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Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Do You Ever Ask Yourself The Question : Am I A Bad Person?

When a child is continually mistreated, s/he will inevitably conclude that s/he must be innately bad. This is because s/he has a need (at an unconscious level) to preserve the illusion that her/his parents are good; this can only be achieved by taking the view that the mistreatment is deserved.

The child develops a fixed pattern of self-blame, and a belief that their mistreatment is due to their ‘own faults’. As the parent/s continue to mistreat the child, perhaps taking out their own stresses and frustrations on her/him, the child’s negative self-view becomes continually reinforced. Indeed, the child may become the FAMILY SCAPEGOAT, blamed for all the family’s problems.

am-i-a-bad-person

The child will often become full of anger, rage and aggression towards the parent/s and may not have developed sufficient articulacy to resolve the conflict verbally. A vicious circle then develops: each time the child rages against the parent/s, the child blames her/himself for the rage and the self-view of being ‘innately bad’ is further deepened.

This negative self-view may be made worse if one of the child’s unconscious coping mechanisms is to take out (technically known as DISPLACEMENT) her/his anger with the parent/s on others who may be less feared but do not deserve it (particularly disturbed children will sometimes take out their rage against their parent/s by tormenting animals; if the parent finds out that the child is doing this, it will be taken as further ‘evidence’ of the child’s ‘badness’, rather than as a major symptom of extreme psychological distress, as, in fact,it should be).

The more the child is badly treated, the more s/he will believe s/he is bringing the treatment on her/himself (at least at an unconscious level), confirming the child’s FALSE self-view of being innately ‘bad’, even ‘evil’ (especially if the parent/s are religious).

What is happening is that the child is identifying with the abusive parent/s, believing, wrongly, that the ‘badness’ in the parent/s actually resides within themselves. This has the effect of actually preserving the relationship and attachment with the parent (the internal thought process might be something like: ‘it is not my parent who is bad, it is me. I am being treated in this way because I deserve it.’ This thought process may well be, as I have said, unconscious).

Eventually the child will come to completely INTERNALIZE the belief that s/he is ‘bad’ and the false belief will come to fundamentally underpin the child’s self-view, creating a sense of worthlessness and self-loathing.

Often, even when mental health experts intervene and explain to the child it is not her/his fault that they have been ill-treated and that they are, in fact, in no way to blame, the child’s negative self-view can be so profoundly entrenched that it is extremely difficult to erase.

In such cases, a lot of therapeutic work is required in order to reprogram the child’s self-view so that it more accurately reflects reality. Without proper treatment, a deep sense of guilt and shame (which is, in reality, completely unwarranted) may persist over a lifetime with catastrophic results.

Any individual affected in such a way would be extremely well advised to seek psychotherapy and other professional advice as even very deep rooted negative self-views as a result of childhood trauma can be very effectively treated.

RESOURCE :

STOP SELF-HATRED : SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS 

 

 

OTHER ARTICLES ON SHAME AND SELF-HATRED :

RETURN HOME TO ABOUT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA RECOVERY. 

E-books :

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Above eBooks now available on Amazon for instant download. (Other titles available).CLICK HERE.

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

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Childhood Trauma : Kurt Cobain’s Childhood

Kurt Cobain's childhood

I was a big fan of Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) and his band, Nirvana. I therefore remember where I was when I first heard news of his death – it came on the TV in the gym I was in at the time (in an uninspiring town called Watford just north of London, UK, as you ask). I had three things in common with him.

I was born in the same year as he was (1967) and, also like him, had developed a considerable degree of both emotional and behavioural instability (despite doing, somehow, an MSc at the time). Thirdly, we had both experienced significant childhood trauma. (Actually, his parents divorced when he was seven years old, whilst mine had divorced when I was eight years old, so that’s very nearly four things in common. I was not, however, to the best of my recollection, an international grunge rock superstar.)

Like many sensitive children, it was obvious from an early age that Kurt Cobain was very creative. Also, like an increasingly large number of young people these days ( and it is certainly argued in some quarters that this ‘condition’ is over-diagnosed) he was labelled ‘HYPERACTIVE’ – now usually described as having ADHD (‘ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER’) and prescribed the drug called RETALIN (paradoxically, retalin is a derivative of amphetamine which, itself, more usually has a stimulant effect).

Due to his extreme sensitivity, Kurt Cobain experienced great distress and emotional trauma as a result of his parents’ divorce. When this shattering event occurred, he was just seven years old. It is recorded that he reported feeling unloved and deeply insecure after the divorce took place.

On top of all this, his life was made chaotic and disorganized by frequent moves to different geographical locations during which period he stayed with various different sets of relatives; this pattern of constant transience meant relationships he tried to form became disrupted and truncated.

Like many young people suffering from emotional distress, Kurt Cobain learned to mentally ‘escape’ – in his case by losing himself in his music and developing his enormous musical talent.

The psychological symptoms of his tortured emotional state started to manifest themselves in the form of INSOMNIA and a chronic stomach complaint which may well have been PSYCHOSOMATIC in origin ( the word ‘psychosomatic’ refers to the mechanism whereby mental stress causes physical problems – in other words, the mind’s effect upon the body).

In order to try to cope with his feelings of intense pain (both mental and physical) he started to ‘self-medicate’ with narcotics. (Psychologists would describe this as ADOPTING A MALADAPTIVE COPING MECHANISM IN ORDER TO DISSOCIATE FROM INTOLERABLE PAIN; see my post entitled: CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD) AND DISSOCIATION in order to learn more about the phenomenon of dissociation acting as a psychological defense mechanism.)

When his band, Nirvana, became an international sensation, the effects of fame (as many famous people discover too late) caused him further severe stress. He was not comfortable around the media and found the attention, in general, overwhelming and intrusive. He became deeply, clinically depressed, complained that he derived no pleasure whatsoever from performing in front of thousands of adoring fans, and, eventually, attempted suicide in March 1994. He entered a coma and was hospitalized.

Very soon after this, he entered a drug rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles in an attempt to address his drug addiction. Within two days, however, he fled the hospital, and, overwhelmed by feelings of despair and utter hopelessness, committed suicide in his home by first injecting himself with a massive overdose of heroin and then shooting himself in the head using a shotgun.

It is a very sad fact that many talented and creative people seem to be more prone than average to extreme mental turmoil. Kurt Cobain was one such person, and, this, tragically, led to a vastly talented, perceptive and sensitive human being’s life coming to a far too premature end.

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

Childhood Trauma: Aiding Recovery through Diet and Lifestyle.

high-and -low- functioning-BPD

Neurotransmitters :

Several of my posts have discussed research that shows childhood trauma can profoundly influence the biochemistry of the brain and that these biochemical changes can, and do, lead to problems with the individual’s psychological state and behavior.

Fortunately, however, research has also demonstrated that these adverse biochemical changes and their negative effects may be, at least in part, reversed by the individual adopting an appropriate diet and lifestyle.

The brain is able to naturally produce its own mood-benefitting neurochemicals (technically known as ENDOGENOUS neurochemicals).

Exercise :

One way to do this (which many of us are already familiar with) is through EXERCISE – research suggests that regular and mild exercise causes the brain to produce ENDORPHINS which work in a similar manner to prescribed anti-depressants (eg Prozac, Setraline etc).

Massage :

BODY MASSAGE, too, has been shown to be helpful; indeed, a study by Field (2001) revealed that it can REDUCE STRESS HORMONES in the body.

Mindfulness :

Furthermore, a study by Jevning et al (1978) demonstrated that MEDITATION can be of great benefit. Indeed, more and more therapies are integrating meditative techniques (eg the therapy known as MINDFULNESS) to help alleviate patients alleviate their anxiety. It has been shown that meditation works by reducing the levels of the stress hormone CORTISOL in the body (which is of particular importance as high levels of cortisol can physically harm the body).

Omega-3 :

The brain is a physical organ so it should come as no surprise to us that what we eat affects its NEUROCHEMICAL BALANCE. Research shows that FATTY ACIDS are VITAL TO EMOTIONAL WELLBEING. In particular, LOW LEVELS OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID have been shown to be linked to DEPRESSION, ANXIETY and ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID can be purchased as a supplement in most pharmacists. It has been used to treat ADHD in children; also, a study by Gesch et al (2002) showed that giving young offenders OMEGA-3 supplements reduced their offending rate by 37%.

Serotonin :

Another neurochemical which ENHANCES MOOD and helps to COMBAT ANXIETY and DEPRESSION is SEROTONIN. Many prescribed medications work by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain, but SEROTONIN LEVELS CAN ALSO BE RAISED THROUGH DIET; research suggests that a diet RICH IN PROTEIN can help to achieve this and that research remains ongoing.

NOTE: One GP, who became so ill with bipolar depression that she had to be sectioned in a psychiatric ward and featured in an award winning documentary on mental illness, recovered sufficiently to return to her profession as a doctor. She has remained symptom free for 15 years (most people with bipolar disorder frequently relapse) and ATTRIBUTED THIS TO TREATING HERSELF BY CHANGING HER DIET. THE MAIN FEATURE OF THE DIET WAS THAT SHE TOOK 3 GRAMMES of COD LIVER OIL (a source of fatty acids) per day. Because this evidence, if it can be deemed as such, comes from just one individual it is obviously very far removed from providing a proper scientific sample or study. Nevertheless, I felt it to be of sufficient interest to make reference to it here. For those who are interested, the documentary is entitled ‘The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive‘ and, in my view, makes compelling viewing.

 

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

Childhood Trauma, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociation.

childhood trauma

I have previously published articles on this site articles explaining the connection between childhood trauma and borderline personality disorder (BPD). An important symptom of BPD is DISSOCIATION, which this article will examine in greater detail.

Dissociation is generally considered to be a COPING MECHANISM in response to severe trauma (including, of course, childhood trauma) or stress. The phenomenon of dissociation can involve feeling disconnected from one’s emotions, one’s memories, one’s thoughts or even from reality itself.

Dissociation is, essentially, a way of ‘mentally escaping’ from the stressful situation, or memory of the stressful situation, by changing one’s state of consciousness (this often occurs automatically and without intention). sometimes people describe the experience of dissociation as a feeling of psychological ‘numbness.’ or ‘deadness.’

In situations of terror, one may dissociate, and, paradoxically, feel a detached state of calm. It may feel, too, that the traumatic event is not happening to oneself, but that one is ‘observing the traumatic event from outside of the body’, leading to passivity and emotional detachment.

Dissociative feelings of ‘being outside of oneself’ are described as DEPERSONALIZATION and dissociative feelings of being disconnected from reality are described as DEREALIZATION.

Some experts have described dissociation as working a bit like morphine – dampening down emotional and physical pain. However, the exact biological mechanisms are that underpin the dissociative experience are yet to be fully explained.

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The four main types of dissociation are:

1) DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA
2) DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER
3) DISSOCIATIVE FUGUE
4) DEPERSONALIZATION DISORDER

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1) Dissociative Amnesia: here, large parts of, or all, the traumatic event/s cannot be remembered.

2) Dissociative Identity Disorder: this is also known as MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Here, the person adopts two or more distinct, utterly different personas. The different personas talk in different voices, use different vocabularies etc (they can also actually differ in handedness). The different personas do not have access to ‘each others” memories, studies have shown, so they have distinct ‘personal histories’. It is likely that each persona represents a different strategy for coping with stress.

3) Dissociative Fugue: in this state, individuals can disconnect from their previous personalities, and, then, often, travel far from home to take on, and live under, a completely new persona. They may appear normal to others who have never met them before, even though they are living under a completely new identity, having left a whole life and set of memories behind.

4) Depersonalization Disorder: in this state, individuals can feel detached from their bodies or experiences. A phrase I read in a novel recently may aptly illustrate the sensation: ‘it’s like living in a dream underwater.’

A large number of people who have suffered extreme childhood trauma report experiencing such automatic dissociative states. Furthermore, they may often seek to induce dissociative states, deliberately and artificially, as a way of escaping the constant psychological pain resulting from the initial trauma by, for example, USING ALCOHOL TO EXCESS, USING NARCOTICS, SELF-HARMING or GAMBLING. The kinds of psychological state from which the individual is seeking to escape through dissociation include INSOMNIA, NIGHTMARES, FEELINGS OF RAGE and INTENSE ANXIETY.

LONG-TERM PROBLEMS OF DISSOCIATION:

Dissociation may be helpful (adaptive) in the short-term but problems develop when the state persists long after it has served any beneficial purpose. The psychologist, Lifton, described prolonged states of ‘psychic numbing’ and ‘mental paralysis’ often resulting from a dissociative response to severe trauma. This can make even basic day-to-day functioning extremely problematic and requires professional intervention.

eBook :

childhood trauma

Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Borderline Personality Disorder.

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

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

Childhood Trauma: What Experiments on Causes of Aggression in Rats Tell Us.

Effect Of Trauma On Young Rats’ Brains :

A recent Swiss study by Marquez et al. (2013)has looked at the effects of trauma on ‘adolescent’ rats. It was found that those rats who were exposed to trauma (fear and stress inducing stimuli) suffered adverse PHYSICAL EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN (specifically, the PREFRONTAL CORTEX). This, in turn, leads to them displaying significantly more aggressive behavior than non-traumatized rats.

Effect Of Separation From Mothers :

A very similar effect has been found to occur in young rats SEPARATED FROM THEIR MOTHERS.
Furthermore, ‘adolescent’ rats exposed to trauma also develop ANXIETY and DEPRESSION type behaviors. They were found to also have increased activity in the brain region known as the AMYGDALA (which is linked to FEAR and VIOLENCE in humans). Additionally, they developed abnormally high levels of TESTOSTERONE ( a hormone which, in humans, is linked to AGGRESSION and VIOLENCE). Even the rats’ DNA was found to be affected by the trauma (specifically, MAOA genes). These genes act to break down SEROTONIN (a brain chemical, or neurotransmitter) and damage to it leads to too much serotonin being broken down which, in turn, leads to aggressive behaviour.

Comparison With Adult Rats :

However, ADULT RATS exposed to trauma did not undergo the same behavioral changes, so:

THE RESEARCH SUGGESTS IT IS TRAUMA IN EARLY LIFE, RATHER THAN IN ADULTHOOD, WHICH HAS ESPECIALLY DEEP EFFECTS ON THE CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF THE BRAIN, THAT LEADS TO A PROPENSITY FOR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR.

CONCLUSION:

To what degree can we apply these findings to the effects of childhood trauma in HUMANS?

In fact, the findings I’ve outlined above mirror very accurately findings from studies on humans; this suggests that similar physiological processes are going on in both rats and humans as a result of early trauma.

Studies on non-human primates have also given rise to very similar findings.

It is hoped that such research showing that physiological effects of early trauma seem to underlie a development of a greater propensity towards violence and aggression will help lead to drugs being developed that can reverse these physiological effects and therefore reduce levels of aggression in individuals affected by early trauma. With this aim in mind, further human and non-human studies are being conducted.

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

Effects of Childhood Trauma: The Interaction between Nature and Nurture.

TONY SOPRANO: And to think I’m the cause of it.

DR. MALFI: How are you the cause of it?

TONY SOPRANO: It’s in his blood, this miserable fucking existence. My rotten fucking putrid genes have infected my kid’s soul. That’s my gift to my son.

Studies have shown that male children who are severely maltreated are more prone to anti-social and violent behaviour in later life. Is this due to their parents passing on ‘bad’ genes, the child growing up in a ‘bad’ environment, or a combination of the two?

A study by Moffit et al looked at how children’s genes interacted with their environment to produce (or not to produce) later anti-social behaviour.

The study focused upon one particular group of genes known as MAOA genes (MAOA is an abbreviation for the brain chemical MONOAMINE OXIDASE A).

It was found that those with high activity MAOA genes were, in the main, protected from the potential adverse effects of the problematic environment in which they were brought up:

THEIR HIGH ACTIVITY MAOA GENES MADE THEM RESILIENT AGAINST ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES WHICH CAN OTHERWISE LEAD TO AN ANTI-SOCIAL PERSONALITY.

The opposite was the case for those who had low activity MAOA genes:

THOSE WITH LOW ACTIVITY MAOA GENES WERE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO DEVELOP ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS IF THEY WERE MALTREATED AS CHILDREN COMPARED TO THOSE WITH HIGH ACTIVITY MAOA GENES.

In the study, those in the second group (low activity MAOA genes) commited four times as many assaults, robberies and rapes.

WHAT CAN BE CONCLUDED FROM THIS?

It seems, therefore, that PARTICULARLY BAD OUTCOMES, IN TERMS OF PROPENSITY TO DEVELOP ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR, are much more likely if the individual in question has had BOTH a ‘bad’ childhood environment AND has inherited ‘bad’ genes (low activity MAOA genes). Indeed, it would appear that the JOINT EFFECT of BOTH is GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS of the two factors.

This finding has been confirmed by other studies showing that low activity MOAO genes are connected with the development of anti-social behaviour.

TREATMENT IMPLICATIONS:

These findings have implications for treatment of psychological conditions associated with aggression as there are drugs which alter brain neurochemistry by acting upon monoamine oxidase. However, it should be noted that these drugs are not without risk and cannot always be guaranteed to be helpful. All treatment options require consultations with the relevant medical experts.

If you would like to view an infographic which shows how childhood trauma and genes interact to produce vulnerability to various conditions please click here,

 

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

Types of Relationship Problems The Individual May Experience As A Result Of Childhood Trauma.

 

Childhood Trauma And Adult Relationships :

Early relationships between the parent and child have an enormous impact upon how the child manages relationships throughout later life.

If the child experiences significant difficulties with relating to his/her parents, it often leads to problems with relating to others later on in life.

Secure Attachment :

The developmental psychologist, John Bowlby  proposed that there were, in very broad terms, two types of attachment that the child could form with the parent/s: SECURE ATTACHMENT and INSECURE ATTACHMENT.

Insecure Attachment :

If INSECURE ATTACHMENT develops, due to problems with how the parent relates to the child, the child often goes on to develop relationship problems with others in later life, because, according to Bowlby, s/he is prone to develop maladaptive (counter-productive) ways of relating to others which Bowlby terms MALADAPTIVE ATTACHMENT STYLES.

Bowlby proposed that there were three main types of maladaptive attachment style which the child could develop due to his/her problematic parenting; these are:

1) INSECURE-AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT STYLE
2) INSECURE-AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT STYLE
3) INSECURE-DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT STYLE

1) Insecure-avoidant attachment style:

Children who relate to others in this way may appear withdrawn, and, sometimes, hostile. By keeping their distance from others, they reduce their feelings of anxiety. However, underlying this there tends to be a great vulnerability and need. In adulthood, they are likely to continue to be distrustful of others and to maintain an emotional distance. Again, though, great vulnerability and need tend to underlie this.

Because the individual who develops this attachment style tends to be constantly expecting to be let down and betrayed by the person s/he is relating to, s/he may overcompensate for this feeling of vulnerability by becoming over-controlling, in an attempt to stop the person from ‘getting away’.

Individuals who develop this attachment style often have parents who were unresponsive to the needs of the child, lacked warmth and showed little love. The parents may have rejected the child’s attempts to form a close relationship with them.

childhood_trauma_adult_relationships

2) Insecure-ambivalent attachment style:

With this style, the child oscillates between ‘clinging’ to others and angrily rejecting them – this tends to occur in ways which are largely unpredictable. Their relationships with others tend to be HIGHLY EMOTIONALLY VOLATILE. Also, they tend to be EXTREMELY SENSITIVE TO ANY SIGNS THEY ARE BEING REJECTED (sometimes misinterpreting signals and reading negativity into them when none was intended) and can become extremely angry if they believe that they are being rejected. Underneath this display of anger, however, the individual experiences deep hurt and emotional pain in response to the perceived rejection.

This pattern of relating to others often continues into adulthood. As with insecure-avoidant attachment styles, they may overcompensate for their profound fear of being abandoned by becoming over-controlling.

Individuals who develop this attachment style have often had parents who were unreliable and unpredictable in their manner of relating to the child – sometimes being available and sometimes not.

3) Insecure-disorganized attachment style:

This attachment style develops more rarely and is usually connected to particularly severe trauma during childhood.

Children with this attachment style tend to be HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS of others and EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS about forming relationships.

In adulthood, this tends to lead to profound difficulties with developing any kind of relationship and maintaining it – in any relationship the individual does manage to form, s/he will tend to behave in a highly unpredictable way and be highly vulnerable to sustaining further emotional wounds when they are, all too frequently, rejected for being too ‘difficult.’

A deep seated fear of others often underlies this attachment style which can lead to exploitation.

Individuals who develop this attachment style have often suffered severe abuse and have, also, often been brought up in environments which were extremely CHAOTIC and NEGLECTFUL.

This post is based upon John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.

To read my post on types of relationship difficulties individuals may experience as a result of childhood trauma, please click here.

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