Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

Family Therapy And Adolescent BPD Sufferers

family therapy and adolescent BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder In Adolescents :

I have written elsewhere about why some mental health clinicians are reluctant to diagnose borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adolescents. However, when an adolescent is believed to be suffering from this extremely serious psychiatric condition, family therapy can be of potentially crucial importance.

What Is Family Therapy?

Quite simply, family therapy is a form of counseling that treats more than one member of the family in the same therapy sessions; this is predicated on the notion that the behavior of a specific individual within the family is intimately connected to how other family members interact with him/her. (Two related posts that I have previously published about this phenomenon are : ‘Did Your Dysfunctional Family Make You Identified Patient?’ and ‘The Dysfunctional Family’s Scapegoat’

How Does Family Therapy Help?

The aim of family therapy is to educate all its relevant members about :

  • how family dynamics influence and maintain the behaviors of individuals within it
  • communication within the family
  • how adaptive (desirable) behaviors can be reinforced
  • ways in which the family can collaborate (work together) to solve problems within the family

It is often the case that, prior to such therapeutic intervention, the adolescent, due to his/her acting out‘, was seen (by the other members of the family) as the source of the family problems but, as the therapy sessions unfold, it becomes apparent that, in fact, the collective dysfunction of the whole family is at the root of the issue.

It is also not infrequently the case that through the process of family therapy it is revealed that other members of the family, too, have serious psychological conditions which need addressing (e.g. many adolescent sufferers of BPD will have a parent with the same condition or a similar personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder). When this found to be the case, such parents can also be helped (assuming they are willing) by the therapist which can, in turn, help them to relate to their family in a healthier way, hopefully culminating in a less dysfunctional relationship between them and their adolescent child.

Another very important aspect of family therapy is the therapist’s close observation of non-verbal communication between the parents and the adolescent (e.g. body language, facial expressions, intonation etc). By carrying out such observations, the therapist can point out to the family when such non-verbal signals may be less than helpful.

Family therapy can also include group training in parenting skills which can provide parents with :

  • emotional support
  • advice on how to create less dysfunctional family environments
  • how to set their children good examples / be good role models
  • how to reinforce their child’s positive behaviors

RESOURCES :

Enhance Parenting Skills – click here for further information.

Couples Therapy – click here for further information

eBook :

adolescent borderline personality disorder

Above eBook now available on Amazon for intant download. Click here for further details or to view other titles.

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


Childhood Trauma Linked To Psychologically Damaging Time Perspective

childhood trauma and temporal theory

Based upon Zimbardo’s and Boyd’s (2008) Time Perspective Theory, a therapeutic technique known as Time Perspective Therapy (Zimbardo, Sword and Sword) was developed.

Time Perspective Therapy is predicated upon Zimbardo’s idea that the way in which we view and relate to the past, the present and the future strongly influences how we think, feel, behave and perceive events that are going on around us.  According to this theory, each individual may be represented, to a greater or lesser degree) by any of the following types.

  1. THE ‘PAST-NEGATIVE’ TYPE
  2. THE ‘PAST-POSITIVE’ TYPE
  3. THE ‘PRESENT-HEDONISTIC’ TYPE
  4. THE ‘PRESENT-FATALIST’ TYPE
  5. THE ‘FUTURE-FOCUSED’ TYPE
  6. THE ‘FUTURE-TRANSCENDENT’ TYPE

time perspective therapy

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

  1. THE ‘PAST-NEGATIVE’ TYPE : this type of individual is preoccupied by the negative aspects of his/her personal past experiences
  2. THE ‘PAST-POSITIVE’ TYPE : this type of individual feels nostalgic about the past and might describe it with phrases like ‘the good old days
  3. THE ‘PRESENT-HEDONISTIC’ TYPE : this type of individual seeks immediate pleasure and has an impaired ability to delay gratification
  4. THE ‘PRESENT-FATALISTIC’ TYPE : this type of individual has a tendency to feel that making plans and decisions ‘now’ (i.e. in the present) is futile as the future is predetermined and beyond their control – in this way they may develop a kind of ‘whatever will be will be…‘ attitude.
  5. THE ‘FUTURE-ORIENTED’ TYPE : this type of person adopts an optimistic view of the future, is able to delay gratification for the sake of the longer-term good, makes confident plans for it, is ambitious and sets him/herself challenging goals.
  6. THE ‘FUTURE-TRANSCENDENT’ TYPE : this type of individual focuses on his/her belief that an ‘after-life’ exists.

The degree to which individuals can be represented by the above types can be measured by the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI).

Childhood Trauma And Time Perspective Type :

Individuals who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma and who have, perhaps, as a result, go on to develop conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex-PTSD) are prone to :

In terms of Zimbardo’s time perspective theory, therefore, such individuals tend to score highly on the following scales :

  • PAST NEGATIVE TYPE (e.g. obsessively dwelling on one’s past mistakes)
  • PRESENT HEDONISTIC TYPE  (e.g. frequent heavy drinking to ameliorate, in the short-term, mental pain)
  • PRESENT FATALISTIC  TYPE (e.g. feeling powerless to affect future)

It can be seen, then, that scoring highly on the three scales representing the above three types can suggest a poor state of psychological health.

Instead, it is more conducive to good mental health to :

  • make positive use of the past (e.g. remembering good things, learning from past mistakes etc)
  • learn to live more in the present but not in such a hedonistic way that it jeopardizes the future
  • learn to take a more optimistic view of the future and to plan for the future.

Time Perspective Therapy :

TIME PERSPECTIVE THERAPY (developed by Zimbardo, Sword and Sword), based upon cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),  can help us develop healthier / more balanced time perspectives and this, in turn, can improve many areas of our lives including our relationships, our social lives and our careers

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

 

 

 

 

 


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) May Beneficially Change Brain Functioning

BPD, borderline personality disorder and reality testing

One of the most effective therapies for those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) (as we have seen, BPD is closely linked to childhood trauma) is called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

What Is DBT?

DBT is based on the person’s need to change their behavior and their need to be accepted. The therapy was devised by Marsha Lineham, PhD.

What Does DBT Involve?

Typically, DBT involves :

  • individual psychotherapy (usually once per week), starting with changing the individual’s most concerning behaviors, then changing behaviors hindering therapy (e.g. missing appointments), and finally with ‘quality of life issues.’
  • skills training (within a group-therapy context). The four main skills that are taught are :
  1. MINDFULNESS
  2. INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS
  3. DISTRESS TOLEARANCE
  4. EMOTIONAL REGULATION

DBT changes brain

Research Suggests That DBT Can Beneficially Alter Brain Functioning :

THE STUDY :

Research conducted by Schnell and Herpertz (2006) involved looking at the effects of DBT (specifically, training in emotional regualation, see number 4, above) on female patients’ brain functioning (this was done by taking magnetic resonance images, or MRIs, a type of brain scan) after they had spent 12 weeks undergoing an inpatient treatment program.

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

The female, BPD patients who improved following the DBT / emotional regulation skills 12 week inpatient program were found (by analysis of their MRIs) to show:

REDUCED ACTIVITY IN CERTAIN BRAIN REGIONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE GENERATION OF INTENSE EMOTIONS, INCLUDING THE AMYGDALA AND THE HIPPOCAMPUS.

Such a reduction of activity in these brain regions is associated with an increase in the individual’s abilty to prevent themselves from overreacting to stressful situations (overreacting to stressful situations, also known as impaired emotional regulation, is one of the hallmark features of BPD).

Conclusion :

The above can be interpreted as further evidence for the effectiveness of DBT for treating patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).

 

RESOURCES :

CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE

 

eBooks :

 bpd and neuroimagingneuroplasticity ebook

Above eBooks now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

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


Overcoming Nightmares And Hallucinations With ‘Paradoxical Intention.’

paradoxical intention

Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Adult, Psychiatric Disorders :

We have seen in many other articles that I have published on this site that there is a link between childhood trauma and the later development of a whole array of psychiatric disorders in adulthood (for example, see my article on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – sometimes referred to as the ACE Study).

Such psychiatric disorders include major depression, anxiety, alcoholism, borderline personality disorder (BPD), complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) and psychosis (including schizophrenia).

All of these conditions may include the symptoms of nightmares and/or hallucinations (borderline personality disorder can sometimes involve brief psychotic episodes, as can depression).

Nightmares, Hallucinations And Trauma-Based Memories :

When nightmares and hallucinations are linked to psychiatric disorders which, in turn, are linked to childhood trauma, it is quite possible that the content of those nightmares and / or hallucinations are founded, at least in part, upon TRAUMA – BASED MEMORIES.

Paradoxical Intention :

paradoxical intention

Of course, the content of nightmares and hallucinations is frequently highly disturbing and distressing – I have had nightmares of such violence that they have, on more than one occasion, caused me to fall out of bed. Frequently, too, I have thrashed about so vigorously in my sleep that I have knocked lamps, clocks, overflowing ashtrays, radios and half-finished cups of tea off my bedside table (although never all at once, albeit small consolation) – however, one possible way to reduce their intensity, or, even, overcome them may, counter-intuitively, according to psychodynamic theory, be facilitated by a process known as PARADOXICAL INTENTION.

Paradoxical intention is a concept first described by Dr Viktor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor who founded Logotherapy, based on the idea that psychological symptoms can be made worse by tying too hard to fight them, summed up by the pithy maxim, ‘What you resist persists.’

So, applying the idea of paradoxical intention to the treatment of nightmares and hallucinations involves a trained psychotherapist encouraging the client to view his/her nightmares and /or hallucinations from a completely different perspective,  i.e. rather than seeing the hallucinations / nightmares as something purely destructive and to be feared, the client is encouraged, instead, to try to see these phenomena as helpful clues (no matter how bizarre and nonsensical they may appear to be on the surface) which can be analyzed and interpreted for salient meanings (whether literal or symbolic), thus helping to expose, and shed light upon, possible trauma-based memories that underpin the individual’s psychiatric condition.

In this way, the client can be both empowered, and, under the care of an appropriately trained psychotherapist, can also be sensitively and compassionately helped to understand, where appropriate, the deep roots of his/her particular psychological difficulties, which may prove to be an effective first step towards ameliorating them.

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here for further information or to view other titles.

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


Effects Of ‘Bottling Up’ Feelings Related To Trauma

bottling up feelings

‘Bottling Up’ Emotions

It is often said that it is psychologically unhealthy to ‘bottle up’ (suppress) feelings connected to trauma, loss and grief. But what does the research tell us?

Bowlby’s Position :

Bowlby’s (1980) work on the effects of suppression (he mainly focused on the suppression of grief) of such feelings proposes that grief is a natural feeling and ‘bottling up.’ or suppressing, such feelings causes an important psychological process to become inhibited and that this, in turn, would lead to both psychological and physical ill-health.

effect of bottling up emotions

Challenges To Bowlby’s Position :

However, Wortman and Silver (1989) assert that the empirical evidence supporting Bowlby’s view is weak (but see later research conducted by Chapman et al. in 2013)and that those who strictly adhere to Bowlby’s view may unhelpfully cause individuals who do not experience a period of grief (that they define as ‘intense distress’) to be labelled as ‘abnormal’.

Furthermore, Wortman and Silver (1989) go on to suggest that, partly as a consequence of Bowlby’s view, individuals may be expected to ‘work through’ their feelings of grief/distress, as opposed to ‘bottling them up’, denying or suppressing them. Then, after a relatively short period of time, they may be expected to have ‘resolved’ their feelings of loss, and, therefore, cease their period of grieving.

Such expectations, Wortman and Silver (1989) suggest, can be potentially damaging as they may imply that those who do not go through this (according to Bowlby) ‘natural’ process are, as alluded to above, in some way reacting to their loss ‘abnormally’ or ‘inappropriately’ which is neither a sensitive, nor effective. approach to therapeutic intervention.

Bonanno et al., (1995) also conducted research that contradicted Bowlby’s theory. They concluded from their research that those who exhibited mild to moderate emotional detachment during the grieving process actually recovered better in psychological terms when compared to those who expressed their distress more overtly.

Support For Bowlby’s Position – Empirical Data Relating To Cancer And Cardiovascular Disease :

However, in contrast to Bonanno’s (see above) findings, Chapman et al. (2013) conducted a study which found those who tended to suppress their emotions were 1.7 times more likely to die from cancer at any given time and 1.47 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease at any given time than those who did not.

RESOURCE :

How To Express Your Emotions – click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 


Childhood Trauma May Damage Prefrontal Cortex : How To Help Reverse Such Damage.

how to reverse damage to prefrontal cortex

Childhood Trauma May Damage Development Of Certain Brain Structures, Including Prefrontal Cortex :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that severe and chronic psychological and emotional trauma in early life may adversely affect the physical development of various structures in the brain, including the prefrontal cortex. In individuals who have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) following childhood trauma, such impairment to the brain is thought to be particularly likely.

What Is The Prefrontal Cortex And What Is Its Function?

The prefrontal cortex is a brain region located in the front of the skull (see diagram below) and its main functions include :

  • complex planning and decision making
  • self-control in the context of social behavior
  • setting and achieving goals
  • impulse control

reverse damage to prefrontal cortex

ABOVE : Position of frontal cortex in the brain

Evidence For Damage To The Prefrontal Cortex In Individuals Diagnosed With BPD:

MRI Studies : have shown that individuals with BPD have reduced volume in the brain’s frontal lobe and left orbitofrontal cortex (although further studies are required in order to ascertain if this link is causal).

fMRI Studies : have shown that BPD sufferers experience abnormal activation in the brain’s inferolateral prefrontal cortex in response to stimuli that generate negative emotions as well as unusually elevated levels of activation of the orbitofrontal cortex during the recollection of traumatic memories

Other Brain Imaging Studies : have suggested that BPD sufferers have an abnormally low density of neurons and abnormal neuronal function in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as abnormally low blood flow to the ventrolateral right prefrontal cortex.

(More research needs to be conducted in order to shed further light upon the nature of the link between childhood trauma, BPD and impaired physiological development of the prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, there exists evidence to suggest that severe an chronic childhood trauma can adversely affect the development of other brain regions including the amygdala and the hippocampus).

Potential Adverse Effects Of Damage To The Prefrontal Cortex :

If a person incurs physiological damage to the development of their prefrontal cortex as a result of severe and protracted childhood trauma, it follows that the functions of the prefrontal cortex may be commensurately impaired, including the functions listed above (i.e. complex planning and decision making; self-control in social situations; setting and achieving goals; and impulse control).

Reversing The Damage :

We can employ various methods that mat help to reverse such damage and I list some of the main ones below :

RESOURCES :

eBook :

childhood trauma damages brain ebook

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

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

 


Start Your Own Mental Health Blog

start your own mental health blog

My Own Experience Of Blogging :

I started this blog about five years ago as I believed it would help in my recovery – it has certainly done so.

It has introduced some structure into my life and has had a cathartic effect. Most importantly, it has helped me understand my past feelings and behaviors better which has been, for me, a vital prerequisite to meaningful and lasting recovery.

Should You Start A Blog?

I therefore strongly recommend others who have experienced the pain of mental illness in their lives also start a blog. However, there is one proviso : it is important that you feel well enough to embark upon a blog, especially one which may stir up painful past memories which, in turn, could trigger symptoms.

Get started with WordPress! Use the one click install to start that Blog you’ve always wanted!

Writing As Therapy :

Of course, starting a blog about one’s mental health is just one option when it comes to therapeutic writing ;there are many others’

If we were emotionally wounded as children, writing down our thoughts and feelings, perhaps in a journal, can be extremely therapeutic. Or, if a we are particularly creative, writing a novel or poetry about early experiences can be extremely cathartic.

Alternatively, writing a letter to the person/people who hurt us, explaining how their treatment of us has affected us, can also be extremely helpful (whether or not we actually send the letter).

Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear writers say, because of the difficult early experiences they have had, that they actually feel compelled to write and start to feel unwell if they are somehow prevented from doing so.  Franz Kafka is an example of this – he had a very bad relationship with his father and, as well as writing novels (and the well known short story – Metamorphosis), he wrote a famous letter to his father (although he never actually sent it).

 

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Above – Franz Kafka

 

EXTERNALIZATION : One of the main reasons why writing about our early life trauma can be so effective at helping to feel better is that it gives us the opportunity to EXTERNALIZE what has happened to us, rather than keeping it painfully bottled up inside.

It also helps us to organize out thoughts about what happened to us, as well as helping us to gain a better understanding of how we have been affected by our experiences. Indeed, understanding what has caused us to have problems in our adult lives is of fundamental importance if we are to properly recover.

Furthermore, writing about our negative experiences helps us to put distance between them and ourselves  and allows us to view things more objectively. This can come as a great relief and lessen any painful, intrusive thoughts we may have been suffering.

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


Steps To Trauma Recovery

steps to trauma recovery

The psychoanalyst, Rothschild, in her excellent book ‘Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery‘, suggests that recovery from trauma entails just a handful of majo elements and I list these below. Underneath some of the elements that appear on the list I have added my own short elaborations and elucidations in terms of how each element may relate specifically to recovery from childhood trauma.

1) Recognizing that one has experienced trauma and survived it.

In the case of childhood trauma it is essential that the victim’s feelings in relation to it are validated by at least one significant other ; the psychotherapist and childhood trauma expert Alice Miller termed such a person an ‘enlightened witness’. An enlightened witness is so vital because It is not unusual for other members of the traumatized individual’s family to invalidate the his/her feelings (e.g. belittling them or dismissing them) for reasons connected to their own guilt and complicity.

2) Coming to terms with flashbacks and understanding their relationship to traumatic memories (to read my article Horowitz’s Information Processing Theory, Flashbacks And Nightmares‘, click here).

3) Self-Compassion

Many individuals suffer from IRRATIONAL feelings of self-blame and guilt in relation to their traumatic childhood experiences ; for example, a child whose parents divorce may erroneously blame him/herself for the parents’ marital breakdown. It is essential to free oneself from such inaccurate and self-destructive beliefs.

To read my article on ‘Compassion Focused Therapy For The Effects Of Childhood Trauma‘, click here.

steps to trauma recovery

4) The need to overcome feelings of shame

Closely related to self-blame and guilt, irrational feelings of shame are also extremely common amongst survivors of childhood trauma and the victim may require significant therapeutic intervention to facilitate the amelioration of such feelings.To read my article entitled ‘Shame And Its Agonizing Effects‘, click here.

5) Recovery from trauma best achieved by breaking the recovery process down into small, manageable steps.

6) Mobilizing the body out of its ‘frozen’ state

Trauma affects the body’s biological functioning and can have the effect of ‘freezing’ it into a state of physiological HYPERAROUSAL and FEAR. Exercising for about 30 minutes a day can help ‘unfreeeze’ the body, not least because it helps to return adrenaline levels to normal (those ‘frozen’ in a hyperaroused and fearful state have an excess of adrenaline coursing through their systems, contributing significantly to feelings of physical tension and associated emotional distress.

7) Deriving meaning and purpose from one’s traumatic experiences in a way that leads to self-improvement.

This essentially refers the concept of posttraumatic growth. A whole category of this site is devoted to posttraumatic growth articles (see MAIN MENU at the top of the page).

 

THERAPIES :

Therapies that can be effective for individuals who have suffered childhood trauma include ‘talking therapies’ such as counselling and psychotherapy. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be very effective.

 

 

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

 


Diagnosing BPD In Adolescents : Why Some Clinicians Don’t Like Doing It

 

diagnosing BPD in adolescents

Whilst borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be diagnosed in adolescents, some clinicians may be reluctant to do so ; I summarize some of the main reasons for this below :

– Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) may overlap lap to some degree with non-pathological (‘normal’) adolescent behaviors which can somewhat muddy the waters when it comes to attempting to make a clear, unambiguous and unequivocal diagnosis.

– The personality of the adolescent is still developing and is not yet fully formed

– Although it is less the case now than it was (in even the relatively recent past) a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is still often perceived as being stigmatizing and can potentially make the adolescent feel yet worse about himself/herself when his/her self-esteem and sense of self-worth is already extremely low (low self-esteem and low sense of self-worth are hallmark symptoms of BPD).

However, some individuals also feel a great sense of relief to have a diagnosis as it helps them to understand the root causes of their dysfunctional behaviors and therefore feel less guilty (feelings of intense, irrational guilt are another hallmark symptom of BPD).

Also, of course, an accurate diagnosis helps to ensure appropriate and effective treatment is given (see RISK OF SUICIDE below); at present, the most effective treatment for BPD is considered to be dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Whilst DBT is a therapy that was initially developed in order to help to treat adults with BPD, it is possible to adapt it to the needs of the adolescent. However, the majority of clinicians are still reluctant to make the diagnosis of BPD in young people who are under the age of eighteen years.

– Because BPD has its roots in childhood experience, it is likely that some clinicians are worried about diagnosing BPD in the adolescent in case the parents may regard it as a negative judgment upon them and therefore become upset or angry.

However, if the parents’ behavior has seriously damaged their child, then alerting them to the fact may galvanize them into making a concerted effort to improve the manner in which they treat the young person (sadly, of course, this can’t be guaranteed ; indeed. abusive parents may feel humiliated at take it out on the child).

– Because BPD sufferers tend to be gravely misunderstood, even by those entrusted with their care and treatment, some clinicians may be reluctant to diagnose adolescents with BPD in case it results in them being treated with prejudice and discriminated against by other clinicians they may come into contact with in later life,

THE RISK OF SUICIDE :

It is vital to remember that one in ten (yes, 10%) of individuals with BPD end up dying by suicide. This statistic demonstrates the vital importance of the earliest possible therapeutic intervention for those suffering from this profoundly painful and complex condition. Clearly, a prerequisite to effective treatment is sensitive, timely and accurate diagnosis.

eBook :

BPD ebook

The above eBook Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Borderline Personality Disorder, is now available for instant download from Amazon. Click on above image or click here for details (other titles available).

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


Controlling Emotions : The Emotional Regulation System

controlling emotions

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that if, as children, we experienced, significant and protracted trauma we are at increased risk of developing various psychological difficulties as adults, including an increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic  stress disorder.

One of the hallmarks of BPD, as we have also seen from other articles, is that the sufferer of the condition finds it very difficult indeed to control intense and volatile emotions. In effect, the emotional regulation system of individuals diagnosed with BPD is out of kilter and dysfunctional.

What Is The Emotional Regulation System?

The emotional regulation system is fundamentally comprised of three interacting parts of the brain ; these are as follows :

  1. THE THREAT SYSTEM (detects and reacts to threats)
  2. THE DRIVE SYSTEM (motivates us to identify and seek resources)
  3. THE SOOTHING SYSTEM  (helps balance the two systems above and engenders in us a sense of well-being, satisfaction and contentment)

Each of these three systems is neither good nor bad per seas long as they are in balance and interacting in a healthy and functional way. However, each system is vulnerable to becoming dysfunctional (as occurs in the case of those suffering from BPD, for example). TO READ ABOUT WAYS IN WHICH THESE SYSTEMS CAN BECOME DYSFUNCTIONAL AND THERAPIES THAT CAN HELP, YOU MAY LIKE TO READ ANOTHER OF MY POSTS ON THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM BY CLICKING HERE.

how to control emotions

THE ROLE OF NEUROPLASTICITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM :

The way in which the brain is shaped and develops depends, to a large degree, upon our early life experiences ; this is because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity which you can read about by clicking here.

Because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, if, when we are young, we are constantly exposed to fear and danger because, for example, of the abusive treatment we receive from a parent or primary care giver, the THREAT SYSTEM is at very high risk of being constantly over-activated in a way that leads it to operate in a dysfunctional manner ; this dysfunction takes the form of the fight/flight/freeze; response becoming hypersensitive, resulting in the affected individual developing grave difficulties keeping related emotions (such as anger, fear and anxiety) in check. Without appropriate therapy, such dysfunction may last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.

On the other hand, if, when we are young, we experience consistent and secure love, care and emotional warmth from our parents / primary caregivers, our SOOTHING SYSTEM is ‘nourished’ and becomes optimally (or close to optimally) developed resulting in us becoming more able to cope with life’s inevitable stressors, less vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and fear, and more able to calm ourselves down and ‘self-sooth’ than those who had who were brought up in an environment in which they were constantly exposed to fear and danger.

However, even if we have had a traumatic early life and have problems regulating our emotions, there are various, simple things we can do to us control our feelings (see below).

 

  • AVOID REACTING IMMEDIATELY / IMPULSIVELY : For example, if someone triggers our anger, rather than making a reflexive response (such as saying something we’ll deeply regret later) it is better to wait until the rage has subsided – this may involve calming physiological symptoms like fast heart rate and tense muscles by using relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and visualization ; we may, therefore, need to remove ourselves for a while (if possible) from the presence of whoever it may be that has upset us.
  • MAKE POSITIVE ALTERATIONS TO THE SITUATION GIVING RISE TO OUR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (although this will not always be feasible, of course)
  • ALTER FOCUS OF ATTENTION (e.g. undertaking a distracting activity)
  • ALTER WAY IN WHICH WE ARE THINKING ABOUT THE SITUATION : A therapy that can help with this is COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT).

USING NEUROPLASTICITY TO OUR ADVANTAGE :

Although the brain’s quality of neuroplasticity can work against us if we experience a traumatic early life, we can also take advantage of it later in life to help reverse any damage that was done to the development of our young and vulnerable brains. In order to learn more about how this may be possible, you may wish read my article MENDING THE MIND : SELF-DIRECTED NEUROPLASTICITY.

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (DBT) :

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that was designed primarily for those who are suffering from borderline personality disorder (see above). A particularly useful skill taught within this therapy is called DISTRESS TOLERANCE which can be very helpful for those experiencing emotional distress due to intense, negative feelings.

COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT) :

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) can also be an effective therapy for those suffering from emotional dysregulation.

 

RESOURCE :

CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS – SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD. Click HERE for

further information.

 

eBook :

childhood trauma damages brain ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. For further information, click here.

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