THOUGHTS.

One way to get into the habit of this is to spend a little time occasionally writing down our automatic negative thoughts. Then, for each thought, we can write beside it:

1) Evidence in support of the negative thought.

2) Evidence against the negative thought.

3) In the light of the analysis carried out above in steps 1 and 2, replace it with a more realistic, valid and positive thought. Here is an example:

Negative Thought: I failed my exam which means I’m stupid and will never get the job I wanted or any other.

1) Evidence in support of negative thought:

‘after a lot of revision, I still didn’t pass.

2) Evidence against negative thought:

I only failed by a couple of per cent and was affected by my nerves – failing one exam does not make me stupid’.

3) Alternative, more valid, realistic and positive thought:

‘I can retake the exam and still get the job. Even if I don’t get my first choice of job, that does not mean there won’t be other jobs I can get, and they may turn out to be better.’

Getting into the habit of occasionally writing down negative thoughts, challenging them, and coming up with more positive alternative thoughts will help to ‘reprogram’ the brain not to just passively accept the automatic negative thoughts which come to us without subjecting them to scrutiny and challenging their validity.

Ten Steps To Overcoming Negative Thinking. 

David Hosier BScHons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Childhood Trauma.

WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY AND HOW CAN IT AID RECOVERY FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA ?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  was initially devised during the 1970s by Aaron Beck and has since been developed by other psychologists (for example, David Burns, MD) and is now used to treat many conditions that individuals who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma are at increased risk of suffering from (especially depression and anxiety).

Put simply, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works on the basic observation that:

1) how we think about things and interpret events affects how we feel

2) how we behave affects how we feel

therefore:

3) by changing how we think about things, interpret events and behave will CHANGE HOW WE FEEL.

I have over-simplified here but those are the essential three points and my aim in this blog is not to present information in an over-complex way.

RESEARCH :

CBT is widely used by therapists to treat survivors of childhood trauma and there is now a solid base of research which supports its effectiveness. I myself underwent a course of CBT some time ago and found it very helpful.

WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THINGS DECIDES HOW WE FEEL :

In this post I wish to concentrate on how our thinking styles affect our state of mind and emotions. Survivors of childhood trauma often develop depressive illness and, as a result, thinking styles often become extremely negative:


NEGATIVE THINKING :

Depression often gives rise to what is sometimes called a COGNITIVE TRIAD of negative thoughts. These are:

– negative view of self
– negative view of the world
– negative view of the future

I have referred to this NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD in previous posts, but it is worth revisiting. The aim of CBT is to change these negative thinking patterns into more positive ones. It aims to correct FAULTY THINKING STYLES.

FAULTY THINKING STYLES:

Individuals who suffer from this cognitive negative triad of depressive thoughts, as I did for more years than I care to remember, are generally found to have deeply ingrained faulty thinking styles; I provide the most common ones below and give a very brief explanation of each type (if the examples seem a little extreme, it is merely to illustrate the point):

1) GENERALIZATION:

e.g. someone is rude to us and we conclude: ‘nobody likes me or ever will‘.

So, here, the mistake is vastly over-generalizing from one specific incident.

2) POLARIZED THINKING:

e.g. ‘unless I am liked by everyone then I am unpopular’.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘black or white’ thinking ie. seeing things as all good or all bad and ignoring the grey areas.

3) CATASTROPHIZING:

e.g. ‘I know for sure this will be an unmitigated disaster and I’ll be utterly unable to cope.’

Here, the mistake is to overestimate how badly something will turn out or to greatly overestimate the odds of something bad happening. It often also involves underestimating our ability to cope in the unlikely event that the worst does actually happen. Also known as ‘WHAT IF…’ style thinking.

4) PERSONALIZATION:

e/g. taking an innocent, casual, passing remark to be a deliberate and calculated personal attack. Here, the mistake is thinking everything people do or say is a kind of reaction to us and that people are predisposed to wanting to gratuitously hurt us.

5) SELF BLAME :

e.g. someone says our team has not met its monthly target and we then look for ways to convince ourselves it is specifically and exclusively due to something we have done wrong. With this type of faulty thinking style, we blame ourselves for something for which there is no evidence it is our fault.

6) MINIMIZATION :

e.g. ‘I failed one exam out of ten, therefore I’m stupid and a complete failure’.

Here, the positive (passing nine out of ten exams) is pretty much ignored (minimized) and the negative (failing one exam) completely disproportionately affects our view of ourselves. Individuals who minimize the positive tend to also MAXIMIZE (ie. make far too much of) the negative.

CONCLUSION :

What tends to underlie all these faulty thinking styles is that we UNNECESSARILY BELIEVE NEGATIVE THINGS IN SPITE OF THE FACT WE HAVE NO, OR EXTREMELY LIMITED, EVIDENCE FOR SUCH BELIEFS. Therefore, we unnecessarily and irrationally further lower our own sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Because of these faulty thinking styles, we increase our feelings of inadequacy and depression.

BE LESS NEGATIVE PACK | SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

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