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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 Linked To Agoraphobia

The term agoraphobia derives from the Greek word ‘agora’ which translates as ‘open place’ or ‘market place’ so ‘agoraphobia’, in literal terms (as opposed to clinical terms) means fear of ‘open places’ or ‘fear of the market place.’

Agoraphobia is listed by DSM V (the Diagnostic and Statitical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition – sometimes referred to as the ‘psychiatrist’s bible’) as an anxiety disorder and, in order to be diagnosed as suffering from it, an individual must experience a ‘marked fear’ of two or more of the five following situations :

  • using public transport
  • being in enclosed spaces such as shops
  • standing in a queue or being in a crowd
  • being outside of one’s home by oneself

As a result of this fear, the individual who is suffering from agoraphobia either avoids such situations or endures them whilst experiencing significant distress ; the distress or avoidance are caused by a fear that if something goes wrong escape would be difficult or help may not be forthcoming if panic symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms occur.

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF AGORAPHOBIA LINKED TO CHILDHOOD

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

Research has found that certain types of childhood trauma increase an individual’s risk of developing agoraphobia such as the death of a parent or being sexually abused.

REJECTION AND LACK OF PARENTAL WARMTH :

Research conducted by Arrindell et al. compared in-patient agoraphobics with ‘normal’ controls. All the participants were given questionnaires about how they were parented and it was found that :

These findings were given added weight because of the fact they replicated previous research findings involving agoraphobic out-patients (as opposed to in-patients that were used in the research described above).

SEPARATION ANXIETY :

Gittelman and Klein, in a paper reviewing research into whether or not there exists a link between agoraphobia and separation anxiety found that there is evidence of such a link in females but not in males ; they concluded from this that it is possible that agoraphobia has different causes in females than it does in males.

Furthermore, a review of research literature carried out by Gwinnett Center for Counseling and Family Therapy found that there was a link between adult agoraphobia and separation-anxiety issues as a child.

OTHER POSSIBLE CAUSES OF AGORAPHOBIA

  • An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain leading to an exaggerated stress-respone.
  • Impaired spatial awareness.

To read about other anxiety disorders which may be linked to childhood trauma, click here.

RESOURCES :

Overcoming Agoraphobia

Stop Panic Attacks

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

Children Don’t Complain Of Anxiety – They Say Their Stomach Hurts.

N.B. Never assume a physical complaint such as a stomach ache is brought on by stress. Always seek the opinion of an appropriately qualified medical professional.

A study conducted by Columbia University (Callaghan and Tottenham, 2019) has compared two groups of children :

  1. Children who had experienced DISRUPTED EARLY CAREGIVING (they had been adopted as babies or toddlers from care institutions or foster homes).
  2. Children who had been raised by a biologically related caregiver.

It was found that those from Groups 1 (i.e. those who had experienced disrupted early caregiving) were significantly more likely to suffer GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS (in the form of stomach aches, nausea, constipation and vomiting) than those from Group 2 (i.e. those who had been brought up by a biologically related caregiver).

DIFFERENCES IN STOMACH BACTERIA

Further investigation revealed also that those children who had experienced disrupted early life caregiving had significantly different stomach bacteria (e,g, in terms of diversity) from those who had been brought up by a biologically related caregiver.

IMPLICATIONS OF HAVING DIFFERENT STOMACH BACTERIA

These differences in stomach bacteria are of interest because, as the lead researcher in the study, Callaghan, pointed out, previous animal studies have demonstrated changes in stomach bacteria brought about by severe stress have an adverse effect upon neurological (i.e. brain) development.

BACTERIA AND ITS EFFECT ON BRAIN PROCESSING

All of the children in the study also underwent brain scans and it was found that their brain activity patterns were correlated with particular types of stomach bacteria ; such altered brain activity, linked to stomach bacteria type, can, in turn, affect the ability of the prefrontal cortex to regulate (i.e. control) emotion. This implies that children who frequently suffer stress induced stomach complaints may be at increased risk of developing mental health problems, particularly in relation to the ability to control emotions, later on in life.

However, the researchers involved in the study also pointed out that it is too early to say anything definitive in relation to these findings and that further research is necessary.

IMPLICATIONS

Finally, the researchers also pointed out that animal studies have demonstrated that changes in diet and ptobiotics can help to alter stomach bacteria which, in turn, reduces harm incurred by the nervopus system and that this knowledge may have implications in the future for the treatment of humans with conditions relating to the effects of stress-induced altered stomach bacteria on the nervous system development.

N.B. Never assume a physical complaint such as a stomach ache is brought on by stress. Always seek the opinion of an appropriately qualified medical professional.

Read my related posts :

My Humiliating Psychosomatic Response To Childhood Trauma

Childhood Trauma And Depression : Somatic Symptoms

RESOURCES

Natural Indigestion Remedy | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

How Bullying May Affect Teenagers’ Brains

A study conducted by Quinlan et al. (King’s College, London) on the effects of bullying on the brain and involving the study of 682 teenagers required these young people to fill out questionnaires about the extent to which they experienced bullying. The study ran over a number of years (i.e. it was a longitudinal study) and each of the 682 participants completed the questionnaires at the ages of 14, 16 and 19 years so that it could be ascertained how much bullying each had experienced over a 5 year period.

In order to invetigate the effects of bullying on their brains each of the 682 participants underwent brain scans (MRIs) at the ages of 14 and 19.

LEFT PUTAMAN AND LEFT CAUDATE REDUCED IN SIZE

The results of the study found that being severely and chronically bullied can have the following effects of the brain :

Reduced size of left putaman

Reduced size of left caudate

ABOVE BRAIN ABNORMALITIES LINKED TO INCREASES IN GENERALIZED ANXIETY

Quinlan, the leading researcher of the study, suggests that one effect of the above abnormalities is to increase the affected individuals’ level of generalized anxiety.

CORTISOL

Whilst Quinlan did not elucidate the biological mechanisms involved that were causing these effects, it is already known, from other research, that severe, ongoing stress (sometimes referred to as ‘toxic stress’) can cause the body to produce too much of the stress hormone known as cortisol and it is this excess that can damage the brain in various ways such as disrupting synapse regulation, brain cell death and, of crucial relevance to Quinlan’s study, reduction in the size of the brain.

REVERSIBILITY

Quinlan states that, due to the brain’s plasticity, the above abnormalities might be reversible although this matter will need to be investigated further in future research. ( To read about how, due to its plasticity, the brain can potentially repair itself, click here to go to my previously published article : 3 Ways To Repair Brain Damage Caused By Protracted Childhood Trauma ).

PREVIOUS RESEARCH

Previous studies have shown that the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex is also adversely affected by chronic bullying ; interestingly, this part of the brain seems to be involved in the generation of both psychological and physical pain which perhaps helps explain why when we experience emotional damage it can manifest itself by giving rise to sensations of pain which feel as if they have a physical component (in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article : How Emotional Suffering Can Feel Like Physical Pain).

Experiencing chronic, severe bullying has also be found to be correlated with : depression, anxiety, complex PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse, impaired academic performance and suicidal ideation.

RESOURCE

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

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

Being Traumatized ‘Like Having Foot On Brake And Gas At Same Time.’

The traumatized state has been alikened to the effects of the simultaneous depression of both a car’s gas pedal (accelerator) and brake. I explain why below :

Our physiological state of arousal is determined by the interplay between our sympathetic and parasympatheic nervous systems and these two systems have the following functions :

THE SYMPATHETIC AND PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEMS

THE SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM : Activation of the sympathetic nervous system induces in us the state of ‘fight or flight.‘ To do this, it ENERGIZES us by, for example, increasing the heart rate so more blood can be pumped to our muscles so we can run away faster or fight more powerfully. In this sense, using the above car analogy, the sympathetic nervous system can be alikened to the car’s gas pedal / accelerator.

THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM : In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system, when acticated, acts to calm us down and induces a restful state ; so, to again use the car analogy, the parasympathetic nervous system can be alikened to the car’s braking system.

COMPARING HUMAN PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO THOSE OF ANIMALS LIVING IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Peter Levine, a leading expert on truama and the developer of somatic experiencing therapy, explains that traumatized individuals are in a dysfunctional physiological state due to the nervous system entering a state of non-equilibrium which he illustrates by explaining why animals living in their natural environment do not tend to become traumatized as I explain below.

LIONS AND ZEBRAS

To give a simple example : a zebra threatened by a lion will take flight (i.e. run away’) aided by the extra energy its muscles receive due to activation of its sympathetic nervous system. Assuming it lives to get away, the energy supplied by the activation of the aforementioned sympathetic nervous system will have been naturally discharged during the chase.

A second example is that of two lions fighting each other. Both are given extra enegy due to the activation of there respective sympathetic nervous systems and, assuming neither is killed, this energy is naturally discharged during the fight.

HUMANS

Now contrast the above two examples from the animal kingdom with an example involving a human being. In modern day society, the majority of traumatic experiences we face do not allow us to deal with them by literally running away or physically fighting.

Because of this, the energy generated by the ‘fight or flight response (via activation of the sympathetic nervous system) cannot be properly discharged but, instead, becomes ‘trapped in the body’, rather like steam trapped in a pressure cooker.

NEUROPEPTIDES

This trapped, undischarged energy is stored in the body as neuropeptides and, if these chemicals remain unprocessed, they give rise to symptoms of posttraumatic stress which include feeling constantly unsafe, being unable to properly relax and being hypersensitivity to any perceived threat (also referred to as hypervigilance).

SOMATIC EXPERIENCING THERAPY

Somatic Experiencing Therapy was developed by Peter Levine in order to treat the condition described above which you can find much more about by visiting traumahealing.org.

RESOURCE :

Overcome Hypervigilance

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

Childhood Trauma Can Make Us Terrified Of Accepting Love In Adulthood.

It is well documented that severe and protracted childhood trauma greatly increases our risk of experiencing relationship difficulties in our adult lives (see my article : How Our Adult Relationships Are Ruined). In some cases, this can result in a fear, or even terror, of close, loving relationships in our adult lives. Many reasons have been put forward in an attempt to explain this not uncommon phenomenon and I summarize many of the main ones below :

SELF-HATRED :

If we were unloved, abused, rejected, abandoned or treated with disdain and contempt as children by our primary care-taker we may have internalized this negative view of ourselves which, in turn, can lead to an enduring state of irrational self-hatred.

Therefore, with a rock-bottom view of ourselves as adults, we may be convinced that we are undeserving of love and that anyone showing us love is either doing so out of pity or, alternatively, because they are a terrible judge of others’ characters and have failed to see us for the ‘appalling person’ we are due to some inexplicable deficit of their own.

In short, we develop a kind of ‘I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member‘ attitude to potential relationships.

As such, we may, as an unconscious defense mechanism, find ourselves only attracted to people who are not, and never will be, intersted in us as a romantic partner as, on some level, we are, paradoxically, more psychologically comfortable with rejection than we are with unconditional, loving acceptance – something we have never experienced and which represents a foreign, potentially dangerous, territoty.

IDENTITY CRISIS :

Related to the above, being cast in the role of a ‘lovable person’ when we have a deeply ingrained, core belief that we are essentially and fundamentally unlovable can serve to threaten our sense of identity ; we have become so familiar with the feeling of being unlovable, and the feeling has become so central to our very identity and sense of who we are, that to start viewing ourselves as lovable would throw us into such a state of psychological confusion, and entail such enormous reappraisal of our way of interacting with the world, our habitual behaviors and attitudes, that we may well prefer to maintain the psychological status quo which feels, in ways we may find hard to articulate, somehow safer and more comfortable.

VULNERABILITY TO EXPERIENCING SIMILAR PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN WE EXPERIENCED AS CHILDREN.

If we experienced rejection or abandonment as children (including emotional abandonment) we may be terrified (on a conscious or unconscious level) that accepting love from another person and forming a loving relationship with them will make us emotionally dependent upon them and,therefore, vulnerable to being hurt by them in the event that they, too, reject or abandon us in way that is reminiscent of our traumatic childhood experiences.

Indeed, in some cases, traumatic childhood experiences can significantly increase our risk of developing avoidant personalirt disorder (which operates as a defense mechanism to prevent us forming close relationships with others which could make us emotionally vulnerable).

Alternatively, being in a relationship may make us so fearful of being rejected or abandoned (as we were as children) that we become intensely possessive because perpetually and obsessively terrified that we will be cruelly betrayed.

FEAR OF BEING INADEQUATE AND DISILLUSIONING OUR PARTNER

We may have such a low opinion of ourselves that we believe, if we became emotionally involved with anyone who professed to love us, the scales would soon drop from their eyes and they would see us as the ‘despicable person’ we really are. As such. we may believe that to become part of another person’s life would be to infect and pollute it. In short, we fear may we cannot live up to what we perceive to be the other person’s idealized version of us and that they would quickly become disillusioned with us in the event we let them get close to us.

INTRUSION INTO PRIVACY

We may have experienced things as a child that we do not wish anyone else to know about and fear that a close emotional relationship with another may expose us to having our past enquired into too closely for comfort.

FEAR OF BEING CONTOLLED

If we were brought up by very controlling parents then, as adults, we may feat that a relationship may again expose us to the danger of having how we live our lives dictated by another,

FEAR OF EXPLOITATION

If we were exploited as a child by a parent (e.g. the parent used us to gain ‘narcissistic supply’, parentified us or used us as an emotional caretaker) we may equate any close emotionally union with another as exposing us to the risk of further exploitation.

FEAR OF ENGULFMENT

If our parents created with us a relationship that was inappropriately emotionally close (see my article on ’emotional incest’) we may fear that forming a close bond with another will expose us to the possibility of a similar fate of being ’emotionally engulfed’ (i.e. ‘invaded’ and having our lives ‘taken over’). This fear of engulfment is particularly common amongst sufferers of borderline personality disorder (a condition strongly linked to childhood trauma) and can lead to an unconscious drive in us to sabotage our relationships.

RESOURCES :

Overcome Fear of Rejection

Overcome Fear of Commitment

How to Stop Self Hate

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

Reasons Why ADHD Might Be Being Overdiagnosed

How Many Young People Are Diagnosed With ADHD?

Statistics reveal around 1 in 7 young people in the United States currently receives a diagnosis of ADHD (the majority of whom are male)) and it is has been argued by many that a large proportion of these diagnoses are incorrect ; in fact, it is quite possible that the number of incorrect diagnoses outweigh the correct ones.

Overdiagnosis ?

The extremely strong suspicion that ADHD is being overdiagnosed in young people in the United Stated is underlined by the fact that The American Psychiatric Association estimates the true number of ADHD sufferers to be around 5% (i.e. a mere third of those who are being diagnosed with the condition – see above) and this figure is generally endorsed as a realistic estimate ny most experts in the field.

Explosion of Diagnoses :

Also, it should be taken into consideration that there has been an absolute explosion in relation to the diagnosis of ADHD in the recent past ; for example, in 1990 only about 1% of young people, at most, had been diagnosed with ADHD.

In the UK, prescriptions of retalin have doubled for children and adolescents between 2003 and 2008 (and, in relation to adults, they have quadrupled).

So, if we accept the ADHD is indeed being overdiagnosed in young people, what are the possible reasons for this unfortunate occurrence?

Possible Explanations For Over-Diagnosis Of ADHD:

PROFITS :

One reason that is frequently put forward is that the organizations profiting from selling the drugs that are used to treat ADHD are funding studies, running aggressive campaigns (including campaigns endorsed by celebrities) and hiring physicians who will increase their sales and, of course, their profits.

RATIONALIZATION TO GAIN CONTROL :

It is also argued in some quarters that diagnosing a young person with ADHD so that he or she can then be medicated with drugs that have a ‘subduing’ effect may be, at least in part, motivated by a wish of some (e.g. over-stressed teachers) to control disruptive students rather than by a sole inclination to act in the young person’s best interests. Indeed, such motivation may, in some cases, be operating on an unconscious level with the concept of the young person having a genuine clinical need for the medication serving as a convenient rationalization.

‘PATHOLOGIZING BOYHOOD’ :

Indeed, some researchers have even suggested that the diagnosis of ADHD,and the subsequent administration of medication purpotedly to treat it, represents a cultural intolerance of boys deriving from a perception that their high levels of energy and aggressive tendencies make them hard to keep under discipline. In fact, as long ago as the 1970s, the drug retalin was being described by some as the ‘bahvior drug’ and, more recently, terms like ‘pathologizing boyhood’ and ‘medicating boyhood’ have been suggested in relation to the perceived inappropriate use of the drug (Kindton and Thompson, 1999 :Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys ).

‘MILD’ AND ‘MODERATE’ CASES :

A very large proportion of children (estimated at around 85 per cent) are diagnosed with ‘mild’ or ‘moderate’ symptoms of ADHD. It is argued that in such cases where symptoms are not severe and dramatically pronounced, the diagnosis is subject to being overly influenced by subjective opinion.

FAKING / PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT :

Some individuals may fake ADHD symptoms so that they can gain a prescription for ADHD medication in the hope that it will improve their powers of concentration and attention in a way that helps them to achieve better academic grades. In other words, they treat such medication as ‘performance-enhacing drugs.’

INDIVIDUALS YOUNG FOR THEIR GRADE :

One study conducted in the 1990s (Watson) found that young students who were young for their grade in school were 20 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD than those who were not in this category (although there was some initial dispute, subsequently resolved, over her findings).

Another study, conducted by Ford-Jones, PhD, found that children born in December (the youngest in their grade) were more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD than those born in December (the oldest in their grade).

DEPRESSION MISDIAGNOSED AS ADHD?

It is possible that depression is sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD because of the symptoms the two conditions share in common such as disrupted sleep, irritable mood and problems relating to focus, concentration and attention.

ANXIETY MISDIAGNOSED AS ADHD?

Similarly, it is possible that anxiety is sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD because of the symptoms the two conditions share in common such as irritable mood, problems relating to focus, concentration and attention, restlessness and difficulties relating to interpersonal relationships due to social anxiety.

PTSD MISDIAGNOSED AS ADHD? :

See my previously published article : Childhood Trauma : Is PTSD Being Misdiagnosed as ADHD?

WHAT ABOUT THE CORRECT DIAGNOSES?

It is important to stress, that despite controversy regarding the appropriateness, or otherwise, of many diagnoses of ADHD, it is widely accepted amongst the medical community that a significant quantity of ADHD diagnoses are clinically justifiable and that sometimes the prescribed medication that follows such a diagnoses is beneficial to the individual to whom it is administered.

NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND CARE EXCELLENCE (NICE) GUIDELINES FOR TREATMENT OF ADHD :

The UK guidelines (PDF, 217Kb) 

N.B. ALWAYS SEEK APPROPRIATE, EXPERT, PROFESSIONAL ADVICE BEFORE STARTING OR STOPPING MEDICATIONS.

 

RESOURCES :

 

Improve Impulse Control

MANAGE ADHD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

ADHD And Its Link To Childhood Trauma And A Negative Thinking Bias

There is increasing evidence derived from research studies that ADHD is linked to psychosocial stress, particularly childhood trauma which has been established as a major factor putting the child at increased risk of developing ADHD (e.g. Stevens et al., 2007).

Indeed, there is a growing school of thought expressing the view that many individuals are receiving a diagnosis of ADHD which is erroneous (i.e. a misdiagnosis) and, instead, should have received a diagnosis relating to the effects of traumatic stress (such as complex posttraumatic stress disorder – see my article entitled :Childhood Trauma And ADHD : Is PTSD BEING MISDIAGNOSED AS ADHD?

Negative Thinking Styles May Develop As A Result Of Childhood Trauma :

One major effect of childhood trauma can be to cause us to develop a negative thinking style, particularly if we were rejected, constantly criticized, made to feel unsafe, were denied affection or were neglected and / or otherwise abused.

Recent research suggests that the negative thinking resulting from the experience of childhood trauma can contribute to the development of ADHD. (SEE BELOW).

NEGATIVE MEMORY BIAS :

Several studies have focused on a particular type of negative thinking that researchers refer to as : NEGATIVE MEMORY BIAS (this refers to the tendeny to recall and recollect negative memories, rather than positive ones, particular when it comes to memories relevant to oneself, a phenomenon already known to put individuals at risk of developing emotional problems).

STUDIES INVESTIGATING THE LINK BETWEEN NEGATIVE MEMORY BIAS AND ADHD :

A study conducted by Krauel (2009) found that teenagers diagnosed with ADHD displayed less positive memory bias than non-ADHD individuals.

Another study, carried out by d’Acremont and Van der Linden (2007) found that individuals with ADHD symptoms were better able to recall faces with a negative expression (anger) than they were able to remember faces with a positive (happy) expression.

A further study (Vrijsen et al., 2017) suggests that the link between childhood trauma and ADHD symptoms may be, in part, mediated (i.e. brought about) by the negative memory bias caused by the childhood trauma. So, according to this study, the effect of childhood trauma on the development of ADHD symptoms is an indirect one (though more research is needed to investigate this preliminary finding further).

Implications For Treatment :

If, indeed, such negative memory bias contibutes to the development of ADHD, and further research backs up the hypothesis, then this will serve to elucidate understanding about the relationship between psychosocial stressors (particularly childhood trauma), negative memory bias and ADHD, thereby possibly ifluencing the direction of research into therapy for ADHD in the future.

 

RESOURCES :

Improve Impulse Control

Manage ADHD

Be Less Negative Pack 

 

RELATED ARTICLE : Childhood Trauma And ADHD : Is PTSD BEING MISDIAGNOSED AS ADHD?

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

 

Childhood Trauma Recovery