Category Archives: Ptsd/cptsd Articles

Neurogenic Tremors : Why Shaking With Fear Is Good For Us

neurogenic tremors

Recent research has served to emphasize the crucial relevance of the body when considering both how severe traumatic experiences can adversely affect us AND how we can treat such adverse effects (including posttraumatic stress disorder).

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.

neurogenic tremors

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 :

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.

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

Often Aggressive? Is Your Sensorimotor System Primed To Deal With Threat?

sensorimotor system

Are You Easily Provoked Into Angry And Aggressive Behavior?

After my mother threw me out of her house when I was thirteen years old and I was reluctantly taken in by my father and step-mother (which I have written about elsewhere in this site, so I won’t repeat the details), I was quickly labelled by my unwilling new custodians as ‘morose’ and ‘hostile ‘ (amongst other less than complimentary descriptors); whilst perhaps less than helpful, I am forced to confess that these two adjectives had not been applied to me wholly inaccurately.

Whilst I see now that my ‘moroseness’ and ‘hostility’ were directly symptomatic of my experiences during my early life (I have also written about this elsewhere), this basic inference was emphatically not drawn by my father and new wife. To them I was just a ‘bad’ child, possibly even ‘evil’ (my step-mother was intensely, pathologically religious and, soon after I moved in I recall, as vividly as if it were happening now, her shouting at me in some utterly indecipherable way and in no language I had ever heard before ; she was, in fact, speaking in what she believed, or pretended to believe and wanted me to believe, were ‘tongues’).

But back to my hostility, or, more accurately, to a consideration of individuals in general who are more than averagely  prone to hostile / aggressive / angry behavior.

If we, in our early lives, were habitually threatened and made to feel unsafe  by our parents / primary caregivers then, over time, our sensorimotor system may have become ‘primed for threat’ (this is the case because it would have been evolutionary adaptive for our distant ancestors).  In other words, it may have become highly sensitive and driven into overdrive in response to the smallest, perceived provocation.

This, in turn, means that as adults, when we perceive a threat that in any way reminds us (usually on an unconscious level) of our frightening childhood experiences (even though we are, objectively speaking, in no danger in the present)  our sensorimotor system is liable to become automatically activated (e.g. discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, increased adrenalin production, increased heart-rate, tensed muscles etc, all of which, in turn, stimulate emotional arousal) in such a way that we become, whether we like it or not, disproportionately and inappropriately aggressive.

Such behavior is automatic and beyond conscious control because when such reminders of past dangers occur (often called ‘flashbacks’), cognitive processing is inhibited (i.e. our rational thinking processes essentially ‘shut down’) and we become devoid of the reasoning capacity necessary to realize that we are, at the present time, in fact, safe.

Instead of realizing we are safe, we automatically become hyperaroused and experience strong impulses to lash out verbally or even physically). This can be regarded, as far as our unconscious motivation is concerned) asdefensive aggression‘ ; we are overtaken by a desperate need to ensure we are not hurt again in the way we were hurt as children (I stress again that  we often will not be consciously aware that this is the driving force behind our overly aggressive and hostile reactions).

For survivors of childhood trauma, such automatic responses can cause myriad problems including frequent, destructive, impulsive behavior. This can lead to individual to feel profoundly ashamed and to see him/herself as seriously, psychologically flawed, unstable and often incapable of rational reflection, unaware of the underlying problem : how his/her sensorimotor system has been, due to early-life trauma, conditioned (now maladaptively) to operate.

 

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

Ego Regression And Progression In Response To Trauma

kalscheds regressed and progressed selves

According to Kalsched (1996) severe childhood trauma can result in the person’s ego / psyche / self fragmenting into both a REGRESSED SELF and a PROGRESSED SELF.

What Are The ‘Regressed’ And ‘Progressed’ Selves?

  • REGRESSED SELF : this part of the self / ego / psyche regresses (reverts) to an infantile state
  • PROGRESSED SELF : this part of the self / ego / psyche (henceforth I will simply refer to the ‘self’) becomes precociously advanced in relation to the individual’s actual, chronological age.

Interaction Between The ‘Regressed’ And ‘Progressed’ Selves :

Kalsched explains that the ‘progressed’ part of the self then functions as the protector / defender/ caretaker of the ‘regressed’ part of the self.

But what is the ‘progressed’ part of the self serving to protect the ‘regressed’ part of the self from? According to Kalsched, it serves to protect the ‘regressed’ self from further traumatic experience. In order to accomplish this, it closely monitors all interactions with the outside world and is hypervigilant.

Problems Created By The ‘Progressed’ Self :

Unfortunately, however, Kalsched explains, the ‘progressed’ self fails to learn from experience, and, as such, is likely to continually sound ‘false alarms’, causing us to be overly cautious and to perceive potential danger where it does not, in fact, objectively speaking, exists.

The effect of this over-zealous, chronic, unremitting scanning of our environment for signs of danger is that our view of the world becomes very negative and we lose the spontaneity we had before we were affected by our traumatic experiences.

Dysfunction And Pathology :

Furthermore, the way in which the ‘progressed’ self attempts to defend and protect ‘regressed’ self may become dysfunctional and pathological in numerous different ways which may include :

RELATED POST :

Arrested Psychological Development And Age Regression. Click here.

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

Eleven Types Of ‘Self’ That May Develop After Trauma

effect of trauma on the self

In his book, The Posttraumatic Self, the psychotherapist John Wilson describes eleven types of ‘selves’ (or, what Wilson refers to, more technically, as ‘typologies of personality that form unique configurations of self-processes’) that may develop in the individual following severely traumatic experiences.

These eleven ‘selves’ can be seen as existing on a continuum such that the first (THE INERT SELF) represents those individuals most severely psychologically damaged by their traumatic experiences whereas, at the other end of the spectrum, the eleventh (THE INTEGRATED-TRANSCENDENT SELF), represents those individuals who have proved the most resilient in the face of their traumatic experiences and can be said to have ‘transcended’ them.

I list all eleven of the types of ‘selves’ below :

  1. Inert Self
  2. Empty Self
  3. Fragmented Self
  4. Imbalanced Self
  5. Overcontrolled Self
  6. Anomic Self
  7. Conventional Self
  8. Grandiose Self
  9. Cohesive Self
  10. Accelerated Self
  11. Integrated-Transcendent Self

There follows a brief outline of each of these eleven types :

effects of trauma on the self

1) THE INERT SELF :

Wilson describes those individuals who develop an ‘inert self’ in response to trauma as ‘broken in spirit‘, ‘autistically withdrawn‘ and devoid of all motivation (‘even the motivation to be safe’); they are emotionally numb and facially expressionless. They may, too, experience catanoid states, brief episodes of psychosis or paranoid states.

2) THE EMPTY SELF :

Individuals displaying the ’empty self’ are passive and devoid of energy. They have also lost interest in activities which they previously (before their traumatic experiences) found to be engaging and have become withdrawn, socially isolated (having lost social confidence and social skills) and insecure. They also suffer from anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), are anxious, fearful and have lost trust in the world. Suicidal ideation is also a prominent feature of this group of individuals.

3) THE FRAGMENTED SELF :

Individuals in this category suffer from identity defusion (confusion about their identity and about ‘who they are’ – in other words, they have lost of a coherent and solid sense of self). They also feel as if their personalities have become fragmented (click here to read my previously published article about the ‘fragmented personality’).

Furthermore, they experience problems with relationships (including intense emotional responses towards others which fluctuate dramatically), are likely to function erratically in the work place, may experience dissociative states and develop traits similar to those suffering from dependent personality disorder.

4) THE IMBALANCED SELF :

Those who respond to trauma by displaying an imbalanced self suffer from extreme emotional lability similar to that suffered by individuals who have developed emotional instability disorder.

They are also afraid of being left alone and have a constant need for reassurance, to be looked after and cared for.

Furthermore, they suffer from chronic anxiety and their relationships with others are highly dysfunctional ; if they perceive themselves to be abandoned by others, even briefly, they are prone to becoming severely agitated and/or angry.

5) THE OVERCONTROLLED SELF :

Such individuals have difficulty expressing their emotions and have a fear of losing control. They display trairs similar to those displayed by individuals suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

They are highly driven, disciplined, routine-orientated and ‘overactive’ – this ‘overactivity’ unconsciously serves to exert a sense of control over inner, deep-seated feelings of anxiety; in other words, their frantic attempts to impose control over their external world represents an  an unconscious overcompensation for an anxiety-provoking sense of loss of control over their internal world.

It has also been suggested (e.g. Horowitz, 1999, cited in Wilson) that their intense overactiviry is an unconscious defense mechanism which serves to ‘block out’ / prevent conscious attention being directed towards traumatic memories.

6) THE ANOMIC SELF :

These individuals experience life as empty and meaningless, are mistrustful of society in general and feel alienated and disconnected from it; indeed, often they may be seen as ‘loners’. They rebel against authority and lead an unconventional lifestyle. Also, because of the trauma they have suffered, they are wary of forming close emotional bonds with others. Furthermore, they may suffer from antisocial personality traits.

7) THE CONVENTIONAL SELF :

In contrast to individuals displaying an ‘anomic self’ (see above), these individuals have adjusted to, and reintegrated with, society following their traumatic experiences. By connecting with others, they help themselves redevelop a feeling of being safe; in relation to this, they have a strong need to gain the approval of others and to be liked and respected by them ; this powerful desire drives them to be highly conventional and conformist (Wilson, 1980).

8) THE GRANDIOSE SELF :

These individuals strive to achieve and succeed in the desperate attempt of gain recognition from others in orded to restore their shattered self-esteem (caused by their traumatic experiences).

Their grandiosity can be seen as a defense mechanism serving to ward off and protect from inner feelings of vulnerability, similar to the function it serves in those suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

9) THE COHESIVE SELF :

Such individuals have proved resilient in the face of their traumatic experiences and may be described by others as having bounced back.’ In contrast with the ‘anomic type’ (see above), these individuals are prosocial and concerned with questions relating to ethics and justice.

10) THE ACCELERATED SELF :

Those displaying the ‘accelerated self’ type have become highly individualistic as a result of having overcome their traumatic experiences. Wilson also describes them as being ‘tough, resolute, resilient, morally principled, altruistic and self-directed [who have] ‘transformed traumatic impact into prosocial humanitarian modes of functioning’.

Wilson refers to such people as displaying an ‘ACCELERATED’ self as they have, as a result of their profound, traumatic experiences, had their psychosocial development ‘speeded up’ which, in turn, has led them to consider ‘critical life-stage issues‘ earlier than would normally have been the case.

11) THE INTEGRATED-TRANSCENDENT SELF :

Such individuals have optimally overcome their traumatic experiences and, therefore, can be described as having ‘transcended’ them to achieve a ‘structurally [integrated] self, the components [of which] reflect optimal functioning.’ Indeed, they can be seen as having achieved what Maslow describes as ‘SELF-ACTUALIZATION.’

These individuals embrace growth and challenges, have achieved ‘spiritual transcendence‘, gained profound wisdom and have the ‘capacity to have peak experiences of the numinous.‘ Wilson also describes such individuals as altruistic and able to ‘live in the present with consciousness attuned to a higher awareness of reality and cosmic order.’

 

To read my previously published article : Posttraumatic Growth : Achieving Maslow’s ‘Self-Actualiztion.’ CLICK HERE.

 

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

 

How World War One Helped Us To Understand Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

world war one and PTSD

A vast number of troops were psychologically traumatized by their horrific experiences of trench warfare in World War One.

So-Called ‘War Neurosis’ :

In the British Army alone, 80,000 individuals were treated for such trauma (at the time it was – somewhat disparagingly – referred to as ‘war neurosis’) during the conflict and, additionally, 200,000 received pensions after the war was over for war-related ‘nerves’ (Young, 1995).

So-Called ‘Shell Shock’ :

Due to lack of knowledge about the psychological effects of trauma at the time, and the prevailing ‘stiff upper lip’ type culture, those in authority became worried that these traumatized individuals would make a large proportion of the Army appear ‘weak’ and ‘cowardly.’ This worry, coupled with the predominant medical model interpretation of illness at the time, led to these soldiers’ traumatized condition being referred to as ‘shell shock’.

According to the (incorrect) theory of ‘shell shock’, the soldiers’ traumatized state could be explained by concussion to the head, caused by exploding shells, adversely affecting the brain’s blood vessels. (In this way, the authorities could explain away the troops’ condition as having a physical cause, thus dispelling any notion that it had anything to do with ‘moral weakness’ or ‘cowardice’.)

world war one PTSD

However, it soon became apparent that a significant number of soldiers who were suffering from ‘war neurosis’ / ‘shell shock’ had NOT been exposed to exploding shells, nor had they been physically wounded ; therefore, another cause needed to be found.  In 1918, the psychiatrist, Rivers, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, proposed such a cause :

Rivers’ (1918) Explanation Of ‘War Neurosis’ – Overwhelming Fear Of Death.

Rivers’ explanation for the cause of ‘war neurosis’ was that it was due to the witnessing of the terrible horrors on the Western Front and an overwhelming fear of death – such intense fear, said Rivers, induced in the soldiers a sense of terror which they could not suppress (due to the instinct of self-preservation) and led to symptoms that were an involuntary response to such terror.

Rivers also stated that his hypothesis was supported by the fact that prisoners of war and the seriously wounded (who were, therefore, no longer able to fight) had a low incidence of ‘war neurosis’; he attributed this to the fact that their lives were no longer in danger.

Rivers’ interpretation of the causes of ‘war neurosis’ significantly helped people to understand that it was NOT a form of cowardice or moral weakness, but, instead, a disturbance to the instinct of self-preservation.

Conclusion :

Rivers’ theory, based on his study of soldiers who fought in World War One, can be seen as a very significant step towards our modern-day, more enlightened and compassionate view of individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder from which those diagnosed with ‘war neurosis’ or ‘shell shock’ in World War One were, in fact, suffering.

Tragically, this more enlightened view came too late for many.

306 British and Commonwealth Soldiers Were Shot For ‘Cowardice’ In World War One.

 

 

Resource :

childhood trauma and cptsd

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

Three Types Of Child ‘School Shooter.’

school shooters

Is Dismissing ‘School Shooters’ As ‘Evil’, Whilst Entirely Understandable, Too Simplistic?

In the wake of another tragic school shooting in Florida, USA, it is utterly understandable, of course, that many choose to explain such appalling tragedies using phrases such as ‘it was simply an act of pure evil.’ However, do such explanations (based on entirely natural emotional responses with which we all sympathize) prevent us from looking for more complex, deep-rooted causes? And, if there are more complex and deep-rooted explanations, shouldn’t they be studied so as to help prevention of future, similar occurrences?

Langam PhD, in his excellent book, ‘Why Kids Kill’, attempts to do exactly this. Based on his research, he has theorized that those individuals whom he terms ‘school shooters’ fall into three main categories (though he accepts there may well be other categories that his own research has, as yet, not identified).

what causes school shooters?

Three Categories Of ‘School Shooters’ :

The three categories of ‘school shooters’ identified by Langam are as follows :

  1. Individuals who are psychopathic
  2. Individuals who are psychotic
  3. Individuals who are traumatized

Let’s look at each of these three categories in turn :

  1. Psychopathic ‘school shooters’ :

Langam describes certain personality features of psychopathic ‘school shooters’ which may contribute to their lethal behavior. First, he says, they are egotistical, meaning that they consider themselves to be in some way fundamentally and intrinsically superior to ‘the mere mortals’ with whom they are infuriatingly forced live alongside. Second, they are egocentric, meaning they are highly focused on placing their own needs far above the needs of others. 

Furthermore, Langam describes this category of ‘school shooters’ as being amoral, lacking a conscience (including the capacity to feel guilt or remorse), lacking empathy for the feelings of others and as having problems controlling anger.

Also, Langam points out, psychopaths may be superficially charming, thus making their true intentions much more difficult to detect and making it easier for them to manipulate others.

Finally, Langam states that, whilst not all psychopaths are sadistic, those he examined during the course of his own research were sadistic. A person with a sadistic personality shows an enduring propensity to indulge in aggressive and / or cruel behavior, enjoys witnessing the suffering of others, and is prone instil fear in others in order to be better able to manipulate them. They may also enjoy deprecating, demeaning, devaluing, disparaging and humiliating others.

Notwithstanding the above, however, sometimes so-called psychopathic traits in adolesents may be symptomatic of profound feelings of inner, emotional distress.

          2. Psychotic ‘school shooters’ :

Those suffering from psychotic illnesses lose touch with reality’ (although this may only happen occasionally and need not be a permanent state) and the main symptoms of psychosis are delusions and hallucinations.

Hallucinations are most commonly auditory (frequently referred to as ‘hearing voices’) but may also be visual (self-explanatory), tactile (e.g. feeling as if insects are crawling over one’s skin), olfactory (‘smelling’ odors e.g ‘of dead people’ when such smells are, in fact, utterly absent), gastatory (sensing ‘tastes’ in the absence of a physical stimulus e.g. believing one can ‘taste poison’ in one’s food) or proprioceptive (hallucinations of posture e.g. feeling one is floating, flying, having an ‘out of body’ experience, believing part of one’s body to be in a different location or feeling the ‘presence’ a limb that has been amputated (phantom limb syndrome).

Delusions are blatantly false beliefs that are held with absolute conviction, unalterable (even in the face of powerful counterargument and contradictory evidence), and, frequently, bizarre and / or patently untrue (Karl Jasper).

Langam states that, amongst ‘school shooters’, common delusions are :

  • DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
  • PARANOID DELUSIONS

In the group of ‘school shooters’ which Langam based his research on, he reports that delusions of grandeur held by these individuals included beliefs about being ‘godlike’ and that paranoid delusions that they held included believing that ‘people, gods, demons, or monsters were intending to harm or kill them.’

3. Traumatized ‘school shooters’ :

Langam reminds us that traumatized / abused children trquently suffer consequences that include ‘anxiety, depression, hostility, shame, despair and hopelessness‘ and that they may, too, suffer a ‘reduced capacity for feeling emotions‘ and ‘feel cut off and detached from othersthreatened…and paranoid‘. And, further, they may suffer from constant ‘hypervigilance‘ (constantly anticipating danger / a feeling of being permanently in a sate of ‘red-alert’), self-destructiveness, self-harm, suicdal ideation and a propensity to behave violently.

It almost goes without saying, therefore, that the above provides yet further compelling evidence for the necessity to therapeutically intervene at the earliest possible opportunity when young people are displaying symptoms of emotional turmoil, traumatization and incipient mental illness (although, of course, it should, equally, hardly need saying that most such individuals are of no danger to others and are far more likely to be a danger to themselves due to self-harm (including heavy drinking, binge-eating, drug-taking, heavy smoking, anorexia and suicidal ideation / behavior) and general self-destructive behavior.

eBook :

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

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

 

What Is ‘The Trauma Model’ Of Mental Disorders?

trauma model of mental disorders

The Trauma Model Of Mental Disorders :

According to the trauma model of mental disorders (also sometimes referred to as the trauma model of psychopathology), many professionals involved with the treatment of psychiatric disorders (such as psychiatrists) have been excessively preoccupied by the medical model of mental disorders (the medical model stresses the importance of physical factors that may underlie mental disorders such as a person’s genes and/or neurochemistry ; in line with this hypothesis, those who adhere to the medical model of mental disorders focus primarily on psychoactive medication – such as anti-depressants and major tranquilizers – or physical therapies – such as electro-convulsive therapy – as primary treatment choices) at the expense of taking into account the individual’s history of traumatic experience, especially severe and protracted trauma in early childhood.

According to the trauma model, too, significant problems relating to bonding and to the building a healthy, loving, nurturing, dependable relationship between the child and primary caregiver (most frequently the mother) are particularly predictive of such a child developing serious mental health difficulties in later life. However, childhood trauma leading to psychiatric problems in later can also take the form of physical, sexual and emotional abuse (the potentially catastrophic effects of significant and protracted emotional abuse have only recently started to be fully understood).

Significant Psychologists / Psychiatrists Who Have Adopted A Trauma Model Perspective Of Mental Disorders (Past And Present) :

Past psychologists / psychiatrists who have adhered to the trauma model of mental disorders include Arieti, Freud, Lidz, Bowlby, R.D. Laing and Colin Ross (see below for further, brief details) :

 

  • Arieti (1914-1981) advocated the treatment of those suffering from schizophrenia using psychotherapy
  • Freud’s (1856-1939) enormously influential work can be seen as representing the start of the academic discipline of child psychology and compelled society to acknowledge the profound relationship between a person’s childhood experiences and his/her mental health in later life.
  • Lidz (1910-2001) emphasized the severe psychological damage parents who ‘constantly undermine the child’s conception of himself’ do to their off-spring; he considered such treatment of the child by the parents as so serious because such psychological abuse can constitute a sustained and catastrophic attack on his (the child’s) ‘inner self’, which, in turn, so Lintz proposed, could lead to the disintegration of the child’s personality and the subsequent development of schizophrenia.
  • Bowlby (1907-1990) theorized that when the primary carer fails to healthily, emotionally bond (or, in Bowlby’s terminology attach‘) with the baby / young child the latter is put at high risk of developing mental health problems in later life.
  • R.D. Laing (1927-1989) proposed that schizophrenia is the result of the individual who develops it having grown up in a severely dysfunctional family.
  • Colin Ross (contemporary  psychiatrist) the most recent, significant proponent of the trauma model, emphasizes the harm done by abusive parenting by drawing attention to the fact the perpetrators of the abuse are the very people to whom the ‘child had to attach for survival.’ And he also states : ‘the basic conflict, the deepest pain, and the deepest source of symptoms is the fact that mom and dad’s behavior hurts, did not fit together, and did not make sense.’

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Above eBook, The Devastating Effects Of Childhood Trauma, now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here for further information.

David Hosier BSc ; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

Parents With PTSD : Possible Effects On The Child

parents with ptsd effects on child

There are many ways in which parents with PTSD may adversely affect the lives of their children and I describe examples of these below :

Modelling Parental Behavior :

One of the most fundamental ways in which the child learns, especially when young, is by observing his/her parents and modelling his/her own behavior upon theirs. And, because the child lacks reference points with which to compare his/her parents behavior, it seems ‘normal’ and acceptable.

The child, then, has an innate propensity to imitate his/her parents ; this means s/he is likely to imitate not only healthy behaviors, but unhealthy parental behaviors, too ; so, for example, if the child has a parent who suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and one of the symptoms of that PTSD is aggression, the child him/herself is at risk of also developing aggressive behavior. This could manifest itself in many ways, including bullying peers at school or a younger sibling.

Of course, aggressive behavior is just one example, the child may also imitate other unhealthy behaviors the parent displays that are symptomatic of PTSD.

Financial Stress :

A parent with PTSD may be so incapacitated by the illness that s/he is unable to work. This can generate more stress in the household which, in turn, can adversely affect the child’s quality of life.

Irrational Self-Blame :

It is common for children living within stressful households caused by a parent’s psychiatric condition to irrationally blame themselves for the situation. For example, if the parent displaces their anger (caused by PTSD) onto the child, the child may well infer s/he is ‘bad’ and ‘deserves’ to be ill-treated, rather than realizing that the parent’s abusive behavior is a symptom of his/her PTSD.

Helplessness / Feelings Of Being Unwanted :

The child may feel helpless and impotent to make the parent feel better. As a result, s/he may begin to feel ‘surplus to requirements’, a ‘burden’ and ‘unwanted.’

The feeling of being unwanted may be exacerbated if the parent’s PTSD means s/he withdraws and detaches from the child and neglects him/her (emotionally and/or physically)

Impaired Ability To Trust :

If the parent is highly emotionally dysregulated s/he may punish/discipline the child unpredictably and unjustly. This can make it hard for the child to trust the parent. This lack of trust can then extend to others. As time goes on, the child may come to distrust people in general and to view the world as a dangerous place, prematurely losing their care-free innocence.

Social Isolation :

The parent’s PTSD may lead the child to become increasingly socially isolated. For example, s/he may fear inviting his/her friends around to their house/apartment in case their unpredictable parent acts inappropriately (e.g. explodes into a fit of irrational rage).

Or the parent with PTSD may become so withdrawn that s/he stops inviting the wider family to the house/apartment or stops taking their child to visit extended family members.

Also, financial pressures could mean the child needs to be withdrawn from clubs/societies that charge fees.

Hypervigilance :

If the parent, due to his/her PTSD, becomes frequently prone to explosive and unpredictable outbursts of rage the child may develop hypervigilance (a constant, stressful sense of being on ‘red alert’ and a feeling that danger could strike at any moment). This, in turn, can lead to other problems such as depression, anxiety and difficulties concentrating; it may also lead to the child developing his/her own anger management difficulties.

In relation to this, the child may sometimes – entirely inadvertently and innocently – trigger ‘flashbacks’ in the parent with PTSD and then be unable to understand why s/he has caused his/her parent such distress.

Parentification :

The parent may start to rely on the child for emotional / physical support at a time when the child is not sufficiently emotionally mature to shoulder such a burden. (To read my previously published article on ‘PARENTIFICATION’ and its possible adverse effects upon the child, click here).

Resentment And Self-Hatred :

The child may, naturally, come to resent the parent for the stressful conditions s/he is now forced to live in but then feel guilty and full of self-loathing for having such feelings

Low Self-Worth :

Many children growing up in conditions in which they are forced to contend with difficulties such as those described above may incur very substantial and long-lasting damage to their sense of self-worth.

 

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

How Trauma Can Seriously Adversely Affect The Nervous System

how trauma can adversely affect the nervous system

Peter Levine, an expert on the effects of trauma on the body, states that as a result of severe and prolonged trauma, the functioning of our nervous systems can become seriously disrupted. More specifically, traumatized individuals can suffer from dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system.

What Is The Autonomic Nervous System?

The autonomic nervous system operates below the level of conscious awareness (i.e. it functions involuntarily) and consists of two sub-systems : the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

What Are The Sympathetic And Parasympathetic Sub-Systems?

The Sympathetic Sub-System :

This sub-system of the autonomic nervous system is ‘switched on’ when we are faced with threat/danger/emergencies in order to mobilize extra energy that the body may require for fight/flight.

The Parasympathetic Sub-System :

This sub-system of the autonomic nervous system is ‘switched on’ when we are in a state of relaxation.

 

How Does The Autonomic Nervous System Become Dysregulated And What Effect Does Such Dysregulation Have On The Individual?

Trauma can cause the autonomic nervous system to become dysregulated in two main ways :

  1. The sympathetic sub-system can become ‘stuck’ / ‘locked on’
  2. The parasympathetic sub-system can become ‘stuck’ / ‘locked on’

A traumatized individual, whose traumatic experiences remain unprocessed, may become ‘stuck’ / ‘locked into’ one of the above two extremes or may oscillate back and forth between the them ; their is a loss of homeostasis (i.e. healthy balance between the two systems). In the absence of effective therapy, such dysregulation can persist for months, or, as in my own case, for years. I briefly outline the effects of these two types of dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system below :

trauma adverse effect on nervous system

Above : Effects of the activation of each of the two sub-systems on heart rate. Other effects of the two sub-systems shown below :

 

EFFECTS OF THE SYMPATHETIC SUB-SYSTEM BEING ‘LOCKED ON’ :

 

  • increased heart rate
  • fear
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • hypervigilance
  • insomnia
  • mania
  • anger / rage / hostility
  • chronic pain
  • emotional flooding
  • digestion inhibited
  • adrenal glands secrete epinephrine and norepinephrine
  • bronchioles are dilated

EFFECTS OF THE PARASYMPATHETIC SUB-SYSTEM BEING ‘LOCKED ON’ :

NB. The normal function of the parasympathetic sub-system is to facilitate rest and recovery after the sympathetic sub-system has been activated and the danger has passed – however, severe trauma can lead to the body ‘shutting down’ too much leading to symptoms such as those shown above.

THERAPY :

A therapy that has been specifically designed for individuals who have experienced trauma leading to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (as described above) is called SOMATIC EXPERIENCING THERAPY.

 

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