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Signs Of PTSD In Very Young Children And Toddlers

What Are The Signs Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Very Young Children And Toddlers?

Because the linguistic development of very young children and toddlers is so restricted, they are unable to articulate their distress in anything other than a very rudimentary way ; therefore, in order to infer whether they are suffering from PTSD, it is necessary to observe their behavior and emotional expression.

These behavioral and emotional reactions to trauma will, of course, vary between individuals, both in terms of the number displayed and their intensity. Clearly, all else being equal, the greater the number of symptoms and the more severe such symptoms are, the greater the imperative for therapeutic intervention.

Possible signs of PTSD in very young children and toddlers include the following :


Above : Brain scan showing difference between the brain of a ‘normal’ three-year-old and a severely traumatized (in this case, due to extreme neglect) three-year-old.

  • disrupted sleep pattern
  • physical symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches
  • developmental regression ; the child may regress to an earlier stage of development and, as a result, lose some learned skills (e.g. toilet training).
  • post-traumatic play : this can manifest itself as repetetive play that mirrors the events of the original trauma. For example, a child involved in a car crash may repetetively play with toy cars in a way that reenacts the accident. Also, traumatized children may dramatically reduce their ‘exploratory’ play.
  • over-sensitive startle response ; the child may become extremely startled and fearful in response to unexpected events, including trivial ones that would not have bothered him before the trauma, especially, of course, if the unexpected event triggers memories (on either a conscious or unconscious level) of the original traumatizing experience.
  • obsessive preoccupations ; the child may become obsessed by a particular toy or cartoon character, for example.
  • acute separation anxiety ; represented as intense fear of being separated from the primary caregiver.
  • reactions as if the traumatic experience is recurring, which, in extreme cases, can manifest itself losing awareness of present surroundings (also referred to as ‘dissociation’)
  • habitual avoidance of activities, places and other reminders associated with the original traumatic experience
  • mood changes, including outbursts of rage and anger, extreme tantrums, aggression, irratability, marked reduction in expression of positive emotions
  • deterioration in relationships with significant others such as parents, caregivers and peers, increased wariness of strangers, ‘clingyness.’
  • impaired concentration
  • socially withdrawn behavior
  • fears of things that might seem unconnected to the trauma but are actually representative and symbolic of it ; for example, a fear of an imaginary monster (that represents, on an unconscious level, someone who has harmed the child).

eBook :

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

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

The Effects Of Childhood Trauma On Ability To Feel Empathy.

One of the key features of those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma, especially if it has resulted in associated conditions which can go under the various names of borderline personality disorder (BPD), complex-PTSD or developmental disorder, depending on the frame of reference upon which the diagnosing clinician is drawing, is an impairment of empathic feelings for others.

This impairment may manifest itself in 2 opposing ways :

  1. The individual may be unable to feel very much empathy for others at all, or, alternatively :
  2. The individual may be overwhelmed by intense feelings of empathy for others.

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1, UNABLE TO FEEL EMPATHY FOR OTHERS.

Individuals with conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) (see above) are in a state of such intense psychological pain, fear and anxiety that it is essentially impossible for them to focus upon anyone’s suffering but their own (just as someone suffering from excruciating tooth-ache, for example, would find it hard to think of anything else). When such extreme anguish continues relentlessly for months and years, the individual is liable to become ‘stuck’, through no fault of his own, in survival mode, or, in other words, in an habitual state of ‘fight, flight or freeze. This is an automatic, physiological response that has hard-wired into us all through millions of years of evolution, and forces the mind to be solely focused upon one’s own survival).

Often, too, those who cannot feel empathy for others have themselves missed out on empathic care during their childhoods (particularly early childhood). And, to make matters even worse, this early life emotional neglect can greatly impair their own ability to evoke feelings of empathy and caring directed towards themselves from others, perhaps ending up with a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder and becoming a social pariah, left to drown in a sea of profound loneliness and despair. In essence, as a young child, the individual was been unable to internalize, or form an adequate mental representation of, a caring, loving, nurturing, attentive and attuned mother.

A third reason such individuals are unable to feel empathy for others may be due to their traumatic early life experiences disrupting their emotional development to such an extent that they were unable to develop a ‘theory of mind.’ The term ‘theory of mind’ refers to having the ability to understand that other people have minds that, whilst similar to one’s own, contain different desires, plans, intentions, beliefs, knowledge, emotions. and mental states in general. The failure to develop such a ‘theory of mind’ in those who have experienced dysfunctional mothering as babies, infants and young children may occur due to the lack of adequate bonding and attunement between the mother and child in early life.

However, it should also be noted that impaired development of a ‘theory of mind’ is also linked to various other conditions, including autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mental retardation, congenital blindness and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and damaged frontal and / or right hemisphere brain regions.


2) OVERWHELMED BY INTENSE FEELINGS OF EMPATHY FOR OTHERS.

What appears to be hyper-empathy (i.e. excessive empathy) displayed by those who have experienced disrupted development in early life may, in fact, be explained by the individual’s inability to form an adequate boundary between himself and others, resulting in him experiencing their mental anguish as his own. For example, such an inability to form boundaries can also occur as a result of an ‘enmeshed’ relationship with a narcissistic mother.

Finally, it has also been hypothesized that, when parenting is unpredictable and abusive, children develop enhanced empathic abilities so that they are able to sense and ‘pick up on’ subtle and subconscious signals that parents may give out that alert the child to the need to be ‘on guard.’ In other words, in such cases, hyper-empathy has developed, in evolutionary terms, to help the child protect himself and, ultimately, to survive.

Be More Compassionate | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

The Manipulative Parent

ABOVE : 2 Minute Video – Characteristics of the Manipulative Parent.

There are many ways in which the manipulative parent may manipulate their offspring, including:

  1. emotional blackmail
  2.  verbal aggression
  3. implicit or explicit threats
  4. deceit
  5. use of the silent treatment’
  6. control through money or material goods
  7. positive reinforcement of a behavior which is damaging to the child
  8. coercion
  9. behaving in a passive-aggressive manner
  10. projection
  11. denial of obviously destructive behavior
  12. gaslighting
  13. causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love (indeed, some parents are emotionally ill-equipped to love their children).
  14. causing the child to feel excessive guilt and ashamed for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations/demands
  15. with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress
  16. direct or implied threats of physical punishment
  17. making the child feel s/he is ‘intrinsically bad’ for not always bending to the parent’s will
  18. Financial manipulation. Some parents may manipulate their child using money for a who;e host of reasons, including spoiling the child and then accusing him of ingratitude ;  as a tacit way of ‘keeping the child quiet’ about abuse ; to ‘compensate’ the child for emotional neglect and ameliorate feelings of guilt ; to make the child feel indebted ; to increase the child’s dependence ; to induce feelings of guilt in the child either explicitly or implicitly ; as a tool to regulate the child’s behavior ; as an expression of the parent’s ‘superiority’ and contempt for the child ; as a superficial way of acting ‘the good parent.’
  19. making the child believe he is ‘uncaring’ for not fully meeting the parent’s needs

Such parents may also be very controlling ; if our parents were overly controlling the characteristics they may have displayed include the following :

  1. Did not show respect for, or value, our reasonable ideas and opinions
  2. Imposed over-exacting demands on us and refused to listen to even the most reasonable and considered objections
  3. Were preoccupied with criticizing us, whilst minimizing or ignoring our good points
  4. Were excessively concerned about our table manners (for example, failing to hold a knife and fork ‘ correctly’)
  5. Were excessively rigid about what we eat
  6. Discouraged us from developing independence of thought, especially if it led to a mismatch between our opinions, views and values and those of the parent
  7. Imposed excessive demands on us regarding household rules, duties and regulations which we were not permitted negotiate even if any reasonable person would regard them as inappropriate
  8. Never admit to being in the wrong, even in very clear-cut circumstances
  9. Were excessively and unreasonably controlling regarding our appearance; not respecting our wishes to express our individuality (for example, choosing all our clothes without any interest in our opinion about them).
  10. Did not respect our choice of career and made demands on us to reconsider and instead pursue a career the parent regarded as more ‘suitable’ even when this would make us very unhappy.
  11. Expected us to reach standards which were impossible to attain and berated us when we inevitably, in their eyes, ‘failed’.
  12. Did not allow us to voice reasonable objections (for example, about the family dynamics and how they caused us unhappiness).
  13. Were unnecessarily rigid regarding who we ‘ought’ to associate with in a way that reflected prejudice and discrimination against individuals we wished to associate with
  14. Tried to make us suppress perfectly normal emotions such as anger, fear and unhappiness.
  15. Violated our privacy (for example, searched our bedroom for our personal diary without a good cause).
  16. Tried to control us with emotional blackmail, psychological manipulation, intimidation and threats.

Whilst some parental attempts to manipulate and control are fairly blatant, as can be seen from the above examples, some are far mote subtle. This means that when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.

Recover from a Manipulative Relationship | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

What Is Your Attachment Style And How Does It Affect Your Relationships?

ABOVE VIDEO : ATTACHMENT THEORY (3 MINUTES).

ATTACHMENT THEORY AND THE ‘MATERNAL SENSITIVITY HYPOTHESIS’:

According to attachment theory, the way we react in our relationships with others, specifically in relation to our reactions to being hurt by, threatened by or separated from significant others, depends largely upon our ATTACHMENT STYLE.

Ainsworth (one of the most significant researchers to have worked in this field) proposes that the particular type of attachment style we develop is mainly determined by how our mothers behaved towards us, particularly in terms to sensitivity and attunement to our needs, moods and feelings, when we are infants; Ainsworth first proposed this idea in 1978 and it is known as the ‘MATERNAL SENSITIVITY HYPOTHESIS.’

THE FIVE ATTACHMENT STYLES :

Five main types of attachment styles have been identified; these are :

  • SECURE ATTACHMENT
  • AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT
  • AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT
  • DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT
  • REACTIVE ATTACHMENT

WHAT KIND OF INTERACTION BETWEEN MOTHER AND INFANT GIVES RISE TO THESE FIVE ATTACHMENT STYLES?

  1. SECURE ATTACHMENT : this results when the mother is well attuned, sensitive and responsive to the infant’s needs, moods and feelings
  2. AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT : this results when the mother is too frequently unavailable to, and rejecting of, the infant.
  3. AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT : this results when the mother behaves inconsistently, and sometimes too intrusively, towards the infant.
  4. DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT : this results when the mother ignores or fails to understand the infant’s needs and behave in a frightening and traumatizing way towards the infant.
  5. REACTIVE ATTACHMENT : this results when the mother is extremely unattached or has a disrupted nervous system.

HOW DO EACH OF THESE FIVE ATTACHMENT STYLES AFFECT THE INDIVIDUAL’S ADULT RELATIONSHIPS?

  1. SECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE : able to form positive, meaningful relationships, form healthy boundaries and be empathetic.
  2. AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT STYLE : avoids emotional intimacy, aloof, distant, rigid, critical and intolerant.
  3. AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT STYLE : anxious, insecure, unpredictable, erratic, blames others but can be charming.
  4. DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT STYLE : insensitive to feelings of others, prone to explosive rage, abusive, craves security but unable to trust others.
  5. REACTIVE ATTACHMENT STYLE : unable to form meaningful, positive relationships.

Our adult attachment style is so closely related to early life relationships because these (consciously and unconsciously) act as models for how we expect others will treat us and behave towards us ; in other words, we are essentially ‘programmed’ by these early relationships to perceive, and behave towards, others in ways that reflect them ; in this way, we unwittingly replicate our old patterns of behavior when interacting with others in the present, especially intimate partners and offspring.

RESOURCE :

Insecurity in Relationships | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Understanding And Recovering From Childhood Trauma – Free Course

 

ABOUT COURSE :

Introduction to course :

Understanding clearly how many of our psychological problems can be traced back our childhood experiences puts us in a much stronger position to deal with them. Trying to overcome such problems without this understanding is rather like trying to fight a powerful enemy with one hand tied behind our back.

This course has been designed by David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). He was educated at the University of London (Goldsmith’s College) in the UK and holds two degrees (both in psychology) and a post graduate diploma in education (specializing in psychology and qualifying him to teach at university level in the UK).

He has had several years experience as a researcher, teacher and lecturer.He is also a survivor of severe childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma can have a seriously negative effect on how we think, feel and behave as adults. This course helps in the understanding of how this happens and what we can do to recover. It comprises thirty lessons.

At the end of each unit, there are exercises to complete which are designed to aid the recovery process.

Lessons will take an average of an hour each, although this may vary.

Below is a list of all thirty lessons:

Lesson one -What is childhood trauma?

Lesson two – What kinds of problems does childhood trauma cause? Part 1.

Lesson three – What kinds of problems does childhood trauma cause? Part 2.

Lesson four – Signs of a dysfunctional family

Lesson five – How the child’s view of their own ‘badness’ is perpetuated.

Lesson six – Factors influencing the severity of the effects of childhood trauma

Lesson seven – Childhood trauma, depression and learned helplessness

Lesson eight – The vicious cycle of adult problems stemming from childhood trauma

Lesson nine – Childhood trauma, stress and their negative effects upon the vulnerable, physically developing brain

Lesson ten – Reactions to trauma according to age

Lesson eleven – Anger resulting from childhood trauma. Part one.

Lesson twelve – Anger resulting from childhood trauma. Part two

Lesson thirteen – Childhood trauma and the development of hypersexuality in later life

Lesson fourteen – Childhood trauma leading to self-hatred and intense self-criticism

Lesson fifteen – How to cope with painful memories

Lesson sixteen – How to overcome feelings of guilt linked to childhood trauma

Lesson seventeen – Identity problems stemming from childhood trauma and how to tackle them

Lesson eighteen – How to overcome relationship problems linked to the experience of childhood trauma

Lesson nineteen – Cognitive-behavioural therapy : challenging our negative thoughts

Lesson twenty – Cognitive-behavioural therapy for anxiety

Lesson twenty-one – How to build resilience

Lesson twenty-two – Childhood trauma : steps to recovery

Lesson twenty-three – How the brain can ‘rewire’ itself (neuroplasticity)

Lesson twenty-four – Aiding recovery through diet and life-style

Lesson twenty-five – Can the negative effects of childhood trauma ever be fully resolved?

Lesson twenty-six – The main elements of posttraumatic growth

Lesson twenty-seven – How posttraumatic growth relates to coping strategies

Lesson twenty-eight – Posttraumatic growth : how trauma can positively transform our lives

Lesson twenty-nine – Posttraumatic Growth: Reconstructing the story we tell ourselves about our lives

Lesson thirty – Posttraumatic Growth : Keeping remaining symptoms of trauma under control

The lessons are concise and accessible. No academic knowledge of psychology is necessary.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW COURSE.

Neurofeedback And Reducing Activity In Brain’s Fear Circuitry.

It is becoming increasingly recognized that overactivity in the brain’s fear circuitry may be of fundamental relevance to not only complex-PTSD and PTSD, but to many other psychiatric disorders as well and it clearly follows, therefore, that damping down the over-intensity of neuronal firing in this part of the brain may be key to effective therapy for the treatment of a whole array mental health issues. In relation to this, there is mounting excitement about how NEUROFEEDBACK can benefit many individuals who suffer from acute psychological distress.

According to Mobbs, the brain consists of two areas involved in how we experience fear as shown below :

  • the reactive-fear circuit
  • the cognitive-fear circuit

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

THE REACTIVE-FEAR CIRCUIT :

This circuit deals with threats that are IMMEDIATE and require an instant reaction (namely, activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response) ; it involves the interconnection between two areas of the brain as shown below :

  • the periaqueductal gray
  • midcingulate cortex

THE COGNITIVE-FEAR CIRCUIT :

This circuit deals with threats that DO NOT require an immediate response, allowing us time to consciously consider the risk they pose to us and how we should respond to them ; this circuit involves connections between the following brain areas :

THE SEE-SAW METAPHOR :

Mobbs asserts that the relationship between these two brain regions can be compared to the two ends of a see-saw ; in other words, as one goes up, the other comes down, which means :

  • The more activated the reactive-fear circuit becomes, the less activated the cognitive-fear circuit becomes.

And the reverse is also true, so :

  • The more activated the cognitive-fear circuit becomes, the less activated the reactive-fear circuit becomes.

Relevance To Those Who Have Suffered Childhood Trauma :

As we have seen from many other articles that I have already published on this site, if we have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma we are at increased risk of developing various disorders as adults (such as comples PTSD and borderline personality disorder) which are underpinned by having oversensitive and overactive fear-response circuitry and, correspondingly, underactive cognitive-response circuitry.

What Is Neurofeedback ?

Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain and neuro-counsellors can provide their patients with such feedback simply by using special, computer software.

The neurofeedback the patients receive allow them to become aware of their brain function frequencies and how these relate to different emotional states.

How Does Neurofeedback Help Adults Suffering From The Effects Of Childhood Trauma?

Armed with this information, and by continuing to learn from the neurofeedback their brains provide them with (via the software mentioned above), the patients can then, gradually, be trained to exercise control over their brain wave activity (for example, by soothing it with visualization techniques, breathing exercises or calming thoughts etc). With enough training, the patients’ dysregulated brains can be helped to heal and to become less fear-driven.

This results in the reactive-fear circuit become less sensitive and active which, in turn, provides the cognitive-fear circuit, as it were, ‘more room to manoeuvre.’ In this way, irrational feelings of fear that were originally being driven by the (unthinking and automatic) reactive-fear circuit can now be more soberly and rationally considered by the (reflective and thinking) cognitive-fear circuit and, therefore, more easily be dismissed as unwarranted, made impotent and deprived of their power to cause us anguish.

It should also be noted, however, that whilst a lot of excitement has been generated around this method of treatment, it is still early days and more research is needed to determine the extent of its effectiveness and to which disorders its application is best suited.

Beat Fear and Anxiety Pack | Self Hypnosis Downloads

eBooks :

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

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

Early-Life Separation From Mother : What Experiments On Mice Tell Us.

maternal deprivation mice experiment

 childhood trauma

The Study : A Mouse Model Of Early-Life Stress :

This experiment was conducted to look at the effects on mice of early-life stress. It involved separating baby mice from their mothers for three hours per day for each of the first ten days of their lives.

Results Of The Study :

It was found that the effect of this early-life separation from their mothers caused these baby mice to grow up into adults who were significantly more highly stressed than mice who had not been removed from their mothers in early life ; in particular, it was found that they ‘over-reacted’ to mild stressors.

maternal deprivation mice experiment

The Underlying Mechanism – The Effect Of Stress At A Genetic Level :

The study also found that the early-life stress that the baby mice suffered adversely affected (due to decreased DNA methylation) the ARGININE VASOPRESSIN (AV) GENE.

  • This led to an increase in the mice’s production of ARGININE VASOPRESSIN

which, in turn…

  • Increased their stress-response in adulthood.

In other words, it seems that the mice;s early-life stress harms their AV gene, which, in turn, makes them more susceptible to the adverse effects of stress when they become adults.

Other, Similar Research (But Involving Rats) :

Similar research has been carried out on rats, giving similar results (although, in the case of the rats, a different gene was adversely affected by early-life stress ; I wrote about this in an article I previously published on this website, it is entitled : What Studies On Rats Tell Us About The Effects Of Childhood Trauma – if you would like to read it, please click here).

To What Degree Can We Extrapolate From Such Findings In Order To Elucidate Effects Of Early-Life Trauma In Humans?

In a study (Meaney et al) of samples of human brains of individuals who had tragically committed suicide the researchers grouped the brains they were examining into two categories :

  • CATEGORY ONE : Brains of individuals who had committed suicide AND had experienced significant childhood trauma
  • CATEGORY TWO : Brains of individuals who had committed suicide but had NOT experienced significant childhood trauma

What Differences Were Found Between The Brains From CATEGORY ONE And The Brains From CATEGORY TWO?

Conclusion :

The parallels between the findings of the animal studies and the studies of human brains (as described above) suggest that some of the findings from the experiments on rodents in relation to the effects of early life stress may well be applicable in helping us to understand how early life stress can affect humans.

eBooks :

   childhood trauma damages brain ebook

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

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

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