Category Archives: Complex Ptsd And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Articles about how severe and protracted childhood trauma can lead to a form of PTSD commonly referred to as Complex PTSD, symptoms of which include : problems controlling emotions, self-harm, hypersexuality, dissociation, intrusive thoughts, psychogenic amnesia, flashbacks, shame, guilt, self-blame, helplessness, inability to trust others, relationship difficulties, withdrawal, isolation, extreme anger, confusion, terror, feelings of emptiness, despair and a conviction that life is utterly without meaning.

PTSD Checklist

PTSD symptom categories

Those of us who experienced high levels of stress as children are at increased risk of developing PTSD.

Whilst it is imperative that a diagnosis for PTSD does NOT derive from self-diagnosis but, instead, comes from a relevantly qualified professional (such as a psychiatrist), the symptoms I list below in a PTSD checklist can give an idea of whether or not one may be suffering from it :

These can be split up into three main PTSD symptom categories as follows below:

1) Symptoms related to avoidance behavior

2) Symptoms related to re-living/ re-experiencing the traumatic events

3) Symptoms related to a person’s biology/physiology/level of physical arousal.

Let’s look at each of these three specific categories of possible PTSD symptoms in turn:

1) Symptoms related to avoidance behavior :

– avoidance of anything that triggers memories of the traumatic experiences, including people, events, and places

– avoiding people connected to the trauma, or avoiding people in general

– avoidance of talking about one’s traumatic experiences

– avoidance of intimacy (both physical and emotional)

2) Symptoms related re-living/ re-experiencing the traumatic events :


distressing, intrusive, unwanted thoughts


– obsessive and uncontrollable thinking about the trauma one has experienced, perhaps to the point that it is hard to think about, or concentrate on, anything else

constant sense of fear, vulnerability, being under threat and of being in extreme imminent danger

– transient and spontaneous psychotic symptoms (e.g visual hallucinations -such as ‘seeing’ past traumatic events happen again, or auditory hallucinations – such as ‘hearing’ sounds or voices connected to the original trauma

3) Symptoms relating to a person’s biology/physiology/level of physical arousal.

hypervigilance (feeling ‘keyed up’, tense and constantly on guard)

hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing)

– sweating

– shaking/trembling

– extreme irritability

proneness to outbursts of rage that feel out of control and surface unpredictably

– getting into physical fights, especially if using alcohol to numb feelings of distress/fear

– an over-sensitive startle response

– feeling constantly ‘jittery’ and ‘on-edge’

– inability to relax

– insomnia/frequent waking/unrefreshing sleep

Miscellaneous Other Possible Symptoms:

– despair; feeling life is empty and meaningless; feeling numb and ‘dead inside’; anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure); inability to trust others; loss of motivation; loss of interest in previous hobbies/pursuits; loss of interest in sex; cynical and deeply pessimistic outlook; self-neglect; self-harm; thoughts of suicide/suicide attempts; extreme and chronic fatigue; agoraphobia and phobias related to the original trauma.

(NB : Whilst the above list of symptoms is extensive, it is not exhaustive).

Recommended link:

For more detailed help and advice regarding this serious condition, click here : Advice from MIND on PTSD.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


PTSD Symptoms : Effect on the PTSD Sufferer’s Intimate Relationships


I have written elsewhere on this site of the connection between the experience of childhood trauma and the later development of complex post traumatic stress syndrome (e.g. click here).

In this article, however, I want to examine how a person’s PTSD symptoms affect the lives of their intimate partners.

Individuals who develop PTSD are likely to undergo extreme changes in their personalities. These changes may include:

– becoming emotionally withdrawn/shutting down emotionally/becoming emotionally detached

– becoming generally taciturn and non-communicative (especially in relation to ‘clamming up’ if asked to talk about their traumatic experiences that have led to the development of PTSD).

– becoming prone to dramatic mood fluctuations (often this may include outbursts of rage, anger, aggression and sometimes physical violence)

– developing a desire to avoid social interaction/loss of interest in social activity

– developing a fear of leaving the house

– developing a fear of being left alone

– developing a pattern of drug/alcohol abuse

– a change in sex drive (such as a loss of sexual desire).

effect of PTSD on relationships

Many PTSD sufferers express similar sentiments to those shown above.


The partner of the PTSD sufferer may feel helpless and impotent, angry and/or fearful (especially if the symptoms include proneness to aggression/violence).

S/he may, too, become resentful if s/he is forced to stay in with the partner (due to his/her fear of being left alone) and become socially isolated him/herself.

This in turn can lead to depression and anxiety and, in a desperate attempt by the partner to try to cope, an unhealthy, excessive reliance upon alcohol and/or drugs

If the PTSD sufferer has lost interest in sex, this can make the partner feel unloved, rejected and undesirable, particularly as the loss of interest in sex is likely to be accompanied by emotional withdrawal/’shutting down’ by the individual with PTSD.

Indeed, research has shown that those living with individuals who are suffering from PTSD can sometimes, as a result, develop PTSD symptoms themselves.

As would be expected, the research has also shown that the more severe an individual’s PTSD symptoms are, the more the intimate partner’s own psychological condition is likely to be damaged.

Finally, further research has also shown that men with PTSD are more likely than others (all else being equal) to have marital problems and are more likely to contribute to the whole family of which he is a part becoming dysfunctional.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


Recovery From Complex PTSD

recovery from complex PTSD

According to Peter Levine, an expert on the adverse effects of childhood trauma on our adult lives and the complex post traumatic stress disorder that can result, typically there develops various signs in victims that may indicate the recovery process is underway. The main signs of recovery that Levine identifies are as follows :

1) A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER, AND INTENSITY, OF EMOTIONAL FLASHBACKS THAT WE EXPERIENCE (an emotional flashback is when an event occurs in our lives that triggers similar painful emotions to those we experienced as a child in relation to our traumatic experiences – such flashbacks may result in regressive behaviour such as extreme, uncontrollable, childlike tantrums. For example, if we had a cold and rejecting father who was always denigrating us, we may over-react when we are criticized by our boss at work).

2) WE BECOME LESS SELF-CRITICAL (those who have suffered childhood trauma very frequently, and erroneously, blame themselves for their terrible childhood experiences and/or internalize the negative view parents/primary carers had of them when they were children – to read my article on how a child can falsely come to see him/herself as ‘bad’ and how this inaccurate self-view may be perpetuated, click here).

3) WE BECOME LESS ‘CATASTROPHIZING’ (many who suffer childhood trauma develop into adults prone to extremes of negative thinking, often referred to as cognitive processing errors.’ One such cognitive processing error is that we may be prone to ‘catastrophizing’ which means we tend to always expect the worst and to interpret situations in their worst possible light. Often, too, we attribute the worst possible intentions and motivations to the behaviour of others. As we begin to recover, this tendency diminishes).

4) WE START TO FIND IT EASIER TO RELAX (one of the worst aspects of my illness was a perpetual, tormenting feeling of the most intense agitation making anything even vaguely approaching relaxation utterly impossible, every medication was tried – and failed; even electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT) was tried on several different occasions over the years – again, utter failure. When we finally do start to recover, however, the ability to relax gradually returns).

5) WE BECOME LESS DEPENDENT UPON OUR LEARNED DEFENSE MECHANISMS (it is very common for those of us who have experienced childhood trauma to develop into adults who feel very vulnerable to being hurt or exploited by others if we ourselves were hurt and exploited by our parent/s or primary-carer/s during our early lives. In order to protect ourselves, we may have unconsciously learned to develop certain defense mechanisms such as aggression  or avoidance. As we recover, however, we find we become less reliant on these psychological defenses, according to Levine.

6) OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS START TO IMPROVE AND WE BECOME LESS INTIMIDATED BY SOCIAL SITUATIONS (another common outcome of significant childhood trauma is that we can find, in adulthood, that we are quite inept when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with others. We may, too, find social situations very intimidating, and, even, develop social phobia. A sign of recovery, however, is an easing of such interpersonal difficulties).



Levine states that the main steps to recovery are as follows :





Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) The first step of recovery from complex PTSD, according to Levine, is psycheducation (which is sometimes referred to as ‘bibliotherapy‘. This involves learning about our psychological condition and becoming aware of how it is linked to our adverse childhood experiences. Levine also emphasizes the usefulness of learning about mindfulness).

2) The second step of recovery from complex PTSD is to, in Levine’s phrase, shrink our inner critic.’  In other words, we need to gradually learn how to stop taking such a negative view of ourselves and of everything we do – one effective therapy which can help us to achieve this is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). (To read my related article, entitled :‘How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’, click here).

3) The third step of recovery from complex PTSD, says Levine, is to grieve for our childhood losses. These losses may include our missing out on feelings of safety, security, simple childhood happiness and a care-free state of mind as well as a loss of any self-esteem we may have once had. To read my article about coming to terms with childhood losses, click here). Levine suggests that this process may take up to two years.

4) The final step of recovery from complex PTSD is to address what Levine calls the core issue, namely our ‘abandonment depression.’ An important part of this step is also to learn how to be self-compassionate. (To read my article about abandonment issues which may we may develop as a result of childhood trauma, click here).

Resource :



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

Three Unconscious Psychological Defenses Against Inner Feelings Of Shame

inner shame

According to psychodynamic theory, if, as babies, we are subjected to significant emotional abuse by the primary caregiver (usually the mother) such as constantly being subjected to her extreme anger, rage and hostility, we are at risk of developing a profound and pervasive sense of inner shame – the unshakeable inner conviction that we are bad beyond redemption and worthless to humanity.

This can have extremely long-lasting, even lifelong (in the absence of effective therapy) effects, including great difficulty developing meaningful and satisfying relationships with others  and the unconscious adaptation of three main psychological defense mechanisms, according to the psychodynamic psychoanalyst, Burgo PhD.

inner shame

Burgo identifies these three psychological defense mechanisms against the almost unbearable emotional pain our feelings of inner shame cause us as follows :




1) Narcissism : Narcissists feel a desperate need to be admired by others and to feel superior to them. They may try to achieve this through their appearance (expensive clothes, jewelry, cosmetic ‘enhancements’ etc), occupational/professional success, social popularity and various other means, ‘Above all, they need to be the centre of attention (even notoriety is better than being ignored in their eyes). Their interest in others tends to be superficial at best (unless it involves exposing said others’ weaknesses and ‘inferiority, of course).

All these devices are a largely unconscious (usually) way of trying to keep hidden, concealed and buried a (from themselves and others) their profound inner sense of shame and unworthiness.

2) Blaming others : Because those afflicted by deep, internal feelings of shame cannot bear to be reminded of their own imperfections or to have them exposed, they deflect any blame that it might be their responsibility to accept onto others.

3) Treating others with contempt : This psychological defense works in a similar way to the psychological defense of blaming others (see above). Viewing and/or treating others in a contemptuous manner is very frequently a projection of one’s sense of one’s own inferiority onto others.



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

Trauma And Memory

In this article, I want to focus on the potential adverse affects of trauma on memory, and, in particular, four types of memory :

  • episodic memory
  • semantic memory
  • procedural memory
  • emotional memory

I briefly explain the function of these four types of memory below :

EPISODIC MEMORY : Our episodic memory stores our unique memories of specific events.

SEMANTIC MEMORY : Our semantic memory stores concepts, facts, ideas and meanings relating to the world in general / general knowledge.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : Our procedural memory stores information about how to carry out ‘procedures’ that underlie motor, cognitive and visuospatial skills such as walking, swimming and driving, that have become ‘second nature’ and can be performed automatically.

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : Emotional memory stores information relating to how we felt / the emotions we experienced at the time of a particular event.



If an individual was involved in a car accident, the four types of memory the person has of the event might be as follows :

EPISODIC MEMORY : The memory of who else was in the car at the time of the crash and what was playing on the radio.

SEMANTIC MEMORY : The memory of what a car is.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : The memory of how to drive a car (assuming the person has been driving for a long time and is not new to it).

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : The fear felt the next time the person drives the car (the car triggers the fear-response associated with the crash which has been stored in memory).


How Can Trauma Adversely Affect These Four Types Of Memory?

EPISODIC MEMORY : Trauma can cause the part of the brain which forms and indexes episodic memories, known as the hippocampus) to ‘go off-line’ temporarily or may impair its normal functioning in such a way that the episodic memory of the traumatic event formed is fragmented, incohesive, and not properly processed. Because of this, fragments of memories that were formed when the traumatic event occurred may intrude on the mind in the form of flashbacks and nightmares after the traumatic event is over for as long as this incomplete processing persists (which, in the absence of therapy and in the most serious cases, may be for a life-time).

SEMANTIC MEMORY : Trauma can prevent information from different brain regions integrating in a meaningful way thus impairing the person’s ability to form semantic memories – this, in turn, can lead to learning difficulties. Semantic memories are generated in a region of the brain known as the anterior temporal lobe.

PROCEDURAL MEMORY : Trauma can adversely affect our memory of how to carry our procedures / activities. Continuing with the ‘car accident’ example, the next time we drive a car our muscles may become tense so that our driving is less smooth than before the accident and we find, too, that we are thinking more than normal about simple procedures like changing gear and using the indicator (whereas, pre-accident’, such procedures would have been undertaken ‘automatically’ / without conscious deliberation. The main regions of the brain involved in the operation of procedural memory are the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and cerebellum.

EMOTIONAL MEMORY : The next time we sit behind the wheel after the accident, we may feel flooded with fear. The region of the brain involved in learning and forming  fear memories is known as the amygdala.







eBook :

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

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

Trauma Release Exercises



The human stress/fear response evolved millions of years ago in our ancestors to allow them to survive – it is commonly known as the ‘tight  or flight’ response. If we saw a tiger, it was necessary to feel fear as this fear motivated us to freeze and then to run away when it was safe to do so. Modern day humans have inherited this mechanism.

One of the areas of the brain that becomes highly active when we experience fear, and gives rise to the fight/flight response, is called the AMYGDALA. This area of the brain is also stimulated in other animals, such as gazelles, when they perceive danger.


Let’s imagine that a group (I don’t know the collective term for them – herd?) of gazelles is calmly grazing when they become aware that a tiger is preparing to launch a ferocious and potentially lethal attack. What is their response?

Well, what happens on a physiological level is that the sighting of the tiger instantaneously triggers intense activity in their brains’ amygdala and their ‘fight/flight’ response is triggered. This causes them to experience feelings of panic and terror which in turn leads them to flee the tiger as fast as they are able (which, given they are gazelles. is very fast indeed – they don’t hang around!

Once the danger has passed, however, the activity in their amygdala quickly returns to normal and, therefore, they are able to return to calmly grazing.

The gazelle, then, is easily able to ‘switch on’ their amygdala but, just as easily, ‘switch it off’ again when its activity is no longer required.

Sadly, we poor humans are not nearly as good at doing this. Because we have language, which allows us to carry out internal monologues, we also have imagination and are able to dwell on the past and contemplate the future; because of this, we are able to constantly torment ourselves with worries, regrets, concerns, fears and so on. In this way, especially if we suffer from anxiety, we can find ourselves constantly feeling we are trapped in the ‘fight or flight’ response – our amygdala become permanently over-stimulated, even though we do not wish it to be and it is not in our survival interests that they are; indeed, being is such a state of permanent anxiety and fear imperils our survival (e.g we might smoke and drink more, or, in extreme circumstances, attempt suicide).


Vital Importance Of Understanding The Role Of The Body In Trauma Therapy

We have seen how the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma increases our risk of developing both serious psychological and physical problems as adults – e.g. see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

Probably the best known expert working in the field of understanding how the body and our experience of the crippling effects of severe trauma are inextricably linked is former Harvard Professor, Bessel van der Kolk.

Bessel van der Kolk stresses the crucial importance of treating the effects of severe trauma in a HOLISTIC manner ; in other words, therapeutic approaches for trauma need to not only focus on the physical brain (e.g. by treating the individual with psychoactive medications) and the mind (e.g. by providing cognitive therapy), but also by providing therapy for  the BODY (i.e. somatic interventions).

Bessel van der Kolk, who has devoted the majority of his adult life to the study of the effects of trauma and ways of treating it, contends that what lies at the heart of trauma-related conditions (e.g. PTSD and complex PTSD) is a THWARTED ‘FIGHT OR FLIGHT’ RESPONSE.

What Is Meant By A Thwarted ‘Fight Or Flight’ Response’?

When the fight/flight response is activated as a result of threat, a massive surge of extra energy is stimulated in the body. However, when this response is thwarted, and, therefore, is unable to run its course, and is left incomplete, the extra energy that has been generated is not ‘burned off’ and remains ‘trapped’ in the nervous system.

Therefore, although the threat has passed, the extra energy that remains locked in the nervous system, in latent form, even though no real threat continues to exist.

What Is The Effect Upon The Person Of This ‘Thwarted Fight/Flight’ Response And Of The Resultant, Trapped, Excess Energy?

There are two possible responses :


Let’s look at each of these in turn :


This trapped, excess energy can make the nervous system highly volatile and reactive, as well as cause the individual to experience chronic feelings of intense anxiety, hypervigilance, and a sense of mental and physical pressure to discharge it in response to the slightest of provocations.

S/he, therefore , may become prone to  over-react, greatly, to perceived threats (even though, objectively speaking, these so-called ‘threats’ pose no danger and would not alarm, or create much anxiety in, an ‘ordinary’ person), such as by becoming extremely angry / aggressive or intensely afraid (causing ‘flight’ type behavior).

In other words, the trapped energy is liable to ‘leak out’ at the smallest opportunity, triggering inappropriate, maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviors.


However, if the individual cannot dispel the trapped energy effectively through ‘fight/flight responses (e.g. such a situation may be true of an abused child who lives in a household in which s/he is helpless and can neither ‘fight back’ nor run away and escape the threatening environment), s/he may enter a dissociative / chronic freeze state.



A traumatized  individual may cycle between periods of hypervigilance and dissociation (as described above) and may seek to ameliorate his/her condition, and to gain a sense of temporary release, by indulging in dangerous and risky activities (e.g. reckless driving), thus stimulating adrenaline and cortisol production and ‘burning off’ some of the trapped energy or by attempting to blot out his/her pain through the use of alcohol and/or drugs. This, of course, is not a good, long-term strategy.

Bessel van der Kolk asserts that it is imperative that the traumatized individual escapes such a cycle by being helped to live more fully in the present and in the ‘here and now’ and to understand, on a deep level, that the danger which traumatized him/her is now over and that s/he is now safe.

Unfortunately, whilst the body fails to release its trapped energy, keeping the person highly susceptible to his/her far too easily triggered,  fight/flight, trauma-related responses (i.e. hypervigilance and dissociation), this is not possible, Bessel van der Kolk contends.

In connection with his theories, Bessel van der Kolk emphasizes the importance of treating the effects of trauma holistically (i.e. treating the mind, brain and body – see above). Therapies he recommends include :



A main location in the body where muscular tension accumulates is called the PSOAS muscle (sometimes also referred to as the ‘fight or flightmuscle ; it connects the lumber spine to the legs.

It is sometimes called the fight/flight muscle because when we feel threatened, anxious or fearful, or in response to significant loss, it becomes energized in preparation to assist us with the actions of running away or fighting.

And, if, during childhood, we have frequently been in the fight/flight state this muscle may have become perpetually tensed up to the extent we have habituated to this feeling of tension to such a degree that we no longer register it as abnormal; notwithstanding this, it is an indication that we are still being adversely affected by painful emotions linked to our traumatic childhood (if only on an unconscious level).




Neurogenic Tremors : Why Shaking With Fear Is Good For Us

One very important finding in relation to this is that traumatic experiences can lead to chronic excess tension in the skeletal muscles. And, because the body and the mind are so intimately connected, this, in turn, can make us hypersensitive to stress to such a degree that we may find even very minor stressors create in us feelings of overwhelming anxiety.

Indeed, as the role of the body in how traumatic experiences affect us (especially if we are suffering from PTSD) becomes better understood there is a concomitant increase in interest in supplementing psychological therapies to treat responses to trauma with somatic (physical) therapies.

Neurogenic Tremors :

Tremors are a natural, automatic / instinctual response to anxiety, fear, panic attacks, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any shock to the nervous system. This response has evolved because, when the nervous system becomes out of balance, it helps to return the body and emotions back into a state of equilibrium; it achieves this by reducing our level of arousal and shutting down the ‘fight or flight’response.

Furthermore, tremors are a way of dissipating the excess energy residing in the body that accumulated during the state of high arousal. In this way, tremors can help us escape from the unpleasant symptoms (both physical and mental) that may have arisen due to trauma.

In technical terms, tremors help to reduce over-activity in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis ( a complex neuroendocrine system whose functions include regulating our response to stress, our emotions and bodily, energy storage and release) and are called neurogenic tremors. 


Applications To Therapy :

Levine :

Tremors (or shaking or trembling) help to deactivate and calm the nervous system. Such deactivation signals to the brain that danger and threat has passed ; this, in turn, allows us to relax again : our muscles are able to release the excess of energy they have stored up whilst in fight / flight mode which, in turn, permits chronic tension patterns that have developed in the body to be eradicated.

People who have suffered trauma and have developed PTSD have often been ‘locked into’ the fight/flight response for a protracted period of time and have suppressed their feelings of anxiety (often with the ‘help’ of alcohol or drugs) because they believe, on a conscious or unconscious level, that showing and expressing one’s feelings ‘a sign of weakness.’

And, because of this erroneous belief, such individuals tend to be averse to physical displays of distress (such as trembling and crying). The price to be paid for such suppression is that the excess energy stored in the body becomes trapped, ensuring that the person habitually remains in an uncomfortable state of bodily tension and associated mental distress.

Based on the ideas presented above, Dr Peter Levine, a leading expert on the effects of trauma, has developed a therapy that he has called somatic experiencing which helps the client to release the pernicious, pent-up energy that was generated by their traumatic experience and, thus, alleviate their physical and mental suffering incurred.



Bercelli, PhD, devised six trauma release exercises designed to alleviate stored muscular tension. The idea is that the tension is released by a ‘muscular shaking process’ known as ‘neurogenic tremors’ and its purpose is rid us of our deep-seated, chronic, early life trauma-related bodily tension.








Adrenal Fatigue Treatment | Self Hypnosis Downloads




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)



Types Of Abuse

what is childhood trauma?

Types Of Abuse And Childhood Trauma :

There is no one, absolute and precise definition of childhood trauma. However, experts in the field of its study generally agree that an individual’s traumatic experience will be related to one or more of the following three types of abuse (or, including NEGLECT, 4 types of abuse) :

1) Emotional abuse (In relation to this, you may wish to read my article : Why Parents Emotionally Abuse And Its Effects)

2) Physical abuse (in relation to this, you may wish to read my article : What types of parents are more likely to physically abuse their children?)

3) Sexual abuse

In the past it was generally agreed amongst clinicians that sexual abuse had the most significant adverse impact on the child’s subsequent development. However, it is important to point out that more up-to-date research shows emotional and physical abuse can be just as damaging (some children will experience a combination of two or more of the three types).

The exact nature of the abuse will be inextricably intertwined with the developmental problems which emerge in the individual as a result of it.

childhood trauma

Neglect :

There is a problem, though, with the categorization method. This is because the three individual categories do not tend to take account of neglect. Neglect may involve a parent or carer doing nothing to intervene to prevent the child from being abused by someone else, or a parent burdening a young child with their own psychological problems which the child is not old or mature enough to cope with. A parent or carer might neglect a child knowingly or unknowingly.

How Common is Child Abuse?

It is difficult to know the true figures as childhood abuse is often covered up or unreported. Also, accurate figures are hindered by the fact childhood abuse cannot be precisely defined.

However, current estimates in the UK suggest about 12% of children experience physical abuse and 11% experience sexual abuse.

So if you have been abused as a child, you are far from alone. And, it is very important to remember that those who have suffered childhood trauma, including severe and protracted childhood trauma, CAN and DO recover.

N.B. For other statistics relating to childhood trauma,, you may wish to read my article : CHILDHOOD TRAUMA : THE STATISTICS

Childhood Trauma And Personal Meaning :

Whilst it is impossible to precisely define child abuse, what is important is the PERSONAL MEANING the sufferer ATTACHES to it. In other words, recognizing the problems a person has developed as a result of the abuse and providing therapy to help the individual deal with those problems is more important than precisely defining the traumatic experience which caused the problems, and arguing about whether it technically qualifies as abuse or not.

Events in childhood which cause trauma are often referred to as ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (or ACEs) in the literature. To view an infographic of ACEs, please click here.

To read more about the ACEs study, click here.



Other Resources Related To Childhood Trauma :

eBook :


Above eBook : How Childhood Trauma Can Physically Damage The Developing Brain now available on Amazon for instant download 

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

Types Of Childhood Trauma



There are many traumatic events that can befall us in childhood which, as we have seen in other articles I have published on this site, can, potentially, result in us incurring significant and long-lasting psychological damage, especially in the absence of appropriate therapy and meaningful, emotional support from others. 

In this article, I will list several types of childhood trauma that can occur and give a brief explanation to elucidate each of these traumatic events :



  • Natural Disasters 
  • Trauma Related To Being A Refugee
  • Living In A Violent Community
  • Medical Trauma
  • Being Affected By Terrorism
  • Abuse (Emotional, Physical, Sexual – the effects of such abuse are significantly worse if the perpetrator is a parent or primary carer)
  • Emotional Neglect
  • Living In A Household In Which There Is Domestic Violence
  • Complex Trauma
  • Early Life Trauma
  • Traumatic / Complex Grief

Let’s look at each of these in turn :




Natural disasters include floods, hurricanes and droughts. According to Carolyn Kousky, the three main ways in which children can be harmed and traumatized by natural disasters fall into three broad categories (see immediately below) :

Physical Harm :

The examples Kousy provides are : injury ; malnutrition (e.g. due to disrupted food supplies) ; illness caused by contamination ; and disruption to the supply chain of medical equipment / medications.

Harm To Mental Health :

This may be caused by a number of factors. Examples provided by Kousky include : the stress caused by witnessing the natural disaster itself ; damage to their homes / possessions (or, indeed, loss of these) ;  the strain of having to migrate ;  grief due to losing friends / family / loved ones ; abuse and / or neglect which might arise from the situation the find themselves in due to the disaster (e.g. if having to live in a makeshift ‘camp-site in close proximity to strangers or death of primary carers) ; breakdown of their social network ;  and ruined local economies.

Harm To Education :

This may occur due to enforced closure of schools or schools being destroyed (e.g. in the case of a hurricane) ; or because the child is forced to leave school and work in order to earn money to help the family recover from the effects of the disaster.



Refugee children may experience long-term, toxic stress (which can have damaging effects on both mental and physical health) due to the extreme hardships they face in relation to :

  • the factors (such as war) which forced them to leave their country of origin in the first place
  • the journey to the country of refuge (e.g life-threateningly unsafe sea travel in makeshift, overcrowded craft)
  • resettlement in the country of refuge (including fear of being deported back to their country of origin)

An example of how extreme the stressful effects of being a refugee child is given below :


  • Resignation Syndrome :

In Sweden, a research paper published in Acta Paediatricia (a medical journal) has reported that many child refugees, on learning that they and their families are to be deported back to the country from which they had fled, are, as a result, developing ‘RESIGNATION SYNDROME‘ (‘Uppgivenhetssyndrom) which involves them going into a comatose-like state. Extremely disturbingly, those developing the syndrome become bed-ridden (or, at least, confined to a wheel-chair), mute, incontinent and unable to eat or drink (they are, therefore, fed through a tube) and essentially catatonic according to the article.


Furthermore, scans of these children’s brains revealed that they had NOT been physically damaged, from which we can infer that the children’s symptoms were psychological in origin – i.e. occurring as a result of their traumatic experiences and terror of being returned back to their country of origin where they may face terrible and terrifying danger, rather than as a result of physical brain damage ; this inference is further supported by the fact that, if the decision to deport them is reversed, they gradually recover from this appalling condition.




Young people who live in communities in which they are frequently exposed, directly or indirectly, to violence (e.g. in certain economically deprived parts of inner city London) may find themselves living in a constant state of fear about being a victim of violence (e.g. muggings, beatings, stabbings or even shootings). If the exposure to violence (and/or the constant threat of violence) is fairly constant, symptoms of trauma may arise such as frequently being in a state of fight or flight and hypervigilanceindeed, in some cases, individuals may develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD).




The term ‘medical trauma’ refers to the trauma children may suffer as a result of serious illness or injury, as well as the treatments associated with these. Whilst, all else being equal, the more serious / threatening / endangering the child’s illness / injury / treatment is, the more traumatic it is likely to be, of crucial importance, too, is how serious / threatening / endangering the child PERCEIVES them to be.

Other factors that can affect the child’s emotional response to the his/her illness or injury include :

  • pain due to illness injury itself
  • pain due to treatments / medical interventions
  • the interactions the child has with the medical treatment providers (Marsac et al., 2014)



Terrorism, defined as a violent act (e.g. bombing or shooting) against unsuspecting people and countries can have extremely, psychologically (as well, obviously, as physically) damaging effects upon the child which include :

Factors affecting the child’s emotional response to such events include how s/he and his/her family / friends have been affected, his/her personality / temperament and the amount of social support and counselling s/he receives.


6) ABUSE :

Please see my previously published article : Childhood Trauma. What Is It?



Please see my previously published articles :  






8) Complex Trauma :

Please see my previously published articles : 




9) Early Life Trauma :

Please see my previously published articles :






10) Traumatic Grief :

Please see my previously published article :



Childhood Trauma Symptoms :



Symptoms of childhood trauma can also be split up into two types : TYPE 1 and TYPE 2 :



These symptoms tend to come about as a result sudden, unexpected, catastrophic event such as, for example, the threat of death or serious injury (sometimes referred to as ‘critical incidents‘).

Symptoms which may develop in response to such an adverse event may range from, at the mild end of the spectrum, disrupted sleep, worry and feelings of insecurity, to, at the other end of the spectrum, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is an ongoing condition that may manifest itself through :

-extreme over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system

-intrusive and distressing memories (flashbacks), nightmares etc

-constant and intense feelings of being under threat

– avoidant behavior (eg an avoidance of social interaction and of situations/activities which trigger disturbing memories of the traumatic event)

NB The above list is not exhaustive.

TYPE 2 :

This category of symptoms may emerge if trauma has continued, repeatedly, over an extended period of time. Often, in these circumstances, the development of symptoms may well be delayed (click here to read my article on this). Symptoms that do eventually develop may include :

– significant difficulties forming and maintaining social relationships (click here to read my article on this)

– problems relating to anger management (click here to read my article on this)

– dissociation (click here to read my article on this)

– a negative cognitive triad (this is a term used by psychologists to refer to a distorted, negative view of the self, others, and the world in general – it may be addressed through a therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – click here to read my article about CBT.

The earlier in life that the extended experience of trauma begins, the more damaging its long-term effects are likely to be (trauma experienced in the first three years of life is known to be particularly harmful).

At the extreme end of the spectrum, extended trauma may lead to personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD) – click here to read my article on BPD.



As we have already seen, Type 1 trauma commonly gives rise to symptoms of acute distress and severe over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, whilst Type 2 trauma frequently results in more complex and deep-rooted adverse changes to the personality.

In some cases, the individual will experience both Type 1 and Type 2 symptoms; for example, a child who is severely abused over a long period of time may initially display Type 1 symptoms and, then, later in life, develop Type 2 symptoms.


Due to the highly complex causes of Type 2 symptoms, they will usually need to be addressed through psychotherapy (eg CBT, which I have already referred to, or dialectical behavior therapy, abbreviated to DBT – click here to read my article on DBT).

On the other hand, Type 1 symptoms, at the more mild end of the spectrum, may sometimes be able to be addressed through social support, physical relaxation and sometimes, as a short-term measure, tranquilizers.

NB It is always very important to consult an appropriately qualified professional when considering treatment options for psychological conditions.


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






Types Of Dissociative Amnesia In Complex PTSD

dissociative amnesia

types of dissociative amnesia

We have seen how the cumulative effect of repetitive and chronic, traumatic stress during childhood is associated with the later development of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) and that many of those afflicted by complex PTSD experience symptoms of dissociation (e,g. Freyd, 1996 ; Peclovitz et al., 1997). [Click here to read my previously published post : SYMPTOMS OF DISSOCIATION : MILD AND SEVERE.]

We have also seen how dissociative symptoms may manifest themselves in different ways and that one such way is DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA.

In this article, I intend to briefly recap on what is meant by the term DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA, including a short outline of the DIFFERENT TYPES OF DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA.



If an individual is suffering from dissociative amnesia, it means that they are unable, for a period of time (usually relatively short periods of time such as minutes, hours or days, but, in mush less frequent cases, months or even years), to remember information about themselves / events in their past (sometimes referred to as autobiographical memory). And, perhaps more surprisingly, they may have periods of time during which they fail to remember a skill or talent that they have learnt (sometimes referred to as semantic memory).

For such memory loss to be diagnosed as dissociative amnesia the memory loss must be far more severe than in ‘normal forgetting’ and not accounted for by another medical condition.

dissociative amnesia


According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), dissociative amnesia can be subdivided into the following types :

  • localized
  • selective 
  • generalized
  • systematized

Let’s look at each of these in turn :



This involves not being able to remember a specific period of time. Often, this period of time will be the first few hours after the traumatic event has occurred (including the traumatic event itself) and can occur as the result of an isolated traumatic episode.



This involves not being able to remember some (but NOT all) of the events that occurred during a specific (traumatizing) period of time (often, this may be the most traumatic aspects of the events which occurred during this time period),



This particularly alarming and devastating form of dissociative amnesia occurs when the individual afflicted by it is unable to remember their ENTIRE LIFE including, remarkably, who they are and where they are from. Fortunately, this extreme form of dissociative amnesia is very rare.



This type of dissociative amnesia involves being unable to recall information associated with a particular category such as being unable to recall any memories associated with one’s abusive parent or associated with a particular location where one was traumatized. For example, I have virtually no memory of living in my first or second house which incorporated the years between my birth and my being about eight years old when my parents divorced.


To learn more about DISSOCIATION, you may wish to read one or more of my other posts on the topic (shown below):


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

What Are The Differences Between BPD And Complex PTSD? : A Study


difference between complex ptsd and bpd


Because there is a considerable overlap in symptoms between those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic disorder (complex PTSD) , those with the latter condition can be misdiagnosed as suffering from the former condition (you can read my article about this by clicking here).

In order to help clarify the differences between the two conditions and help show how they are distinct from one another, this article is about a research study which sought to delineate these two very serious psychiatric conditions.

What Are The Differences In Symptoms Between Those Suffering From Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And Those Suffering From Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD)?

A study into the different symptoms displayed by sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) involving the study of two hundred at eighty adult women who had experienced abuse during their childhoods and published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology in 2014 compared the symptoms of those suffering from BPD with those suffering from complex PTSD.



The following results from the study were obtained :


Some symptoms were found to be shared approximately equally between those suffering from  borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD). The symptoms that fell into this category were as follows :

  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (ANGER) i.e. frequent feelings of intense rage that the individual cannot control (regulate)
  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (SENSITIVE) i.e. feelings of hypersensitivity that cannot be controlled (regulated)
  • INTERPERSONAL DETACHMENT / ALONENESS i.e. feeling cut-off and alienated from others, isolated and apart

However, some symptoms were found to be significantly more prevalent amongst those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) than amongst those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) as shown below :




eBooks :



Above eBooks now available from Amazon for instant download. For further details, click here.


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





What Is Psychic Numbing?

Severe emotional distress and trauma can lead to a psychological defense known as psychic numbing.

Psychic numbing occurs when our conscious experience becomes so overwhelmingly, mentally painful that our feelings, in effect, ‘switch themselves off;’ the result is a kind of psychological ‘escape from reality’ – a reality which has become too terrible to tolerate.

Those who experience psychic numbing may use metaphors in an attempt to describe their condition such as : ‘It’s as if I’ve turned to stone,’ or, ‘it’s like my heart’s become made of stone.’ Sadly, in this state, the person may feel s/he no longer cares about him/herself or others – even close family members / previously close friends.

This may sound a distressing state to be in in itself, but part of the condition of psychic numbing means, too, that the person may also not care that s/he doesn’t care.

How Long Does Psychic Numbing Last?

The condition may be a relatively transient response following a severely traumatic incident or it may become a long-term in response to protracted exposure to traumatic conditions especially, for example, if one has developed complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of a traumatic childhood. In such cases, the sense of psychic numbing may persist (in the absence of effective therapy) for years or even decades.

what is psychic numbing?

Are Both Good And Bad Feelings Affected?

Generally, yes. Whilst the condition may arise as a defense against bad feelings, the ability to feel anything good tends also to greatly diminish, including the loss of the ability to gain pleasure from food and sex (for more about the inability to experience feelings of pleasure, see my article about anhedonia).

The Sense Of ‘Anesthesia.’

When one is in the grip of psychic numbing, it can feel not only as if one has been given an ’emotional anesthetic’, but, sometimes, too, as if one has also been physically anesthetized as the body itself can become relatively numb to the sense of pain.

Research Into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) And Psychic Numbing :

Some researchers have suggested that the symptom of psychic numbing is intrinsically bound up in the biological responses which form the foundation of PTSD.

Psychic numbing is also closely related to depersonalization and a sense of loss of identity.


RELATED ARTICLE : How Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Adult Anhedonia (Inability To Experience Pleasure).


CPTSD ebook

Click image above for details.

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

Why Complex PTSD Sufferers May Avoid Eye Contact

A study by Lanius  et al. was conducted to cast light upon why many with individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including those suffering from complex-PTSD, often find it excruciatingly uncomfortable every time the rules of social etiquette compel them to make eye to eye contact with another human being (I, myself once attempted to circumvent this problem by deliberately buying a pair of glasses with lenses that were by far the wrong strength for me so that, whilst, to whomever it was I was required, as the law of social norms decrees, to make eye contact, I appeared to be doing so in the conventionally stipulated manner,  in fact, all that my eyes were actually meeting with was a comfortingly, non-threatening blur).

Returning to Lanius’ et al.’s experiment :

The experiment consisted of two groups :

1) Survivors of chronic trauma

2) ‘Normal’ controls

What Did The Experiment Involve?

Participants from both of the above groups were subjected to brain scans whilst a making eye to eye contact with a video character in such a way as to mimic real life face to face  contact.

What Were The Results Of The Experiment?

In the case of the ‘normal’ controls (i.e. those who had NOT suffered significant trauma), the simulated eye to eye contact with the video character caused the are of the brain known as the PREFRONTAL CORTEX to become ACTIVATED.


In the case of the chronic trauma survivors, the same simulated eye contact with the video character did NOT cause activation of the PREFRONTAL CORTEX. Instead, the scans revealed that, in response to the simulated eye contact, the part of the chronic trauma survivors’ brains that WAS ACTIVATED was a very primitive part (located deep inside the emotional brain) known as the PERIAQUEDUCTAL GRAY.




The prefrontal cortex helps us judge and assess a person when we make eye contact, so we can determine whether their intentions seem good or ill.

However, the periaqueductal gray  region is associated with SELF-PROTECTIVE RESPONSES such as hypervigilance, submission and cowering.

Therefore, we can infer that those with PTSD / complex PTSD may find it hard to make eye contact because their brains have been adversely affected, as a result of their traumatic experiences, in such a way that, when they make eye contact with another person, the ‘appraisal’ stage of the interaction (normally carried out by the prefrontal cortex) is missed out and, instead, their brains, due to activation of the periqueductal region, cause an intensely fearful response.

This constitutes yet another example of how severe and protracted childhood trauma can damage the physical development of the brain.


Link : Lanius et al’s study.


eBook :


Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here for further details.

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

Why Labelling The Child As ‘Mentally Ill’ Can Be Unhelpful



In his critically acclaimed book : ‘CRACKED : WHY PSYCHIATRY IS DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD‘, the author, James Davies, argues that psychiatry is a pseudo-science which :

  • over-medicalizes human behavior, labelling individuals as mentally ‘ill’ when it is not appropriate to do so


In order to illustrate this argument, one of the examples that Davies presents us with is that of a child displaying behaviors that would traditionally be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leading to two, alternative treatment scenarios (Davies recommends the second scenario) :


In the first case scenario, the child would be treated according to the traditional, medical model : i.e. assessed by a psychiatrist, and, if he met the diagnostic criteria, as designated by DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), diagnosed with ADHD, ‘labelled’ as having ADHD, and put on psychoactive medication.



However, Davies proposes that a better, initial approach would be as follows :

The psychiatrist does NOT diagnose the child with ADHD, but, instead, interviews his mother to ascertain the family’s history.

From this interview, the following transpires :

  • The mother and the son had been living with a household in which there was domestic violence for several years before the physically abusive man responsible for this violence finally left the home.
  • As a result, the child incurred psychological damage which led to his behavior becoming ‘chaotic’ / angry / hypervigilant 

However, in this scenario, rather than diagnosing the child with ADHD and putting him on medication, the psychiatrist focuses on helping him and his mother gain insight into the underlying reasons for the child’s behavioral difficulties.

Davies then expands upon this second case scenario :

  • Whilst the psychiatrist, in one session, is trying to help the mother and son gain insight into the reasons for the boy’s problems, the mother begins to feel guilty about having exposed her son to a violent environment, and starts to cry.


  • In response to his mother’s tears, the boy is quick to rebuke the psychiatrist, perceiving him (i.e. the psychiatrist) to be ‘yet another man hurting his mother.’


  • This event then opens up the opportunity for the psychiatrist to discuss with the boy and the mother that such hypervigilance reflected by the boy’s quickness to rebuke the psychiatrist was quite understandable given how he (i.e. the boy) would have had to have learned to become hypervigilant whilst living with the physically abusive man as a matter of self-preservation so that now such behavior had become automatic in situations in which he perceives himself or his mother to be under threat (whether the ‘threat’ is real or imagined).


  • In other words, his hypervigilance has become an unconsciously motivated survival response in situations which remind him, even on an unconscious level, of the danger once posed to him and his mother by the physically abusive man who used to live with them.

Armed with this information, the psychiatrist, during further sessions, is then able to develop a meaningful relationship with the boy and his mother and help them to understand the reasons behind his (i.e. the boy’s) behavior (chaotic, angry, hypervigilant etc) and talk through his issues. In this way, the boy is able to gain insight into his own psychological issues which, in turn, leads to an improvement both in his behavior and in how he feels about himself. And this is achieved without the need of a diagnosis or medication.


N.B. The above does not imply, nor is intended to imply, that medication for psychological conditions is always inappropriate. Davies himself accepts that medication in psychiatry still has its place in certain situations.


You may also wish to my related article :



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

Yoga For Complex PTSD

yoga for complex PTSD

yoga for complex PTSD

Studies into the effectiveness of yoga already suggest that it can help to ameliorate both physical and psychological problems including diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety.

There also now exists evidence (e.g. van der Kolk, 2014, see below)) that it can help to reduce symptoms of Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (Complex PTSD).

Complex PTSD Gives Rise To Both Psychological And Physical Symptoms :

We have already seen how the cumulative effects of exposure to ongoing and repetitive trauma can result in the development of Complex PTSD and that the condition adversely affects the body’s physiology leading to impaired functioning of the autonomic nervous system and associated physical problems that can manifest in various ways including :

Furthermore, such symptoms are, in individuals with Complex PTSD, if not ongoing (though they can be : my own hyperventilation and physical agitation went on for years and the former continues to be set off by what most others would consider to be trivial anxieties, whilst my resting heart rate is still, worryingly, running at over one hundred beats per minute), very easily triggered by even relatively minor stressors ; this is because the individual’s capacity to tolerate stress is dramatically compromised, especially in relation to stressors that are linked (on either a conscious or unconscious level) to memories of the original traumatic experiences.

yoga for complex PTSD

Severe Physical Symptoms Of Complex PTSD May Prevent Or Impair Talk-Based Psychotherapy :

If such physical symptoms of Complex PTSD are severe and remain unaddressed there is potential for them to prevent or impair talk-based psychotherapy. For example, in my own case my physical symptoms were so bad that I frequently either could not attend therapy sessions (as I was unable to leave my flat), or, if I did manage to attend, was unable to focus or concentrate properly.

How Can Yoga Help Those Suffering From Complex PTSD?

Yoga that incorporates physical exercises, breathing exercises and mindfulness can be a more effective treatment of the physiological symptoms of Complex PTSD that talk-based psychotherapy because of the fact that it DIRECTLY ADDRESSES SUCH SYMPTOMS THROUGH BREATHING TECHNIQUES AND BODY WORK. Indeed, recent research supports the effectiveness of yoga in this regard – for example, van der Kolk’s study (2014), which I briefly outline below :

The Study :

  • The participants in the study were adult females with Complex PTSD who had not responded to the intervention of traditional psychotherapy
  • These same females were then randomly allocated to one of two groups as shown below :

GROUP ONE : The females who were randomly allocated to GROUP ONE underwent a TEN WEEK COURSE IN TRAUMA SENSITIVE YOGA (a special form of yoga that was developed at the Boston Trauma Center in the U.S.)

GROUP TWO : The females who were randomly allocated to GROUP TWO did NOT undergo this course.

The Results Of The Study :

The main findings of the study were as follows :

At the end of the ten week period :

  • Those in the treatment group (GROUP ONE) were significantly less likely still to meet the diagnostic criteria for Complex PTSD than those in the non-treatment group (GROUP TWO).
  • Furthermore, those in the treatment group (GROUP ONE) showed a significant reduction in depression and self-harm

Longer term studies have found similar results (e.g. Rhodes, 2014).




TSY was developed as an adjunct therapy by David Emerson (who founded the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts) in 2003 and its main goal is to help traumatized individuals control their emotions and associated, dysfunctional behaviors and concentrates on breathing techniques, meditation. specific physical postures and gentle movements.



Yoga may be an effective complementary treatment option to be used in conjunction with talk-based psychotherapies particularly when physical symptoms of Complex PTSD are so severe that they interfere with talk-based psychotherapies, as in my own case (see above).

A major benefit of yoga for the treatment of the physical symptoms of Complex PTSD is that it addresses such problems directly.


If you would like to read my related article : ‘TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES’, please click here.


eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon – click here for further details.


David Hosier Bsc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE) Read More →

The Main Ways Trauma Continues To Ruin Our Lives Long After It’s Over

The effects of trauma, in the absence of effective therapy, can adversely affect our lives for years or even decades (for our WHOLE lifetimes, in fact) after it is over (indeed, the effects of trauma themselves can take years from when the traumatic experience ended to present themselves – in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : ‘Why Can Effects Of Childhood Trauma Be Delayed?’).

In his book, ‘The Betrayal Bond‘, Patrick Carnes, PhD, outlines eight main ways in which the experience of severe trauma can continue to affect us. I list these below :

Trauma reaction :

The ‘alarm’ response to the traumatic experience. These responses can be both biological and psychological. Extreme and prolonged trauma can lead to an individual becoming essentially ‘trapped’ in the alarm response which results in him/her becoming extremely, emotionally reactive and prone to flying into rages in response to the smallest of provocations. This state is sometimes referred to as hypervigilance or hyperarousal.

Furthermore, this ongoing trauma reaction frequently involves :

Trauma arousal :

This refers to deriving pleasure from taking large risks, sensation seeking, and exposing oneself to high levels of danger or even from getting involved in violent situations ; individuals who are traumatized may behave in such ways to detract from feelings of emptiness and emotional pain.

Individuals displaying trauma arousal may :

  • find it difficult being alone
  • be intolerant of ‘low-stress situations’ (as such situations do not satisfy their cravings for mental stimulation).
  • need ever increasing ‘hits’ of stimulation and excitement due to habituation, leading to taking greater and greater risks
  • use stimulant drugs (e.g. cocaine)
  • associate with dangerous people
  • become increasingly addicted to the arousal state

Trauma blocking :

Trauma blocking refers to the individual’s attempts to numb him/herself so as to escape / block out painful feelings associated with the traumatic experiences.

Individuals displaying trauma blocking behavior may :

  • over-eat, especially carbohydrates to induce drowsiness
  • consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • sleep excessively (referred to as hypersomnia)
  • workaholism
  • undertaking excessive exercise
  • compulsive sex
  • ‘zone out’

Trauma splitting :

This refers to the unconscious process of avoiding the reality of the traumatic experience by ‘splitting it off’ from conscious awareness so that it is compartmentalized and unintegrated into personality so as to allow day-to-day functioning (if it was not ‘split off’ and compartmentalized, it would psychologically overwhelm the individual. Therefore ‘splitting’ can be categorized as defence mechanism ; however, such splitting prevents the information associated with the traumatic experience being properly processed which, in turn, prevents traumatic resolution. (For more about ‘splitting’, click here).

‘Splitting’ can manifest itself in various ways :

  • using hallucinogenic drugs (such as LSD) to ‘enter an alternative reality.’
  • In extreme cases, ‘splitting’ can take on the form of dissociative identity disorder (which used to be called ‘multiple personality disorder’) which may involve amnesia about what one has been doing and where one is
  • certain religious and spiritual practises
  • ‘obsessive love’ – see my previously published article about OBSESSIVE LOVE DISORDER
  • frequently retreating in one’s own mind to a ‘fantasy world.’
  • living a double life

Trauma abstinence :

This refers to a compulsion to experience deprivation. This is especially likely to happen when the individual is experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety or shame ( to read my article entitled, ‘Shame Caused By Childhood Trauma And How We Try To Repress It) or even at times when great success has been achieved (see my article on self-defeating personality disorder).

According to Carnes, self-deprivation may relate to the individual having been deprived and neglected during childhood, causing him/her to believe, as an adult, that s/he is unworthy and undeserving of ‘the good things in life.’ If such an individual also has a high level of arousal caused by childhood trauma such as severe abuse (click here to read my article about hyperarousal ), this may also have led neurochemical changes in the individual’s brain making him/her prone to addictive behavior. When these two two factors (i.e. self-neglect caused by a belief of being ‘unworthy’ and proneness to addiction) coalesce, s/he may become, as it were, addicted to self-deprivation.

Carnes provides the example of anorexia, explaining that self-starvation operates like an addiction to drugs because it can increase the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killers (e.g. Tepper, 1992). He also states that such addictions to deprivation may operate to psychologically compensate for a sense of loss of control in other areas of life ; the example Carnes provides is that of a woman who is sexually out of control ‘compensating’ by becoming anorexic.

Food is just one example of what such individuals may deprive themselves of, other examples include :

  • heating
  • medical care
  • depriving oneself of success (self-sabotage)
  • sufficient rest and relaxation
  • holidays
  • anything that could be categorized as a luxury
  • vacations

Trauma shame :

This refers to feelings of shame (see my previously published article, ‘Childhood Trauma, The Shame Loop And Defenses Against Shame’ ) and self-hatred (see my previously published article, ‘ Childhood Trauma Leading To Self-Hatred And Intense Self-Criticism) that, all too frequently, arise following chronic and severe childhood trauma

Feelings of shame can manifest themselves in various ways, including :.


  • Trauma repetition :

This refers to an unconscious drive to recreate and re-experience the trauma through people (e.g. forming relationships with physically abusive partners if one was physically abused as a child) and situations and to repeat behaviors associated with the original trauma.

Trauma repetition may also involve the traumatized individual being unconsciously driven to treat others in the same abusive manner that they themselves had been treated.

There exist different theories as to why individuals often re-enact their original traumatic experiences later on in life. For example,  Levy PhD (1998) proposed that reenactments might be caused by :

To read Levy’s original paper on these four possible causes of reenactment of trauma, click here.

Trauma bonds :

This refers to the tendency to form relationships with others that are maladaptive and dysfunctional and expose one to harm, danger, shame, emotional pain, exploitation or, in extreme cases, even death. Examples of traumatic bonds operating in relationships include those that exist within a context of domestic violence or incest. Other examples include codependents who live with alcoholics or compulsive gamblers.

Carnes provides us with various examples of signs that a relationship may be based upon a traumatic bond, some of which I present below :

  • remaining loyal to those who betray one
  • keeping the abuse secret
  • staying in conflict with others when walking away would cost one nothing
  • being constantly attracted to / obsessed with / preoccupied by untrustworthy people
  • staying in a relationship which causes one great psychological pain


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