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Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Gambling.

childhood trauma and gambling addiction

Childhood Trauma And Gambling Addiction :

Research suggests that childhood trauma increases the likelihood of future addictions, including gambling. This gambling may become pathological. The types of childhood trauma that were experienced in pathological gamblers include violence, sexual abuse and loss. For instance, Jacobs (2008) conducted research demonstrating that childhood trauma greatly increased the risk of addictions in later life.

It has been hypothesized that gambling helps the individual cope with their childhood trauma through the psychological process known as DISSOCIATION (whilst intensely involved with gambling the individual ‘goes into another world’, blissfully disconnecting, for a time, from painful reality).

Pathological gambling is closely connected to impulse and control disorders; indeed, such disorders frequently express themselves in conditions linked to childhood trauma (such as borderline personality disorder).Pathological gambling may involve:

– an overwhelming preoccupation with gambling
– lying to others to cover up the extent of the gambling
– a failure to stop gambling even when the individual strongly wants to do so

The profile of the pathological gambler is often a complicated one as the individual often suffers from an array of other psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety (Abbot et al., 1999).

Studies estimate that about 2% (although the figure varies somewhat from study to study) of the U.S. population suffers from pathological gambling.

Factors other than childhood trauma which make an individual more at risk of developing pathological gambling inclue:

– being male
– being young
– having other mental health problems

Polusny et al (1995) suggested that addictive behaviours help the individual avoid both the memories of their childhood trauma together with the deeply painful feelings and emotions associated with it. Therefore, because activities such as gambling reduce the emotional distress connected with childhood trauma, the individual is driven to repeat the gambling experience again and again, due to the reward it provides of reducing psychological pain (this is technically known as negative reinforcement).

It is my contention that, on some level, the benefits of reducing psychological pain must outweigh the financial losses; as losses can be enormous this gives some indication of the level of psychological pain the individual is in and the strength of the internal drive to reduce it. Of course, this can only be helpful in short-term bursts and, overall, it goes without saying that the individual’s pain and suffering are compounded.

gambling addiction

THE GENERAL THEORY OF ADDICTION:

This model proposes that there is an underlying biological state (ie an abnormal resting arousal state) together with a psychological state which is painful for the individual (for example, by creating a feeling of unbearable anxiety) often caused by childhood trauma to which activities such as gambling provide an ‘escape route’ (temporarily). The individual becomes addicted to this short-term relief (although often he will not realize this is the fundamental reason he continues to gamble, the drive frequently being unconscious).

Addictions which alleviate extreme stress in this manner are known as MALADAPTIVE COPING STRATEGIES; they are, essentially, learned defences against UNRESOLVED TRAUMA-RELATED ANXIETY (Henry, 1996).

Studies have revealed that up to 80% of pathological gamblers have suffered extreme childhood trauma. Further studies suggest that the more severe and protracted the trauma, the higher the risk is that the individual will develop pathological gambling behaviour and the YOUNGER the individual will be when he starts to use gambling as a coping strategy. Indeed, I myself started playing fruit machines at the age of twelve (many places weren’t strict about the age of the person playing them in the late 1970s) and I can remember quite distinctly the pleasant relief it gave to my already depressed and anxious emotional state.

TREATMENT IMPLICATIONS:

It seems likely, then, that childhood trauma which remains unresolved is likely to elevate the risk of pathological gambling in individuals. When treating pathological gamblers, therefore, it is important to assess the degree of trauma the individual might have suffered and to consider appropriate psychological interventions which could be implemented to help the individual resolve the trauma. It is the psychological pain which underlies the compulsion to gamble which it is necessary to address.

RESOURCE :

Overcome Gambling Addiction : Self-hypnosis download – Click here for more information

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

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Alcoholism.

childhood trauma and alcoholism

Childhood Trauma And Alcoholism

When childhood trauma remains unresolved (ie. it has not yet been worked through and processed with the help of psychotherapy), alcoholism may result (together, frequently, with aggressive behaviour).

Indeed, it has been suggested that unresolved traumatic events are actually the MAIN CAUSE of alcoholism in later life. The trauma may have its roots in:

– the child having been rejected by the parent/s
– too much responsibility having been placed upon the child

As would be expected, it has also been found that adult risk of both alcoholism and depression increases the greater the number of traumatic events experienced and the greater their intensity.

Children who grow up in alcoholic households have also been found to be at greater risk of becoming alcoholics themselves in adulthood, but this appears to be due to the fact that, as children with alcoholic parent/s, they are more likely to have experienced traumatic events than children of non-alcoholic parents, rather than due to them modelling their own behaviour regarding drinking alcohol upon that of their parent/s.

childhood trauma and alcoholisms

Furthermore, the more traumatic events experienced during childhood (of a physical, emotional or sexual nature), the more intensely symptoms of ANGER are likely to present themselves later on.

In research studies on childhood trauma, the degree of trauma experienced (and it is obviously not possible to quantify this with absolute precision) is often measured using the CHILDHOOD TRAUMA QUESTIONNAIRE (Fink et al., 1995) which identifies EMOTIONAL INJURIES and PARENTAL NEGLECT experienced during childhood and adolesence.

 

PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES view alcholism as A MEANS OF COPING WITH ANXIETY.
Studies suggest that an alcoholic adult is about ten times more likely to have experienced physical violence as a child and about twenty times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse. Lack of peace in the family during childhood is also much more frequently reported by adults suffering from alcoholism, as are: EMOTIONAL ABUSE, NEGLECT, SEPARATION AND LOSS, INADEQUATE (eg distant) RELATIONSHIPS and LACK OF PARENTAL AFFECTION.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE TREATMENT OF ADULT ALCOHOLICS:

Psychotherapy to help the individual suffering from alcoholism resolve his/her childhood trauma may improve treatment outcomes and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Further research is being conducted to help to confirm this.

RESOURCES :

Cope With Alcohol Withdrawal – CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

If you would like to view an infographic of the relationship between childhood trauma and substance abuse/addiction, please click here.

For another infographic, which focuses just upon the link between childhood trauma and alcoholism alone, please click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Violence. Part Two.

childhood_trauma_effects

It is possible that even just one, short-lived, traumatic event experienced in childhood, particularly in very early childhood, can prove so overwhelming that it leads to intense emotional suffering. Much research has been conducted upon this, and, to use just one example, a study by Pincus has demonstrated that just about all violent adult criminals have, as children, undergone extreme psychological trauma leading to such intense emotional suffering which has a dramatic impact on their subsequent psychological and physiological development and thus on their behaviour as adults.

It is because the trauma is UNRESOLVED (ie. the individual who experienced it has not processed and worked through it with the help of professional psychotherapeutic intervention) that its effect continues to be played out, all too frequently, through violent behaviour.

ALTERED PHYSIOLOGY.

In such individuals, the instinctive, internal ‘fight’ response is far more easily triggered, and, indeed, far more intensely triggered, when the individual who has experienced childhood trauma perceives himself to be faced with a threat. Due to the unresolved trauma, the PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSE TO THREAT ALSO REMAINS UNRESOLVED. In fact, the individual’s nervous system is perpetually in a state of HYPER-AROUSAL: expecting threat, perceiving threat everywhere, and, on a hair-trigger, ready to fight.

In essence, the individual is trapped in the moment when they did not release the aggressive energy in response to the original trauma/s. This pent-up aggressive energy, then, is condemned, repeatedly, to express itself in adulthood in the form of various types of emotions; these include anger, hatred and rage.

Until the trauma is properly resolved, the individual, unconsciously, becomes trapped in a cycle of attempting to resolve the trauma through compulsive reenactment; we reenact the original trauma in a manner which is closely linked to that original trauma. For example, a child who was exposed to a lot of aggression, hostility or violence is quite likely, as an adult, to be repeatedly drawn into violent situations.

Far from this reenactment resolving the trauma, it actually perpetuates its effects. However, because the behaviour is being driven by largely unconscious motivations, the individual reenacting the trauma is very often powerless to alter his automatic responses to triggers such as perceived threat ( the threat, due to the individual’s hyper-aroused nervous system, often being over-estimated or, even, imagined).

THE GOOD NEWS.

This is all very depressing. However, despite the fact it has been believed, in the past, that extreme trauma leading to cyclical violence could not be cured, because, it was thought, the brain had been irreversably damaged by the original emotional trauma (producing constant feelings of depression, anxiety and rage), more up-to-date research is suggesting that pathological symptoms resulting from trauma do NOT have to be caused by actual physical brain damage (ie. they can be caused by trauma which has not physically damaged the brain) and that when the trauma is effectively resolved through therapy the individual’s nervous system can return to normal and, thus, greatly improve the individual’s behaviour.

There is most certainly hope, then, for even the most severely traumatized amongst us.

childhood_trauma_aggression_ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. $3.49 CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Violence. Part One.

childhood trauma and violence

A research study (Fonagy et al., 1997) showed that 90% of young offenders had suffered significant childhood trauma, including both abuse and loss (eg. of a parent through divorce). Neglect in childhood was also a very significant factor in greatly increasing the risk of later violent offending. Violent offending following such trauma is sometimes referred to as ‘acting out’.

THE EFFECTS OF LOSS DURING CHILDHOOD.

The psychologist Bowlby (1969) studied the effects of loss in childhood (eg. through parental divorce). He demonstrated that it very often led to the child responding by passing through three stages:

1) PROTEST (due to SEPARATION ANXIETY).

2) DESPAIR (due to grief over the loss. NB. The loss need not be due to death).

3) EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT (a defense mechanism).

Following loss, if the child is not treated sympathetically and emotionally supported, his or her response to the loss can become pathological.

childhood trauma and violence

TYPES OF LOSS.

Two types of loss that the child might experience are death of a parent or parental divorce. But a feeling of loss can, in fact, be just as damaging (or, indeed, even more damaging) following less overt forms of loss. For example:

-parental rejection
-parental threats to abandon the child
-parental neglect/lack of emotional involvement
-parental abuse
-parents not giving the child love

Later work by Bowlby (1979) has shown that children often ‘re-experience’ their childhood loss in later life when faced with further separation and loss, or the threat of it, in their adult relationships. This may be expressed by the individual ‘re-experiencing’ his or her feelings of childhood loss by reacting with violence, anger and hatred.

Furthermore, these dysfunctional response patterns are resistant to change as the individual’s perception of adult relationships becomes distorted by their experience of childhood loss (in essence, leading to error-correcting information being defensively and selectively excluded from consciousness).

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND LATER DIFFICULTIES REGULATING INTERNAL STATES/EMOTIONS.

Further research (Van der Kolk et al., 1995) has shown that childhood trauma can lead to the individual experiencing a deep feeling of terror which he or she is unable to articulate; this in turn leads to the individual experiencing extreme problems in relation to regulating internal states/emotions. Indeed, this dysfunction is biological in origin, as the biological state of the individual has been adversely affected by the childhood trauma.

HABITUAL AND REPETITIVE RELATIONSHIP DIFFICULTIES (ATTACHMENT DISORDER) IN ADULT LIFE FOLLOWING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

It has also been demonstrated by research that, following loss-related childhood trauma, the individual’s adult relationships very frequently induce great feelings of insecurity (‘attachment insecurity’/attachment disorder/attachment anxiety) in later life and that these reponses to interpersonal relationships become repetitive and habitual.This can, and, often does, lead the individual to adopt dysfunctional coping strategies including alcohol and drug misuse, violence and crime.

 

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

Borderline Personality Disorder: Raising Our Self-Esteem.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THINKING BADLY ABOUT OURSELVES?

Individuals with low self-esteem constantly criticize themselves. We may even META-CRITICIZE ourselves (criticize ourselves for criticizing ourselves). We oftemn focus on mistakes and over-generalize from them, believing that these mistakes completely define us as a person (thus losing perspective and ignoring the positive things about ourselves; in other words, being biased against ourselves, often because we have been programmed to dislike ourselves during childhood).

This faulty thinking style leads to depression, guilt and low confidence. We may think of ourselves as: -stupid -unlikeable -inferior -weak -incompetent etc,etc…

We need to question our negative beliefs about ourselves and ask ourselves: ARE WE CONFUSING OUR THOUGHTS ABOUT OURSELVES WITH THE ACTUAL FACTS? One of the biggest dangers of self-criticism is that it can PARALYZE and DEMORALIZE us, taking away our confidence to try to develop ourselves in life. We feel doomed to perpetual, unremitting failure.

CONSTANTLY CRITICIZING OURSELVES IS UNFAIR:

We would not follow a friend around all day and focus his attention on his every little mistake by loudly announcing it to the exclusion of everything else, so why do we think it fair to do it to ourselves – undermining ourselves, chipping further away at our own precarious confidence?

CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM IS COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC:

Often, we criticize ourselves with the benefit of hindsight – overlooking the fact that it was not possible to have this perspective at the time, and that we reacted AS THINGS APPEARED TO US THEN.

When we criticize ourselves in RETROSPECT, we do so with the benefit of information that was not available to us at the time we acted. CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM PREVENTS US FROM LEARNING:

By constantly criticizing ourselves we take away our confidence to tackle problems in the future that could help develop us as a person; we keep ourselves ‘stuck’. We learn much better by PRAISING OURSELVES FOR WHAT WE DO RIGHT, NOT CRITICIZING OURSELVES FOR WHAT WE DO WRONG.

If we conclude we’re a hopeless failure, condemned to be eternally incompetent and useless, when we get things wrong, we will lose all incentive to perservere and make constructive changes in our lives.

CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM IS MASOCHISTIC:

By constantly criticizing ourselves, we are kicking ourselves when we are down. We might be criticizing ourselves for such things as lacking confidence or always being miserable. It is important to remember, though, that other people, too, would probably see themselves in the same way if they had had the same experiences as us. It is a NATURAL and COMMON response to stressful events and does not mean that there is anything fundamentally wrong with us.

OVERCOMING OUR CRITICAL THOUGHTS:

-Spotting our self-critical thoughts: self-critical thoughts can become automatic, a routine we have never actively tried to change. We may not even have considered that we can change, assuming they were an essential and intransigent part of our nature.

But changing the way we think about ourselves changes the way we feel and behave, so it is necessary for us to stop being so hard on ourselves and focus much more on our positive qualities an our potential to grow as a person as we would like to.

We need to stop feeling excessive guilt and disappointment in ourselves and realize such thoughts are most probably the result of depressed, faulty self-judgments and do not accurately reflect the person we actually are.

We need to gradually distance ourselves from these erroneous, negative self-descriptions that we have, up until the time we undertake to change, imposed upon ourselves.

Challenging our negative thoughts about ourselves:

When we have negative thoughts about ourselves we can do the following:

-tell ourselves our thoughts about ourselves could be completely mistaken, unrealistic and unfair. Also, they may be caused by an irrational guilt complex and a subsequent unconscious wish to punish ourselves.

-concentrate on all the evidence AGAINST our negative view of ourselves.

-consider other perspectives: are we taking the most negative one possible?

-remind ourselves that our negative thoughts are keeping us stuck in our life situation, making us too depressed, unmotivated and lacking necessary confidence to develop our full potential and to change our lives for the better.

-remind ourselves that we are almost certainly judging ourselves too harshly; much more harshly, say, than we would judge a friend. -remind ourselves that it is irrational to write ourselves off as a person due to some past mistakes and weaknesses. -make more of our strengths and less of our weaknesses.

-stop feeling disproportionately guilty about mistakes made in relation to great stress.

RESOURCES

TEN STEPS TO SOLID SELF-ESTEEM MP3CLICK HERE

CHALLENGING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS MP3CLICK HERE

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

Borderline Personality Disorder And Low Self-Esteem.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

We come to form our beliefs, including those about ourselves, through our life experiences. Of course, the beliefs we hold because of what has happened to us in life can be very inaccurate.

Experiences that we have early in life have a particularly strong impact on how we feel about ourselves, and, below, I list some that are likely to lead us to develop a feeling of low self-esteem, leading us to dislike ourselves, overly criticize ourselves, lack confidence, feel unlovable and believe we’re not interesting or important:

– our parents treating us as a constant disappointment in childhood
– being bullied/ left out/ maliciously teased when we were at school
-feeling, or being treated, like we don’t fit in at home – ‘black sheep syndrome’
– suffering prejudice and discrimination when we were children
– experiencing systematic and cruel punishment as children
– being neglected when we were children (eg deprived of love, security, interest, praise etc)
– having constantly to cope with a parent’s distress/emotional needs when we were children, at a cost to ourselves.

I elaborate on each of these below:

OUR PARENTS TREATING US AS A CONSTANT DISAPPOINTMENT IN CHILDHOOD:

This can include parents always putting our mistakes and weaknesses in the spotlight whilst simultaneously ignoring our strengths and the positive aspects of ourselves. It can also involve being constantly ridiculed and teased in a hurtful way ( my own mother referred to me as ‘scabby’, because, as a child, I had the nervous habit of picking at scabs on my arms and legs; and also ‘poof’, because I was highly sensitive ). Over time, it is all too easy to become conditioned into believing that there is something FUNDAMENTALLY wrong with us and that we are of no value.

BEING BULLIED/LEFT OUT/MALICIOUSLY TEASED AT SCHOOL:

We all want to be accepted by our peer group when we are young and developing our fragile and vulnerable self-concept. It is a human instinct, particularly pronounced during adolesence, to want to be accepted by the group. We evolved, as a species, after all, as social animals because acceptance by the group added to our chances of survival. It is, therefore, a fundamental psychological drive, created by millions of years of evolution, difficult (putting it mildly), therefore, to overcome.

Indeed, it is so powerful that it can lead to problems such as feeling a need to conform to group expectations even if it makes us uncomfortable (eg feeling a pressure to be confident and jovial when we actually feel depressed and anxious).

If we don’t conform to the expectations of the group (unless one is an exceptionally strong personality, which normally does not materialize until later in life) we may be rejected, bullied and cruelly teased and this can have a very damaging and lasting effect on our self-esteem.

FEELING, OR BEING TREATED, LIKE WE DON’T FIT IN AT HOME:

This is sometimes referred to as ‘being the black sheep of the family’. Perhaps there is something about us that does not fit in. An example might be the central character of the film, ‘BILLY ELLIOT’, who, at a very young age, decides he wants to be a ballet dancer much to the violent chagrin of his tough, alpha-male, former miner father (who would much rather see him incurring possible brain damage in the boxing ring). Or simply being the quiet one, or the introverted one. Obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being any of these things, but, if it makes us stand out in the family, we might be treated as odd, a misfit, strange, ‘not quite one of us’ and in some way deficient and of less value. Again, over time, this can significantly wear down our self-esteem and can lead to growing up feeling rather like a pariah.

SUFFERING PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN:

There are many ways in which this can occur – I remember, when I was at school, a boy in my class who came from a very poor and not especially caring family; he was not properly cared for by his parents and used to turn up to school in very tatty and dirty clothes everyday. Cruelly, he was nicknamed ‘Tramp’ by the other boys. Another boy, perhaps slightly effeminate, was always being called ‘Poof’. A third came from the travelling community and was called ‘Dirty Gypo’ and more or less completely ostracized. Children, then, through no fault of their own whatsoever, can become the focus of hostility and contempt. They also, of course, tend to be the most vulnerable, already struggling with self-image.

Such treatment, particularly if the child has a lack of solid emotional support at home, can have long-lasting effects on self-esteem.

EXPERIENCING SYSTEMATIC AND CRUEL PUNISHMENT:

If we are often severely and unfairly punished as children, we may come to equate the fact with meaning we must be a bad person, that we have somehow brought it upon ourselves, and that we deserve it. This, especially, becomes true if the punishment is inconsistent and unpredictable (eg more to do with the parent’s mood and lack of self-control than what the child has actually done), extreme and the child does not understand what he/she is supposed to have done wrong.

Also, more ‘subtle’ punishments, such as being ‘given the silent treatment’ ( my mother had this down to a fine art) can be equally damaging.

Such treatment is another very high risk factor in relation to causing long-term and severe problems with the development of self-esteem.

BEING NEGLECTED WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN (eg being deprived of love, security, interest, praise etc):

It is not just the presence of bad things in our childhoods which can affect self-esteem adversely, but, also, THE ABSENCE OF GOOD THINGS. These include praise, interest, affection, reassurance of being loved, reassurance of being wanted and reassurance of being valued. In other words, then, it is not just blatantly bad treatment which impacts adversely upon the child’s self-esteem, but, also, the missing fundamental good things.

HAVING CONSTANTLY TO COPE WITH A PARENT’S DISTRESS/EMOTIONAL NEEDS WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN:

Some parents are emotionally immature and, in a kind of role reversal, actually turn to their children for emotional support, as happened in my own case following my parents’divorce when I was eight. Indeed, by the time I was eleven, my mother sometimes referred to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist’ (encouraging me to continue in my rather bizarre role). This wa,s obviously, a great psychological burden and caused me great worry and concern.

Also, if there is friction in the parents’ marriage, or other pressures, parents can transfer their own distress onto their children and are more likely to become volatile, lose control, become prone to anger or withdrawal due to their own problems. Such deficient parenting, too, can affect the child’s self-esteem.

I hope this post has been of interest to you. My next post, to be published very soon, will look at how, if we have had some of these experiences, we can repair our damaged self-esteem.

Remember, if we have low self-esteem, we will imagine there are things wrong with us that are not, in reality, the case, however powerful the illusion is that they are.

 

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

How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.

childhood trauma and borderline personality disorder

Children Of Parents With BPD:

Some of us experienced childhood trauma due to a parent being unstable. As has been described in previous posts, BPD causes great instability in individuals, which can have a very serious impact on that individual’s child/ren, so some of us who experienced childhood trauma may have grown up with a parent with BPD. This could have contributed to ourselves developing similar problems, or, even, to us developing BPD ourselves.

However, whatever the state of our mental health, as adults now ourselves, we need to know the best way to manage our relationship with BPD parent/s in the present, and, also, understand what effect our parent/s condition may have had on our own lives. This is of particular interest to me as I was brought up by a highly volatile and extremely unstable mother.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON THE CHILD OF A PARENT WITH BPD:

Parents with BPD can lack the necessary resources to bring their children up – in the worst case scenario, this may lead to neglect and/or abuse.

Children of BPD parents have frequently grown up in a highly unstable emotional atmosphere, have witnessed highly distressing behaviour in their parent/s, and, often, have been on the receiving end of extreme hostility, expressed verbally and/or physically. Further, they may have been exploited by their parent/s burdening them with their own emotional problems. My own mother, for example, used me, essentially, as her own private counsellor from when I was about 10 or 11- years- old, and would, on top of this, very often be terrifyingly verbally aggressive and hostile.

With experiences such as these, as adults, we can feel that our childhoods were stolen from us and we may go on to enter a kind of mourning for the childhood we never had.

Being brought up with a parent with BPD leads to a much higher probability of us developing the following problems:

alcoholism – illicit drug use
– depression
anxiety – suicidal feelings/ suicide attempts/ suicide
– behavioural problems eg impulse control
– personality/emotional disorders

Indeed, this is not altogether surprising when it is reflected upon that, as children, we may have been exposed to many long, painful, distressing years of intense conflict and arguments, threats (eg of violence, or, as in my own case, of abandoment),and unpredictable, unstable and highly volatile emotions.

Whilst we may feel deep resentment for the way in which we were treated, not infrequently necessitating professional support to deal with it, it is necessary, also, to keep in mind that our parent/s with BPD have developed it due to their own personal histories,including psychological, biological and social factors. However, this is cold comfort when we are children struggling to understand ourselves and living in a permanent state of acute distress.

POSSIBLE IMPACT OF A PARENT’S BPD ON THE CHILD:

1) The parent’s impulsivity: this could include alcohol, drugs, gambling etc causing enormous anxiety in the child and possibly in him/her developing similar problems in later life (due to the psychological concept known as ‘modelling’).

2) The parent’s dependency on child: for example, the parent may become emotionally dependent upon the child, using him/her as their personal counsellor, which can lead to the child feeling overwhelmed with concern, responsibility and anxiety, leading later to anger and resentment.

3) The parent’s volatility, instability and unpredictability: this, again, often leads to the child developing extreme anxiety and deep concerns about being abandoned – causing long-term, deeply ingrained insecurity (the parent may threaten to send the child away to live with relatives or to live in the care system).

4) The parent’s threats of suicide: again, this can lead to the child experiencing acute anxiety, possibly leading, later down the line, to the individual developing his/her own self-harming or suicidal behaviour.

5) The parent’s ambiguity towards the child: technically, this is known as ‘SPLITTING’- being consumed with passionate hatred towards the child one day, but then giving him/her extravagant praise the next – these polarized attitudes towards the child vascillating in a deeply confusing fashion.

This will often lead the child to have an extremely unstable identity and self-concept – sometimes feeling they are better than others, but, at other times, feeling worthless, inferior and consumed with self-hatred. Thus, the child can grow up not quite ‘knowing who he/she is’.

This is not an exhaustive list, but, as I am trying to keep these posts to a manageable length and avoid swamping the reader with information, the picture the examples give, I think, is sufficient as an introduction.

Click here for PART TWO.

 

If you would like to view an infographic on the relationship between having a mother with BPD and risk of suicidal behavior, please click here.

borderline personality disorder and childhood traums

The above eBook is now available for immediate download on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

A quick search of the internet reveals a very large range of therapies on offer which purport to treat BPD effectively. Indeed, the sheer range of putative treatments can seem confusing and overwhelming.

It is for this reason that I concentrate on just six treatments which research suggests are the most beneficial.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) MENTALIZATION-BASED THERAPY (MBT).

My previous post on BPD referred to how people suffering from it have difficulties with how they are attached to (ie how they relate to) PRIMARY CARE GIVERS (eg parents). This can manifest itself in ATTACHMENT DISORDERS (which I also looked at in my last post) making other relationships they develop in adult life very difficult, volatile, complex, painful and distressing.

MBT seeks to help the person understand the roots of these difficulties and how their feelings and behaviours may be impacting on their relationships which in turn makes these relationships problematic.

Research shows that outcomes of MBT treatment have so far been very encouraging.

As well as reducing relationship problems, the therapy has also been found to lessen the likelihood of suicidal ideation ( thoughts and plans about suicide) and hospitalizations. Also, it has been shown to improve day-to-day functioning.

2) SCHEMA THERAPY.

Schemas are deeply entrenched beliefs relating to both oneself and the world in general. In people with BPD, these schema can be extremely negative (inaccurately so) and very unhelpful (or, to use a more technical term, MALADAPTIVE) to the individual who holds them.

Very often, they stem from a negative mindset which developed during the individual’s early life, due to, in no small part, childhood trauma. It is worth repeating that these negative schema can be very deeply ingrained and colour the individual’s entire outlook on life.

Schema therapy seeks to change these maladaptive schema into more adaptive (helpful) ones.

Treatment can be very lengthy, but there is strong evidence that it can significantly reduce symptoms of BPD.

Research into this type of treatment remains ongoing and I will report on any significant developments.

3) TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY (TFP).

It is certainly worth first defining the psychotherapeutic idea of TRANSFERENCE:

it may be defined as: THE INAPPROPRIATE REPETITION IN THE PRESENT OF A RELATIONSHIP THAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THE PERSON’S CHILDHOOD.

For example, if our parents hurt, exploited or rejected us as children, in adult life we might feel that everyone we get to know will do the same, but without evidence that this will be the case (we are basing our view on a past relationship which is now not relevant).

The treatment aims to help individuals stop viewing present relationships in a rigid way determined by their painful past and show them that they could be misperceiving their present interactions with others ( including the therapist, as often individuals transfer the feelings they had for their parents as children -eg resentment- onto the therapist in the present).
Research, so far, has shown positive results and remains ongoing.

4) COGNITIVE THERAPY.

Cognitive therapy has long been known to be a very effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and it is now being increasingly used to treat BPD. Studies of its effectiveness in relation to this have, so far, been encouraging.

One advantage of cognitive therapy is that it often leads to very significant improvements over quite short treatment periods. I myself underwent cognitive therapy and found it very beneficial.

Cognitive therapy focuses on correcting faulty, distorted, negative thinking styles relating to how we view ourselves, the world and the future. I write in more detail about cognitive therapy in the EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA category of my blog.

5) DIALECTIC BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (DBT).

The studies on this therapy have , so far, given mixed results. It has been shown, though, in several pieces of research, to reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts in the individual undergoing treatment (the risk of suicide in people suffering from BPD without treatment is high).

Also, after a year of treatment, individuals report a more general improvement in their condition, but, unfortunately, often are still left with significant levels of distress. More studies are required, and, indeed, are being conducted to see if longer treatment periods yield better outcomes. I will report on any significant developments in this area.

DBT draws on psychotherapy, group therapy, meditation, elements of Buddhism and cognitive-behaviour therapy. More research needs to be conducted on the therapy to discover which of its varied components are the most effective in treating BPD. Again, I will report on significant developments.

6) MEDICATION.

Whilst there is, at the moment, no obvious, single medication to treat the whole range of BPD symptoms equally effectively, there are, nevertheless, established medications which can help with some of the symptoms the BPD sufferer might experience, such as anxiety and depression. This is, though, of course, the province of GPs and psychiatrists.

borderline personality disorder ebook.  CPTSD ebook

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Childhood Trauma And Self-Harm :

Three key elements to reducing our risk of harming ourselves are:

1) distracting our thoughts away from self-harm
2) reducing the intensity of our emotional arousal to levels which we are able to manage
3) dealing with internal critical ‘voices’ (ie thought processes).

However, as self-harming is often deeply ingrained, we cannot expect instantaneous results. It needs working at.

Let’s look at each of the 3 elements in turn:

1) DISTRACTION: these can be very simple things such as listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk or a run, reading, calling a friend, browsing the internet, doing something creative like art or craft (eg making a collage), taking a bath, and keeping a journal or diary (including writing down our feelings).

2) REDUCING THE INTENSITY OF OUR EMOTIONAL AROUSAL: one way to do this is to get the painful emotion out. Again, there are simple ways to accomplish this. They include: going for a run, punching a punch bag (or even a pillow), writing a letter to, for example, our parents (without actually sending it), writing out our feelings in a journal, calling a crisis line, going to an online chatline/support group and sharing our feelings, writing poetry about how we feel, playing moving music/crying.

RELEASING ANGER SAFELY:

Sometimes our anger can overwhelm us, so it is important to be able to discharge it in a safe way. Those of us who have experienced childhood trauma have very frequently been taught to blame ourselves. This can result in remaining angry at ‘the child within us’. It is therefore necessary to realize:

a) this child did nothing wrong and does not deserve our anger.
b) the anger needs to be appropriately and safely redirected at those who caused our childhood trauma (in a way which is not destructive to ourselves or them).
c) FEELING angry is not the same as EXPRESSING anger, so does no harm: so we don’t need to fear these angry feelings.
d)we need to stop repressing or misdirecting our anger (at those who do not deserve it – known as DISPLACEMENT in psychodynamic theory) as this can lead to it becoming obsessive.
e) we need to learn to express our anger safely, appropriately and positively. For example, writing a letter we have no intention of sending in order to release our pent up feelings, taking up Judo or a martial art, role playing with a friend or counsellor ( saying to him/her what we would like to say to those who caused our childhood trauma).

SOME DOs AND DON’Ts RELATED TO ANGER:

DO:

A acknowledge anger
N nip it in the bud
G get help for your anger if necessary (eg anger management classes)
E express anger constructively
R release anger appropriately and let it go

DON’T:

A avoid it
N numb it with food/ illicit drugs/alcohol etc
G grin and grit your teeth (ie suppress it as it will just ‘fester’)
E explode
R rationalize it (ie explain it away)

3) DEALING WITH OUR INTERNAL CRITICAL ‘VOICES’: growing up with negative parents leaves many of us with a lot of negative messages running around our heads – we may have had horrible things said about us so often that we have INTERNALIZED them (ie come to see them as true so they form the basis of our self-concept). As adults, we first need to acknowledge that we have these self-lacerating thoughts. This is because the attempt to ignore them can paradoxically make them all the more intense and tenacious.

We may come to notice triggers for these thoughts. For example, if someone is just slightly off-hand with us we may feel we must be a horrible person who everyone will always reject as a matter of course. The root of this may be that we were rejected by one or both of our parents. Being able to trace our self-critical thoughts back to their roots in such a way, and, therefore, understand their triggers, can reduce their intensity of them quite considerably.

In order to retrain the way we think about ourselves, it is helpful, every time we have a negative thought about ourselves, to replace it with a positive one. It can be helpful, too, to write those positive messages down and to keep them somewhere they can easily be retrieved so that we can, on occasion, read through them. It is even possible to make an audio file of them and listen to them occasionally.

As time goes on, it is necessary to let our self-critical messages go and to stop emotionally tormenting ourselves – instead, we need to treat ourselves with compassion.

When individuals come to the point that they are ready to stop hurting themselves with self-critical messages, some make a kind of ritual out of it such as writing down all the negative thoughts they used to have about themselves on a piece of paper and then burning it or tearing it up and throwing it away.

In summary, then, we need to realize that we have absolutely nothing whatsoever to gain, for either ourselves or others, by constantly emotionally torturing ourselves. It is necessary, instead, to start treating ourselves with the love and compassion which may well have been denied us in childhood. We can give ourselves the love and compassion the child within us deserves.

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

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

personal experience of ect

Childhood trauma can lead us to become severely clinically depressed as adults, and this happened to me. Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is only used as a last resort on people who are at high risk of suicide and/or are unable to function in even the most basic areas of life.

ECT is, in fact, misunderstood by the vast majority of people – many see it as barbaric and frightening. Such views, in large part, derive from the popular media (eg from films such as ‘One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest’).

However, most controlled research suggests that ECT is helpful as a treatment for severe depression (eg Pagnia et al., 2004). It is normally only used when other interventions, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment, have failed.

There are, though, some risks. Approximately 2-10 patients per 100,000 treatments (ie less than 0.01%) die during the procedure – however, this is no higher than the risk of dying from anesthesia alone (patients have a general anesthetic before undergoing ECT).

After the treatment patients might have headaches, aching muscles or nausea. Also, some patients experience some memory loss (but, generally, only mildly) which can last up to six months (Sackeim et al. 2007).

Patients who undergo ECT, however, tend to view it positively. In one study, 98% of patients who received it said they’d undergo it again if their depression recurred (Pettinati et al., 1994).

personal experience of ect

MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF ELECTRO-CONVULSIVE THERAPY (ECT).

My own depression was so severe and protracted that I underwent ECT sessions (an ECT treatment session normally comprises blocks of 6 individual treatments) on more than one occasion. I was suicidal and almost completely unable to function (not even able to carry out the most basic self-care, such as shaving, brushing my teeth or taking a bath or shower). As I say, these periods went on for several months, or years, at a time.

Frankly, I did not care whether I lived or died (actually, that’s not quite true, I wanted to be dead), nor what happened to me. Thus, when I was hospitalized, my psychiatrist strongly advised me to undergo ECT. I put up no resistance, nor would I have had the energy or will to do so.

Over the years, each time I underwent ECT sessions, the results were pretty much the same, so I’ll just describe the effect of one set of treatments:

The best thing about it was being given the general anesthetic – such was the extreme nature of my mental anguish that I constantly longed to be unconscious (or dead). Unfortunately, however, the treatment is quick so one is only unconscious for a few minutes!

When I awoke, I’d have very bad, pounding headaches and many of my muscle groups would be painful. Sometimes, I’d need to walk with a stick for a few days after the treatment until the muscles in my legs recovered.

Also, and this was frightening, for about the first five or ten minutes after the treatment I would be so disoriented and confused that I did not know where I was, or even WHO I was. It is impossible for one to imagine how disturbing this is until one has experienced the sensation for oneself. Fortunately, as I said, this did not last long.

On the topic of memory, it felt to me that my memory was impaired for a couple of years after the final treatment session (though not severely). I would make the point, however, that severe clinical depression in itself can impair memory so I cannot attribute it to ECT without some equivocation.

Finally, and most importantly, my own ECT did not have any beneficial effect on me whatsoever; my depression was not even slightly ameliorated.

Obviously, overall, my experience of ECT was fairly negative. However, it is necessary to stress that I am, of course, just one patient out of thousands who have received ECT, so not very much can be concluded from my personal experience it. The research I have already quoted suggests that, for the majority, it is beneficial. Indeed, there are many who believe it has saved their life.

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Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

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