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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.

Childhood Trauma And Workplace Performance

The negative effects of childhood trauma can also seriously impair our work performance as adults. Some obvious examples include:

  • low academic achievement.
  • alcoholism.
  • drug addiction.
  • anger management problems (which may lead to conflict in relations with colleagues and the boss).
  • relationship problems (including marital and family difficulties), depression, anxiety, headaches, somatic symptoms (such as back pain and irritable bowel syndrome).

Indeed, research published in the Permanent Journal reported that, in the United States, back pain alone is thought to cost businesses just short of 30 billion dollars per year and depression is thought to cost it about 44 billion dollars per year.

However, it is not possible, from these figures, to ascertain what percentage of the above referred to cases back pain and the above referred to cases of depression is directly linked to the adverse effects of childhood trauma.

From these findings, however, it is reasonable to conclude that educating employees about how adverse childhood trauma may have negatively impacted upon their lives is very important as it may allow them to seek more relevant, trauma-informed, treatments and therapies for their difficulties, thus increasing their chances of successful recovery. And, in order for such education to be implemented effectively, business owners, too, need to learn about the possible harmful effects of unresolved childhood trauma on their employees and, therefore, on their business.


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


Stress Contagion : Study On Effects Of Maternal Stress On Babies

Obviously I do not remember being a baby, and, because of this, I have often been concerned about how my mother’s ever dramatically fluctuating emotional states and bouts of hysteria may have had on my psyvhological development. The study I describe below would seem to justify that concern.

The study to which I refer was conducted by Waters et al., 2014 (at the University of California, San Francisco) suggests that a mother’s stress is contagious when she is interacting with her infant in a way that can affect the baby’s physiological reactivity.

In other words, according to the study, babies can pick up on, and attune to, the mother’s anxious state and, as a result of this, display physical symptoms of stress themselves that mirror her symptoms.

This transmission of the mother’s emotions to her baby is also sometimes referred to as ’emotional synchronicity.’

This reciprocal response can not only adversely affect the baby in the short term, but in the long term, too.


70 mothers were involved in the study together with their one-year-old babies.

The mothers were then split into 3 groups by the researchers :

The preliminary part of the experiment involved the mothers in each of the three groups having to give a 5 minute speech in front of two evaluators and then undertake a 5 minute ‘question and answer’ session.

GROUP ONE : This group was provided with POSITIVE feedback by the evaluators.

GROUP TWO : This group was provided with NEGATIVE feedback by the evaluators.

GROUP THREE : This group were not provided with any feedback by the evaluators.

Results :

After the mothers had given their speeches, undertaken their ‘question and answer’ session and received (or not received, as in the case of GROUP 3) their feedback they were reunited with their babies. At this stage, too, both mothers and their babies had their heart rate monitored.

As predicted, it was found that the mothers in GROUP 2 (who had received the NEGATIVE FEEDBACK) had significantly higher levels of stess (as measured by self report and heart monitor indications) than the mothers in GROUP 1 and GROUP 3.

Also as predicted, it was found that the babies reunited with the GROUP 2 mothers themselves showed higher levels of stress as measured by their heart monitors compared to the babies reunited with mothers from GROUPS 1 and 3. Furthermore, the higher the levels of stress measured in the GROUP 2 mothers, the higher the levels of their babies stress tended to be.

This supports the hypothesis that maternal stress is transmitted to their babies and, as such, can be described as CONTAGIOUS.

Conclusion :

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this study is that if even a mother’s stress that has been generated by a relatively trivial event such as, in this experiment, receiving negative feedbak for a speech, can significantly adversely affect the baby at a physiological level, what effects can much more intense and chronic states of anxiety and stress in the mother have on the baby? Future research should help to answer this question although, clearly, it would be entirely unethical for researchers to experimentally induce such states in mothers making it more difficult to investigate,

Of cousrse, a certain amount of maternal stress is inevitable and normal but it is when maternal stress reaches toxic levels and / or is chronic that it can start to adversely affect the baby’s development, including his or her brain development.



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

Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Adult Chronic Pain.


The rehabilitatiion specialist, Dr John Sarno (Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University, theorized that a significant amount of chronic pain reported to doctors is connected to repressed rage, often stemming from a traumatic childhood. In other words, he believed that, often, pain is a physical manifestation of underlying, deeply rooted emotional and psychological problems (it is also theorized that pent up anger and rage towards one’s parents, and then redirected inwardly against oneself, is sometimes a predominant cause of depression).

He also believed that the way to treat such pain was to explain to the patient, and get him / her to understand and accept, it’s genuine origin (i..e the aforementioned emotional and psychological problems.

In particular, Sarno believed that individuals who were at especially high risk of developing this kind of psychosomatic chronic pain (N.B. just because some pain is psychosomatic, as opposed to being caused by, say, physical injury, does not imply its debilitating effects upon the individual are less serious) were adults who were prone to ‘perfectionism‘ and ‘workaholism’ due to their dysfunctional, unpredictable childhoods over which they were forever striving to gain a semblance of control.

Based on this theory, Sarno was able to successfully treat many patients who suffered from chronic back pain. However, it should be noted that these successfully treated patients were pre-assessed to ascertain that they were suitable candidates for treatment. Sarno’s treatment method consisted of him giving his patients three lectures about what he believed to be the psychological causes of their condition.

Sarno is credited by some contemporary pain specialsists (Sarno’s work dates all the way back to the 1960s) as being as an important figure in as far as he encouraged further research into the mind-body connection which has led to the much greater understanding we have of its authenticity today.




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

Maternal Reinforcement Of Passive Dependency In Future BPD Sufferers

When I was young, my mother seemed to derive an odd sense of satisfaction (one hesitates to use the word ‘pleasure’) from my emotional distress. At such times, I see now, her fundamental motivation to comfort me (by talking to me, never in a tactile way by hugging etc.) was to make herself feel needed, of value, powerful, in control and superior to my own ‘inadequacy’.

Indeed, I can now see that she would deliberately induce states of distress in me so that she could then play the role of a nurturing mother ; she seemed to enjoy, and derive satisfaction from, toying with my emotions – repeatedly ‘breaking’ me in order to afford herself the opportunity of ‘fixing’ me – rather as a cat might enjoy and derive satisfaction from toying with a mouse by repeatedly catching it and letting it go only so it could catch it again…and so on…and so on…

This gave her complete control and absolute power over me ; once she had reduced me to a desperate and pleading display of tears by subjecting me to her unbounded rage and name-calling, and then left me to suffer for a while (often by giving me the silent treatment ),

I would be pathetically grateful, submissive and pliable when, at a time of her choosing, she deigned to ‘forgive’ me and play (for short while until the cycle repeated itself) the ‘magnanimous’ mother (on more than one occasion, it comes back to me now while writing this) by administering to me whisky in warm milk and half of one of her valium).

In short, playing the nurturing’ mother wasn’t about making me feel good – it was about making herself feel good about herself.

However, I have never mentioned this particular aspect of my mother’s behavior to anyone for fear of sounding ungrateful and cynical. After all, as many who have suffered childhood trauma will know all too well, even our most patently reasonable and self-evidently justifiable objections to our upbringing can be, and frequently are, invalidated by others (for myriad reasons – e,g. see my articles How Narcissistic Mothers Can Invalidate Us ; my article, BPD, Effects Of Biparental Dysfunction And Invalidation and also my article about gaslighting) compunding the effects of our trauma and intensifying our irrational feelings of shame.

I was heartened, therefore, to come across the work of Masterson and Rinsley (1975). They theorize that mothers can cause psychopathology in their children, later leading to the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD), by preventing them from undergoing the separation-individuation process (see also my article on ‘enmeshment’).

They prevent their children going through this process, according to Masterson and Riley, by encouraging them to be dependent. They encourage this dependency, according to the theory, as it gives them (i.e. the mothers) a sense of pride, satisfaction , gratification and self-esteem. It is further theorized that they achieve this by positively reinforcing the child’s ‘needy’ and ‘clingy‘ behavior whilst discouraging any signs of the child creating an independent, autonomous life for him/self. This then has the effect of preventing him/her from breaking away from her and forming his/her own idenity


Indeed, tangetially related to the idea of certain types of mothers (especially narcissistic mothers) not wanting their child to form his/her own sense of identity, I recall that my own mother would frequently take it as almost a personal affront if ever I tried to change the subject from talking about her life (normally her ‘boyfriend troubles’) to talk, even for a short while, about any of my own intersests (at the time these were meteorology and magic tricks ; I often think now that it is no co-incidence that the former involved trying to understand a chaotic and difficult to predict system, whilst the latter involved developing ‘special powers’ to make the ‘impossible’ happen, like making things ‘disappear’ – no prizes for guessing what these things almost certainly symbolized in my unconscious).

But back to Masterson and Risley. The researchers state that such maternal behavior (i.e. rewarding the child’s dependence whilst punishing him/her – or, at least, withdrawing approval – when s/he attempts to gain mastery, independence and self-sufficiency) is frequently most prevalent during the developmental stage of the child when psychological and social influences are at their most potent in relation to instilling in him/her a need to become independent, thus creating maximum conflict in the child’s mind.

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

Surprising Study On Reduction Of Negative, Obsessional Thoughts


We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that it is far from uncommon for those who have suffered significant childhood trauma to suffer obsessive, negative ruminations relating to the self as adults that become habitual and automatic. Frequently, too, these negative thoughts are irrational and unrealistic and researchers Gladding and  Schwartz have referred to them as deceptive brain messages.

In their book, entitled : You Are Not Your Brain, Gladding and  Schwartz provide examples of such intrusive and obstinately tenacious deceptive brain messages that include :

They argue that, in order to reduce such negative thinking it is necessary to take advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity (i.e. its ability to change itself) to ‘rewire’ it.  In order to achieve this, they recommend their FOUR STEP treatment method. The four steps are as follows :

  1. RELABEL the negative thoughts in a way which disempowers them (i.e. by labelling them as deceptive brain messages).
  2. REFRAME attitude towards these deceptive brain messages by viewing them as unimportant and false (click here for link to a useful reframing tool).
  3. REFOCUS attention, even whilst being aware of these deceptive brain messages, to a productive and positive activityor mental process.
  4. REVALUE : adopt a dismissive attitude towards the negative thoughts (aka deceptive brain messages) as having little or no value.

Of course, this is very much a simplification of their treatment method, and, to read about it fully, it would be necessary to read their book (see below). Also, a caveat is that the researchers advise that the method is only suitable for those who are suffering mild to moderate symptoms, rather than those with very serious conditions.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this article it is not necessary to have read about the method in great detail as I only wish to focus on a study, conducted at UCLA, that revealed that those suffering from OCD could be helped by the treatment method outlined above in a surprising (and very encouraging) way.



The purpose of the Four Step method is, as alluded to above, to rewire the brain in a beneficial way through the focusing of attention and, to test the hypothesis that this is possible, the study (referred to above) was conducted involving individuals who suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) and experienced continual, negative, repetitive intrusive thoughts which caused them distress.These individuals were then split into two groups, as described below :

GROUP ONE : These individuals were treated with MEDICATION.

GROUP TWO : These individuals were treated by learning the Four Step method (described above).

In order to measure the effectiveness of the treatment given to the participants from each group, each participant underwent a brain scan BEFORE the treatment and, also, TEN TO TWELVE WEEKS after their particular type of treatment (either medication or the Four Step method)


It was found that the GROUP TWO (the Four Step method group) participants’ brains were positively changed JUST AS EFFECTIVELY as the brains of participants in GROUP ONE (the medication group).

These results add to the now overwhelming body of evidence that, due to its neuroplasticity, the brain can undergo beneficial biological changes in response to therapies that train the individual, over a period of time, to intensely refocus his / her attention (in connection to this, you may also be interested in reading my previously published article on mindfulness meditation).


Even more encouragingly, a follow-up staudy conducted in Germany found that participants suffering from OCD experienced a statistically significant reduction in their symptoms JUST BY LISTENING TO A CD THAT EXPLAINED THE FOUR STEP METHOD. This finding adds to the pool of evidence showing that psychoeducation alone can be helpful to individuals suffering from mental health problems.

This suggests that just understanding what our mental health problem is, and how therapy can potentially help us, in and of itself, may help to ameliorate some mental health conditions.


Learn reframing techniques for negative statements

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

Childhood Trauma Leading To Psychotic And Immature Defense Mechanisms


According to the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the unconscious defense mechanisms we employ to help us deal with stress can be split into three main types ; these are :

  • psychotic defense mechanisms.
  • immature defense mechanisms.
  • intermediate / neurotic defense mechanisms.
  • mature defense mechanisms.

If we have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma which has led to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) / complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), we are more likely than average to develop psychotic and immature defenses rather than intermediate and mature ones.

Psychotic Defense Mechanisms :

Those who have been so affected by their traumatic experiences that they have developed PTSD or personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) are liable to develop psychotic defense mechanisms ; these include :

  • psychotic denial.
  • psychotic distortion,
  • psychotic projection,

All of these defense mechanisms are maladaptive.

Immature Defense Mechanisms :

Complex PTSD / PTSD sufferers are also prone to developing immature defense mechanisms; these include :

  • dissociation
  • – autistic fantasy
  • – passive aggression
  • – projection (paranoia)

These defense mechanisms are also maladaptive and  occur commonly in those suffering personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Intermediate / Neurotic Defense Mechanisms :

  • displacement
  • regression
  • isolation

Mature Defense Mechanisms :

  • suppression
  • sublimation
  • altruism
  • humor
  • anticipation
  • affiliation


Whilst immature defense mechanisms are maladaptive, mature defense mechanisms can be adaptive and healthy by, for example, helping to reduce our levels of anxiety, raising our levels of self-esteem and increasing our resilience and coping abillity in times of crisis.


Indeed, a study conducted by Malone et al., (2013), investigated the type of defense mechanisms being used by a group of individuals (all male) aged between 47 years and 63 years (specifically, the researchers were interested in THE LEVEL OF MATURITY OF THESE DEFENSE MECHANISMS).

The researchers then followed up these same individuals to assess the state of their health at the ages of 70, 75 and 80.

It was found those individuals who used defense mechanisms that were mature tended to have a higher level of social support and better health in later life than those who used less mature defense mechanisms.

This, then, suggests that mature defense mechanisms can help to improve not only mental health, but physical health, too.

Two reasons why mature coping mechanisms may improve physical health are :

  1. People who use mature defense mechanisms are better socially integrated than those who use immature ones (see above) and it is the commensurate social support they receive that benefits their health.
  2. Those who use immature defense mechanisms suffer greater levels of stress than their psychologically healthier counterparts and it is this increased stress that harms their health.

Conclusion :

If we can develop healthier and more mature defense mechanisms, then, based on the above research it would seem possible that we might become easier to be around, leading to increased social integration and more social support, leading to reduced stress and improved mental and physical health.

If you would like to see the full and detailed list of defense mechanisms taken into account in the study referred to above, click this link : FULL LIST OF DEFENSE MECHANISMS.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

The Freeze Response To Trauma



It is well known that our body’s self-protective response to imminent danger and threat (whether perceived or real) is to enter a state of ‘fight’ or ‘flight.’ However, what is perhaps slightly less well known is there is a third type of response :  the FREEZE RESPONSE.

So, the ‘fight, flight response’ may also sometimes be referred to as  the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response.

Whilst the ‘fight or flight’ reponse involves activation of the SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM, or SNS, the ‘freeze response’ entails acivation of the PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM, or PNS (or, more specifically, the DORSAL VAGAL PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM).

We may enter the freeze state (a state in which we psychologically and physically ‘shut down’) when the sympathetic nervous system has been intensely stimulated and yet we are STILL UNABLE TO PROTECT OURSELVES via the fight or flight response. In simplified terms, then, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over to ‘shut us down’ after an overworked sympathetic nervous system, as it were, ‘gives up’ and ‘throws in the towel.’ Technically, this is known as DORSAL VAGUS SHUTDOWN.

What Are The Main Characteristics Of The ‘Freeze State?’

The main symptoms that the ‘freeze state’ can give rise to are as follows :

  • decreased heart rate
  • decreased blood pressure
  • loss of sexual drive
  • feelings of derealiztion / depersonalization/ being ‘cut off from reality
  • feeling ‘zoned out’ (dissociated)
  • feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • psychic numbing
  • reduced rate of breathing
  • feelings of shame
  • impaired ability to access emotions
  • reduced rate of metabolism in the brain impairing ability to think clearly (the brain may feel ‘foggy’) and adversely affecting autobiographical memory
  • impaired articulacy
  • defensive / defeated body llanguage
  • feelings of numbness
  • complete collapse
  • inability to move certain parts of the body
  • reduced sensitivity to physical pain
  • feelings of constrictioin in the throat
  • feelings of being ‘trapped’
  • restricted breathing
  • reduction in facial expression


In evoloutionary terms, the freeze response has come about by allowing animals to ‘feign death’ (also known as ‘tonic immobility’ or ‘thanatosis’) as a defensive measure in life -threatening situations and to keep the body completely still so as not to attract the attention of predators ; also, the shutdown of the body helps to conserve metabolic energy until the ‘fight / flight’ state can be re-engaged.

In humans, however, when an individual, in connection with his /her childhood / developmental trauma, enters the freeze state, it can last for days, weeks, months or years. Whilst the individual may well not, objectively speaking, be in a real life-threatening situation, the brain and nervous system, on an unconscious level, ‘believes’ (and is therefore reacting as if) he / she is

According to polyvagal theory (Porges), in order to break out of the freeze state it is necessary for the traumatized individual, under the guidance of a suitably qualified, experienced, empathetic and re-assuring therapist, to start to process the traumatic childhood memories that gave rise to his ./ her condition and, in so doing, temporarily to re-enter the fight / flight state whilst being, simultaneously,  encouraged by the therapist to develop a sense of safety and social re-engagent, leading, ultimately, to reactivation of the previously shut down social engagement biological system ; activation of this system is of such vital importance as it is the opposite of the dorsal vagus system (i.e. the system that originally caused the traumatized individual to ‘shutdown’ – see above).

Therapies that have been shown to be of help with this recovery processes include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as they can train the individual restructure his / her thoughts in a way that helps him / her judge how safe s/he is more objectively and rationally and to break free from feelings of dissociation by feeling more present in his / her body.

Why Social Engagement Is So Vital :

Essentially, re-engaging socially, is of such vital importance as it is the opposite of the dorsal vagus system (i.e. the system that causes a person to ‘shutdown’ – see above) and helps the individual feel safe whilst processing his / her traumatic memories, temporarily re-entering the fight / flight state, and, ultimately, transitioning back to a state in which the social engagement biological system is healthily reactivated.

You can read more about polyvagal theory in Porges’ book (see below) :


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