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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.

BPD And Impaired Ability To Send And Receive Social Signals.

social-cognition

We have already seen from many other articles published on this site that severe and protracted childhood trauma dramatically increases the probability that the individual will go on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) in later life. We have also seen that one of the major symptoms of BPD is chronic difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships with others. Recent research suggests that one of the important reasons that BPD sufferers experience such interpersonal difficulties is due to an impaired ability to send both receive and send social signals  (also referred to as SOCIAL COGNITION).

In terms of RECEIVING social signals from others, research has consistently shown that sufferers of BPD are liable to dysfunctionally and inaccurately infer the mental state of others (by, for example, interpreting the social signals these others are sending out are hostile when, in objective terms, they are not ; in other words, often, when BPD sufferers are trying to work out how others feel about them in social situations. they tend towards paranoid-style thinking styles – although usually not to such extreme levels that would qualify as being indicative of flagrant psychosis [it should be noted, though, that sufferers of BPD can occasionally suffer brief periods of psychosis, usually in response to particularly severe stress]).

social-cognition

In terms of the social signals that BPD sufferers SEND / GIVE OUT to others, recent research also suggests that they may also have an impaired ability to do this, too. It has been noted, for example, that BPD sufferers are more likely to send out ‘mixed’ social signals and also to express their emotions in more opaque and ‘hard to read’ ways than is the social norm.

In connection with the above, it is important to note that social signals can be sent and received on BOTH a conscious level AND on an unconscious level. And, although much of the research on the deficits BPD sufferers experience in relation to this is still at an early stage,  it is becoming increasingly apparent that such deficits in social cognition may be at the very heart of the myriad interpersonal difficulties those with BPD frequently face.

Advanced Social Skills Training Pack | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

 

 

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Effects Of Interpersonal Childhood Trauma On Sexuality

According to the traumagenic dynamics model (Finkelhor and Browne), severe and protracted childhood interpersonal childhood trauma (interpersonal trauma refers to types of trauma that occur between the child and significant others e,g, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence) can give rise to pervasive feelings of betrayal, powerlessness, stigmatization and traumatic sexualization, which in turn, can have extremely adverse effects upon self-image, one’s view of the world and one’s emotional responses.

This can then lead to two contrasting negative effects upon the individual’s sexuality :

  • some may respond by becoming sexually compulsive
  • others may respond by becoming sexually avoidant

Sexual compulsion is sometimes referred to as hypersexuality and involves the individual being preoccupied (to the extent that it causes the individual distress and / or negatively impacts important parts of his / her life such as physical health, vocation and relationships) with urges, fantasies and / or activities that are hard to keep under control ; these may include excessive promiscuity, risky sex, masturbation, paying for prostitutes, pornography and cybersex.

The term ‘sexual avoidance,’ on the other hand, refers to chronic lack of sexual desire which has serious adverse effects upon the individual’s quality of life ; if the extent of sexual avoidance and related symptoms meet a certain threshold, it can be diagnosed as sexual aversion disorder. A person suffering from this disorder may avoid sex due to feelings of fear, revulsion and disgust in relation to sexual activity and suffer panic attacks at the thought of participating in it ; this, in turn, can, of course, seriously damage intimate relationships.

Both sexual avoidance and sexual compulsion are thought to be defense mechanisms (albeit dysfunctional ones) serving to protect the individual from intrusive, traumatic memories and flashbacks, or to reduce feelings of low self-esteem related to the devastating effects of the original childhood, interpersonal trauma. For example, a person with very low self-esteem may compulsively try to attract sexual partners to help him / her feel ‘desired’, ‘wanted’ or ‘loved’, however illusory, fleeting and superficial such faux-feelings may be.

Such promiscuity undertaken in a (futile) attempt to bolster self-esteem can, of course, ultimately serve only exacerbate feelings of loneliness, emptiness, guilt and shame ; indeed, it should be noted that some individuals alternate between periods of sexual compulsion and periods of avoidance. This ambivalence towards the concept of sexual activity reflects how individuals can be prone to switch between sexually compulsive behavior – in a desperate attempt to feel better – and sexually avoidant behavior – when they realize such behavior has left them feeling even worse).

Finally, it should be stated that research suggests sexual dysfunctional behavior not only can affect those who have experienced interpersonal trauma through sexual abuse, but also through physical and psychological abuse, as well.

RESOURCE :

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

PTSD And Physically Evaluating The Brain

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) can both be considered forms of brain INJURY even though the cause of the injury is extreme psychological trauma rather than a physical trauma such as a blow to the head with a hammer or car accident.

However, when psychiatrists treat PTSD with drugs, they do so, in the vast majority of cases, without looking at the organ they are treating (i.e. the brain), unlike, say, a cardiologist, who would not consider treating the heart without, first, physically evaluating it.

In relation to this, the psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen stresses the importance that, before prescribing psychoactive drugs in patients suffering from PTSD (and other disorders), it is vital that the patient’s brain is physically evaluated in order to help ascertain in what ways it may be behaving sub-optimally ; he argues that such physical evaluations of the brain would reduce the amount of guess work psychiatrists (who do not examine the brain) must currently employ when prescribing medications intended to beneficially alter brain function and thus ameliorate the patient’s particular symptoms.

The method Amen recommends for physically evaluating what is going on in the brains of patients seeking therapeutic intervention for their particular condition is called SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) imaging.

What Information Does SPECT Imaging Provide About The Brain?

SPECT imaging measures blood flow in the brain and, because this blood flow reflects brain activity, it provides three important preces of information about the brain’s functionality ; these are :

  1. Areas of the brain that are functioning well.
  2. Areas of the brain that are overactive.
  3. Areas of the brain that are underactive.

Armed with this information, Amen argues, the psychiatrist who makes use of SPECT imaging is in a much stronger position to tailor his / her treatment to the specific needs of the individual based upon the results of this imaging technique, whereas the psychiatrist who does not physically evaluate the brain in such a manner is forced to merely speculate what is happening in the patient’s brain, thus making his / her decisions about which psychoactive drugs need to be administered less informed and, potentially, therefore, less effective.

eBook :

childhood-trauma-brain

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

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

Flashbacks, Memory And The Prefrontal Cortex

ABOVE : SHORT VIDEO SUMMARY (2 MINUTES) OF MAIN POINTS OF ARTICLE.

We have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site how severe and protracted childhood trauma can, in some cases, lead to the development of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) in later life and that one possible symptom of this condition is the experiencing of FLASHBACKS.

Flashbacks involve the individual who suffers from them re-experiencing and reliving traumatic events involuntarily in such an intense and vivid way (sometimes involving hallucinations) that it feels like they are actually happening in the here-and-now.

Flashbacks are generally triggered by something that reminds the individual (on a conscious or unconscious level) of the original traumatic event, even very tandentially.

FLASHBACKS, MEMORY AND THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX :

A study conducted in 2008 involving sufferers of disorders related to stress has helped to cast some light upon what is happening in the brains of individuals who are prone to experiencing flashbacks.

First, it was found that these individuals’ ability to perform general memory tasks was inferior in comparison to the performance on the same tasks by healthy individuals.

Second, when those suffering from a stress-related condition were asked by the researchers to carry out a ‘suppression task’ (a task in which they were required to attempt NOT to think about something) they demonstrated LESS ACTIVITY IN THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX than did the healthy individuals when instructed to undertake the same task.

From this finding it was inferred that these individuals’ (i.e. those suffering from a stress-related disorder) underactive prefrontal cotices interfered with their ability to prevent traumatic memories breaking through into conscious awareness.

Learning ‘GROUNDING TECHNIQUES’ can help individuals cope with their flashbacks (grounding techniques involve using the five senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell – to reconnect with the present) although many may also require the services of an appropriately trained, qualified and experienced therapist, paticularly if suffering from disorders such as PTSD or complex PTSD.

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

BPD, Feeling Painfully Empty, The ‘Leaky Cup’ Metaphor And Thrill Seeking

When a child is born into the world, s/he is utterly helpless and dependent upon his / her mother, and, in the early days of life, as long as his / her mother is present and sufficiently responsive to his / her needs, the baby is able to feel relatively safe, content and secure.

However, when the mother is absent, the baby quickly becomes panicked and distressed (as s/he has no way of knowing for certain that the mother will return.

As the baby develops, though, and continues to receive at least adequate nurturing from the mother, s/he becomes more able to tolerate periods of time when the mother is not present, especially if s/he is able to derive some compensatory comfort during such periods from objects such as soft toys and dummies. This is possible because s/he has managed to internalize the emotional nourishment s/he has previously received from the mother in such a way as to protect him/herself from developing overwhelming feelings of insecurity during temporary, maternal absences.

A metaphor that helps to elucidate this process is that of the ‘leaky cup,’ If an infant has received adequate ’emotional nourishment’ from the mother during the very early part of his/her life, s/he will have a good store of this nourishment in his/her (metaphorical) cup, and, during separations from the mother, the nourishment will only slowly ‘leak out of the cup.’ In other words, the infant is able to draw on this ‘nourishment’ during ephemeral periods of maternal absence as the store is reasonably voluminous and enduring.

However, in the case of an infant who has received inadequate nurturing from his mother during his/her early life, his/her ‘cup of emotional nourishment’ will be far less full than the relatively secure infant’s cup, and, what’s more, far ‘leakier’. Such a poorly cared for infant, then, will have an insufficient supply of previously stored emotional nourishment upon which to draw and is liable to become highly distressed as a result of even very brief periods of maternal absence (in terms of Bowlby’s theory, the infant is ‘insecurely attached’ to the mother).

Putting it simply, then, the nurtured infant can be viewed as adequately ‘full’ in terms of ’emotional nourishment’, whereas the neglected infant can be viewed as nearly ’empty’ in terms of such maternal nourishment.

As the neglected / empty child grows (assuming this lack of emotional nourishment is not somehow corrected, s/he will then, of course, eventually become an adult who also feels a pervasive sense of emptiness, especially if the extent of his/her childhood neglect has led him/her to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD).

In such cases, this feeling of ’emptiness’ can lead to severe and chronic psychological suffering and anguish.

It has been hypothesized, therefore, that these feelings of emptiness (one hallmarks of BPD, as alluded to above) are intimately connected to another frequent symptom of the disorder, namely that of impulsive thrill-seeking and risk-taking.

In short, in a desperate (and, ultimately, of course, futile) attempt to rid him/herself of intolerably painful feelings of emptiness,the BPD is exquisitely vulnerable to developing an array of risky, self-destructive addictions, including drug-taking, alcoholism, chain-smoking, gambling and self-harm.

Currently, one of the most effective treatments for BPD available is dialectical behavior therapy.

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

Psychological Maltreatment Most Harmful Form Of Abuse, Evidence From Major Study Suggests

A major study (Spinazzola et al.) on the effects of child maltreatment provides strong evidence that psychological maltreatment of children is the most harmful form of abuse.

The study analyzed a sample of 5616 young people who had histories of childhood trauma in the form of :

– psychological maltreatment (i.e. emotional abuse / emotional neglect)

– sexual abuse

– physical abuse

Each young person who participated in the study was then assessed on whether or not he / she had experienced particular behavioral problems, symptoms and disorders (12 in all) , a list of which I present below :

– substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behavior problems in the home

criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

suicidality

– behavior problems at school

– sexualized behaviors

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

The researchers found that those young people who had a history of psychological maltreatment were more damaged  by their adverse experiences (as measured by to what extent they were affected by the above listed behavioral problems, symptoms and disorders) than were those who had suffered physical or sexual abuse.

More specifically, of the above 12 listed behavioral problems, symptoms and disorders, those who had suffered psychological maltreatment were equally likely, or more likely, than those who had suffered physical abuse to have been affected by :

– substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behavior problems in the home

criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

suicidality

– behavior problems at school

Furthermore, of the above 12 listed behavioral problems, symptoms and disorders, those who had suffered psychological maltreatment were equally likely, or more likely, than those who had suffered sexual abuse to have been affected by :

 – substance abuse

– alcohol abuse

– other forms of self-harm

– skipping school or daycare

– behavior problems in the home

criminal activity

attachment problems

– academic problems

– running away

suicidality

– behavior problems at school

IMPLICATIONS OF THE STUDY :

In response to the above findings, the authors of the study emphasized the need for it to become a matter of public policy to develop and implement childhood trauma interventions in ways that recognize just what a devastating effect psychological maltreatment in one’s childhood can have upon a person’s quality of life.

They also draw attention to the need for the child welfare system to improve their ability to detect cases of child psychological maltreatment (which frequently occurs ‘under the radar’) so that effective interventions may be implemented.

eBook :

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Click here.

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

Inconsistent Mothering Leading To The ‘Splitting’ Defense Mechanism.

‘Splitting’ is a primary defense mechanism for coping with identity disturbance and occurs when an individual is not able to integrate the range of positive and negative qualities that exist in the self and in other people into a realistic, cohesive, overall, mental representation.

Because of this, the person prone to ‘splitting’ has a very strong tendency to see themselves and others in terms of extremes which dramatically swing from one polarity to the other (e.g. idealizing a person one minute, then demonizing the same person the next). In other words, ‘splitting’ involves a kind of ‘all or nothing’ and ‘black or white’ thinking which cannot tolerate ambiguity.

The rest of this article will provide a leading theory as to why a person may (unconsciously) develops the ‘splitting’ defense mechanism, and, in order to do this, it is useful, first, to look at how a person’s identity develops :

IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT :

According to Erik Erikson, the forging of our core sense of identity takes place during our adolescence via the process of being influenced by the values of parents / primary carers, friends and others, some of whom we identify with, some of whom we over-identify with and some of whom we reject or actively rebel against.

The resultant sense of self, then, helps us form friendships, decide upon and traverse educational and career paths, and generally, comfortably integrate ourselves within wider society.

However, if the young person is not able successfully to complete this process, identity confusionis the result.

A leading theory as to why an individual may not form a solid sense of personal identity and, rather, develop a diffuse sense of self and identity confusion, is that such an individual experienced inconsistent mothering.

WHAT IS MEANT BY INCONSISTENT MOTHERING?

Inconsistent mothering can be said to have occurred when the relationship between the mother and child is dysfunctional, disrupted and disturbed in such a way that the attitude and behavior she displays towards him or her (i.e. her child) fluctuates dramatically and unpredictably over time (as may occur, for example, when the mother has a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder or is an alcoholic or substance abuser).

So, if the mother is at times nurturing towards her child, but, at other times, cold, rejecting and hurtful, the child psychologically defends him/herself from this overwhelmingly confusing and unbearably painful reality by mentally ‘splitting’ the mother into ‘two separate mothers’, the ‘all-good’mother’ and the ‘all bad mother, so that s/he no longer needs to experience distressing ambiguity and be constantly in fear of his or her mother becoming unpredictably hostile (all this, for obvious reasons, takes place on an unconscious level). This process of splitting can also be explained as taking place to psychologically defend the child from the impossible contradiction of both loving and hating the mother simultaneously.

Those suffering borderline personality disorder (BPD) are particularly prone to falling prey to the splitting defense mechanism which they learned during their traumatic childhoods and the task of the therapist is to help the individual understand the root cause of the problem and assist him or her in the task of re-integrating good and bad aspects of the same person and accept the reality of others being a mixture of both desirable and undesirable qualities. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can be very effective in relation to this.

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