BPD Sufferers Need To Be ‘Held’ According To Theory

Buie And Adler :

Buie and Adler propose that the pathology displayed by sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) such as instability, uncontrolled rage and anger, can be attributed, primarily, to early dysfunction in the relationship between the individual as a young child and his/her mother.

More specifically, Buie and Adler hypothesize that, as a young child, the BPD sufferer was insufficiently ‘held’ by the mother, particularly during the rapprochement phase of interactions.

What Is Meant, In Psychotherapy, By ‘Holding’?

In psychotherapeutic terms, the word ‘holding’ does not necessarily entail literal, physical holding (although, ideally, of course, a mother would physically hold her young child when s/he was distressed and in need of comfort), but can also involve its emotional equivalent (verbally comforting and soothing the child, for example).

However, because of the mother’s failure to sufficiently ‘hold’ (physically, emotionally or both) the BPD sufferer when s/he was a young child in distress, s/he never had the opportunity to internalize adequate maternal ‘holding’ behaviour so that now, as an adult, s/he lacks the ability to self-soothe in response to the further distress that s/he will inevitably experience as an adult.


Profound Feelings Of Aloneness :

Buie and Adler further propose that the BPD sufferer’s inability to ‘self-soothe’ at times of high stress leads to a pervasive and profound sense of aloneness; indeed, Buie and Adler consider this deep sense of loneliness to be a core feature of the BPD sufferer’s psychological experience and describe it in the following manner :

‘an experience of isolation and emptiness occasionally turning into panic and desperation.’

Projection :

Also, according to Buie and Adler, BPD sufferers use the psychological defence mechanism of projection in relation to their profound feelings of inner isolation which means, in short, that they project these feelings onto the external environment, and, as a result of this, perceive the outside world, and life in general, to be empty, meaningless and devoid of purpose.

Longing To Be Held By Idealized Others :

Furthermore, Buie and Adler propose that this inability to self-soothe and self-nurture (due to the original failure to internalize maternal holding behaviour, itself a result of the mother’s dysfunctional interaction with the BPD sufferer when s/he was a young child) leads to intense, desperate longing and desire to be ‘held’ by idealized others.

Separation Anxiety :

Additionally, according to Buie and Adler, such longings perpetually leave the BPD sufferer vulnerable to feelings of extreme separation anxiety.

Rage :

Because of the BPD sufferer’s proneness to idealize others (see above), Buie and Adler point out that this can lead to him/her (i.e. the BPD sufferer) to develop extremely exacting expectations of such idealized others that it is not possible for them (i.e. the idealized others) to live up to.

This inevitable failure of the idealized others to live up to the BPD sufferer’s stratospheric expectations can then induce feelings of extreme rage and anger in him/her (i.e. the BPD sufferer) directed at the ‘failed’, idealized other.

Implications For Therapy :

In line with their theory, Buie and Adler put forward the view that it is the role of the therapist to provide the holding and soothing functions that the BPD sufferer is not capable of providing for him/herself. The ultimate goal of this is that the BPD sufferer is eventually able to internalize these functions (holding and self-soothing) so that s/he learns to provide them for him/herself in a way that s/he was unable to as a child due to the defective nature of the mothering s/he received.

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


Ego Regression And Progression In Response To Trauma


According to Kalsched (1996), author of The Inner World Of Trauma.: Archetypal Defenses Of The Personal Spirit., 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 :

  • substance abuse
  • dissociation
  • schizoid withdrawal (escape into fantasy)


Arrested Psychological Development And Age Regression.


Kalsched, D., The Inner World Of Trauma.: Archetypal Defenses Of The Personal Spirit. Psychology Press. 1996.

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

What Are The Effects Of Trauma On Young Children (0-6 Years)?




  • COGNITIVE EFFECTS (i.e. effects on thinking and conscious mental processes)
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS (i.e. effects on physical health and biological processes)

Below, I list the possible effects of being exposed to prolonged and significant trauma on young children :







Regressive behaviour

Extreme temper tantrums

Fear of adults connected to the traumatic experiences

Fear of separation from the parent / primary caregiver (see my article about separation anxiety)




Withdrawn behaviour

Highly sensitive ‘startle response’

Prone to excessive screaming and crying


Memory impairment

Impairment of verbal skills


Sleep problems


Reduced appetite

Low weight

Problems with the digestive system





Regressive behaviour

Extreme temper tantrums

Fear of adults connected to the traumatic experiences

Fear of separation from the parent / primary caregiver 




Withdrawn behaviour

Highly sensitive ‘startle response’

Low self-confidence

Anxiety / Fearfulness

Avoidant behaviour

Difficulty placing trust in others

Difficulties making friends

Self-blame in relation to traumatic experiences

Acting out

Imitating the abusive behaviour suffered (e.g. by bullying school peers)

Reenacting traumatic event

Verbal aggression


Memory impairment

Impairment of verbal skills

Problems with concentration and associated problems with learning


Sleep problems


Psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and stomach aches

Regressive behaviour (i.e. behaving in ways associated with an earlier period of development such as stress-related bed-wetting)


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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)









Body Dysmorphic Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma


Studies (see below) suggest that those of us who suffered traumatic childhoods are significantly more likely to develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced relatively stable and nurturing childhoods. I briefly summarize two of these studies below :

Study One :

A study conducted by Didie et al., 2006 involving 75 participants who had been given a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder (with an average age of 35 years) found that 78.7 % reported having experienced maltreatment during childhood; and, more specifically, of this 78.7%:

    • 68 % reported emotional neglect
    • 56 % reported emotional abuse
    • 34.7 % reported physical abuse
    • 33.3 % reported physical neglect
    • 28 % reported sexual abuse

(NOTE: the above figures add up to more than 100 % because some participants in the study had suffered from more than one type of childhood trauma.)


Study Two :

A study conducted by Semiz et al., 2007 compared 70 in-patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) with 70 matched, healthy controls.

Results showed that 54.3 % of those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) (a disorder which itself is closely linked to childhood trauma) were also suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

Further statistical analysis revealed that these individuals (i.e. who were suffering from both BPD and BDD) had experienced significantly more trauma in childhood than those without BDD and that traumatic experiences during childhood were a significant predictor of the comorbid diagnosis of BDD in BPD sufferers.

What Is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

BDD is the preoccupation with a specific ‘blemish’ of physical appearance in an individual who is, in fact, of normal appearance. It mostly occurs during adolescence and affects males and females equally.

As we saw above, it is linked to childhood trauma but can also be influenced by parental attitudes to appearance, the prevailing culture (e.g. general high value placed upon youth and beauty, especially in the media) and low self-esteem.

How Does Body Dysmorphic Disorder Make The Individual Suffering From It Feel?

Typically, the individual suffering from BDD perceives him/herself as ‘ugly’ and is obsessively concerned about some imagined physical ‘flaw.’ In order to be diagnosed with BDD, the individual’s concern with his/her appearance must be severe enough to negatively impact upon his/her daily functioning (including avoidance of social interaction due to self-consciousness in connection with the imagined physical ‘flaw.’

Can A Person Diagnosed As Having Body Dysmorphic Disorder Actually Have A Physical Defect?

Yes, but the individual exaggerates its significance in relation to his/her appearance.

Considerations Relating To Diagnosis :

For BDD to be diagnosed it must exist ‘in its own right’ and not be explained as a symptom of another disorder such as anorexia nervosa, social phobia, avoidant personality disorder, delusional disorder (somatic type), other somatization disorders or normal concerns about appearance.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy :

One of the main treatments for BDD is cognitive-behavioural therapy aimed at psychosocial functioning and body image.



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

Child Trauma, Arrested Psychological Development and Age Regression


Arrested Psychological Development

Traumatic life events can cause the child to become ‘stuck’ at a particular level of psychological development for an extended period – he may, therefore, often seem immature as development was frozen at an earlier stage.

For example, an eleven-year-old child who was abandoned by his/her primary carer at age four may throw tantrums similar to those one might expect of a four-year-old when left with an unfamiliar babysitter. In other words, he may regress behaviorally to the developmental stage at which s/he became frozen. Such regressive behaviour is a temporary reaction to real or perceived trauma.

Severe trauma can result in commensurately severe developmental delays. For example, a ten-year-old child who has experienced severe trauma may not yet have developed a conscience (even though a conscience usually develops around the of ages six to eight). This does NOT mean that the child is ‘bad’; it is just that s/he has not yet reached the relevant developmental stage. This can be rectified by the child identifying with a parent or carer and internalising that identification.

It is vital to point out that if a child has never had the opportunity to identify with a safe and rational adult and has not, therefore, been able to internalise adult values, we cannot expect that child to have developed a conscience.

Indeed, if there has been little or no justice or predictability in the child’s life, and he is ill-treated for no discernible reason by adults in a position of trust, developing a conscience may not even have been in the child’s best interests. In extreme circumstances, for example, it may have been necessary for the child to lie, steal and cheat purely to survive; once s/he has learned such behaviours are essential to his/her very survival, these same behaviours become extremely difficult to unlearn.

Below I list some of the main factors that may lead to arrested development.

  1. separation from the primary care-giver,
  2. all forms of abuse
  3. foster care
  4. adoption
  5. neglect
  6. parental alcohol/drug misuse


One of the primary traumas a child can suffer is a problematic early relationship with the primary caregiver, usually the mother (e.g. see Bowlby’s Attachment Theory); these problems can include the primary caregiver having a mental illness, abusing alcohol or drugs, or otherwise abusing or abandoning the child. In such cases, attachment disorder is likely to occur in the child – this disorder can impair or even cripple a child’s ability to trust and bond with others. In such cases, it is the child’s ability to attach to other human beings which are impaired by developmental delays.

Since such a child’s development has essentially become frozen in relation to his/her ability to bond with others, he will not ‘grow out’ of the problem behaviours associated with attachment disorder without a great deal of emotional ‘repair work.’


The main examples of these are listed below :

  1. little eye contact with parents
  2. lack of affection with parents
  3. telling extremely obvious lies
  4. stealing
  5. delays in learning
  6. poor relationships with peers
  7. cruelty to animals
  8. lack of conscience
  9. preoccupation with fire
  10. very little impulse control
  11. hyperactivity
  12. abnormal speech patterns
  13. abnormal eating patterns
  14. inappropriate demanding behaviour
  15. inappropriate clingy behaviour


‘Differentiation’ refers to the process by which, as he grows up and goes through adolescence into early adulthood, develops his/her own identity and becomes independent of his parents and original family, thus differentiating him/herself from them. And, with increasing independence, he is also able to take on increasing responsibilities.

However, sometimes an individual fails to undergo this healthy process, but, instead, remains dependent upon his parents financially, emotionally, physically or a combination of these three ways. Such individuals may continue to live with their parents well into adulthood and/or rely on their parents to pay their bills, perhaps because they are unable to hold down a job. 

It has been theorised that the adult child’s inability to differentiate may be due to an emotionally enmeshed relationship between the child and the parent in which the parent ‘needs to be needed’ and so, unconsciously’, prevents the child from emotionally separating from him and keeps him (the now-adult child) dependent. This ‘need to be needed’ may derive from several causes :

  1. the fact that the parent’s identity has become so closely tied to that of being a ‘carer’ that s/he cannot let go of the role
  2. loneliness/fear of loneliness
  3. the need to have continued power and control over the child

Another possible explanation is that the adult child has a personality or behavioural problem, which prevents him/her from becoming independent of the parent. If their dependence on their parents is particularly acute, they may be suffering from a dependent personality disorder. This could be due to trauma the now-adult child experienced in early life. However, a possible drawback of a parent continuing to care for a child who has failed to make the transition to adulthood is that it maintains the now-adult child’s dependence.

Childhood Trauma : Reactions to Trauma According to Age

Damage To Brain Development Caused By Trauma Increases During Developmental Epochs

Arrested Development Due To Childhood Trauma

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


Time Perspective Therapy Can Help Us Live In The Present


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.









Let’s look at each of these in turn :

  1. THE ‘PAST-NEGATIVE’ TYPE: this type of individual is preoccupied with 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 :

  • ruminating excessively upon the negative aspects of the past 

  • feelings of  helplessness and powerlessness

  • feelings of profound pessimism about the future

  • seeking instant gratification in an attempt to reduce intense psychological pain (e.g. drinking, smoking, drugs, gambling, promiscuous sex)

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-behavioural 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).







Why BPD Sufferers Can Often Read Others’ Emotions So Perceptively


When I was a young child, my mother always remarked upon how easily I picked up on the slightest emotional signals she, and others, displayed (such as a tiny change in expression, a very slight change in tone of voice, subtle variations of body language etc). What both she (I presume)  and I were unaware of at the time was that she herself was responsible (but, alas, not in a good way) for this ‘sixth sense’  (as she also sometimes referred to it).

I make this assertion because it has become clear to me now that I developed this ‘talent’ (I put that word in inverted commas because it is rather a mixed blessing) as a survival mechanism. As I have written elsewhere on this site, my mother was extremely emotionally volatile, prone to intense rages and expressions of unadulterated, poisonous hatred which threatened to (or, indeed, succeeded in) the psychological destruction of the child. Furthermore, such hysterical outbursts were highly unpredictable.

You can see, then, where this is going: it was necessary for me to be on constant ‘red alert’ for any sign that my mother was about to succumb to one of these tyrannical fits in order to give myself a chance of taking some sort of evasive action (which, sadly, was all too often not possible). This state of ‘red alert’ was not entered into as a result of a conscious decision, of course, but was unconsciously activated as a psychological defence mechanism; such a state is sometimes referred to as hypervigilance (which is also a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and of Complex PTSD) or as ‘interpersonal sensitivity‘.

To talk in more general terms, many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who have been subject to such psychological abuse as children may have learned to, and, consequently, become neurologically hard-wired to, pick up on the cues of others so as to emotionally protect themselves.

However, there is experimental evidence to suggest that this ability to ‘read’ others can err too much on the side of caution and generate ‘false positives’ as has been demonstrated in an experiment that showed that those suffering from borderline personality disorder were more likely to interpret neutral facial expressions as hostile and angry facial expressions (click here to read my previously published article about this particular study).



Overcome Hypervigilance | Self Hypnosis Downloads. Click here for further details.

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

What Types Of Parents Are More Likely To Physically Abuse Their Children?


Stith’s (2009) Meta-Analysis :

A study carried out by Stith et al. (2009) reviewed 155 other studies (this is called a meta-analysis) that had already been carried out in order to identify factors that put the child at risk of physical abuse by his/her parents.

In order to identify these factors, one part of Stith’s study examined which particular characteristics of the parent put that person at increased risk of physically abusing his/her child. I list these characteristics below :

Characteristics Of Parents That Increase The Probability That They Will Be Physically Abusive Towards Their Child/Children (according to Stith’s, 2009 meta-analysis of 155 previously published studies) :

  • alcohol abuse by a parent
  • the parent is single
  • the parent is unemployed
  • the parent abuses drugs
  • the parent approves of corporal punishment as a means of instilling discipline in / control over the child
  • the parent has poor coping skills
  • the parent has health problems
  • the parent has poor problem-solving skills
  • parent lacks social support
  • the parent is involved in criminal behaviour
  • the parent is under significant stress
  • the parent suffers from significant anxiety
  • the parent suffers from mental illness
  • the parent suffers from depression
  • the parent suffers from low self-esteem
  • the parent has problems controlling their own anger
  • the parent had a dysfunctional relationship with their own parent/s
  • the parent suffers from hyper-reactivity / has poor control of emotions

Which Of The Above Are The Biggest Risk Factors?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the 18 risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • parental hyper-reactivity
  • parental problems controlling own anger

Other Considerations: Family Factors :

Stith also found that, in addition to the above factors, certain factors relating to the family could also increase the risk of a parent physically abusing his/her child. These were as follows :

  • poor level of family cohesion
  • significant conflict within the family
  • low level of marital satisfaction
  • violence between the spouses
  • low socioeconomic status
  • the family includes a non-biological parent
  • size of family

Which Of These Family Factors Put The Child Most At Risk Of Being Physically Abused Within The Home?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the seven risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • significant family conflict
  • poor level of family cohesion



According to Dailey, a parent may become abusive towards the child in a bid to exert/reinforce/establish his/her power over the child who is viewed as being incompetent and in need of being taught to behave. By employing the use of physical violence the parent seeks to instil fear in the child and cause him/her pain so that the child will comply with his/her wishes and the family authority structure will be perpetuated.


According to Gil, the main cause of parental physical abuse against the child is STRESS.

Gil stated that incidences of physical abuse were more often reported by the poor than by the more wealthy (although he did also acknowledge that this could be partly explained by a reporting procedures bias). He theorized that physical abuse was more common in poorer families because such families tended to be under more stress than wealthier families due to factors such as large numbers of children, cramped or overcrowded living space and, of course, having less money to spend (which may lead to debt, inability to pay bills, poor diet etc). Controversially, Gil also suggested the use of physical force may be generally more accepted amongst those from low socioeconomic groups.

However, recent studies suggest that, indeed, maltreatment of children is more common amongst families experiencing financial hardship. For example, a study (Lefebvre et al. 2013) found that children from such families were at double the risk of being mistreated compared to the ‘average child.’

Gelles’ Social Psychological Model Of The Causes Of Childhood Abuse

Gelles suggested there were three main categories of stress:

  1. Stress between parents (e.g. constant conflict between the two parents).
  2. Structural stress (this kind of stress, according to Gelles, included, for instance, unemployment and a large number of children)
  3. Child-produced stress (e.g an unwanted child)

Gelles also acknowledges that stress is not the only cause of child maltreatment and that other factors need to be taken into consideration such as the culture and society within which the family exists as well as the parents’ own childhoods (i.e. were they themselves abused and/or neglected?).



Richard Gelles. Child abuse and social pathology. A sociological critique and reformulation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 43 (July 1973)pp.617-619

Rachael Lefebvre. et al., Examining the Relationship between Economic Hardship and Child Maltreatment Using Data from the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect-2013 (OIS-2013). Scott J. Hunter, Academic Editor

Stith, Sandra & Liu, Ting & Davies, L. & Boykin, Esther & Alder, Meagan & Harris, Jennifer & Som, Anurag & McPherson, Mary & Dees, J.E.M.E.G.. (2009). Risk factors in child maltreatment: A meta-analytic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 14. 13-29. 10.1016/j.avb.2006.03.006.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Why BPD Sufferers Find It Hard To Change : BPD And Rigid Thinking

One of the main hallmarks of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the pronounced tendency of those who suffer from it to display marked rigidity in relation to both their thought processes and behaviours.

This means that, when events occur, the way in which the BPD sufferer interprets them tend to be habitual and fixed and it is very difficult indeed for him/her to adopt a more flexible view or alternative perspective; instead, once the rigid way of interpreting events formulated in his/her mind, it becomes a kind of idée fixe (the problem is compounded, of course, because, very frequently, such rigid thinking also leads to rigid, inflexible behaviour) that s/he, terrier-like, refuses, seemingly at all costs (even if such incurred costs are extraordinarily, perhaps tragically, high), to relinquish (sometimes, it has to be said, provoking great exasperation, pain and frustration in others, particularly those who are not well versed in the disorder).

Rigid thinking patterns are associated with poor mental health, not least because it can give rise to obsessive worry and rumination (intensely and chronically focusing on one’s problems) and a dysfunctional way of interacting with others.


Examples of rigid beliefs include :

  • others should always agree with me and see things from exactly the same perspective as I do
  • others should never behave in ways of which I disapprove
  • if others don’t agree with me it’s because they’re stupid
  • I need to always be right
  • things must go perfectly
  • I must be liked and approved of by everyone at all times
  • others can NEVER be trusted and will always eventually screw you over

Core Beliefs :

Our fundamental core beliefs about ourselves, others and the world, in general, develop early on in childhood and this period of development is closely related to how flexible/inflexible our ‘thinking style’ becomes. If this period is traumatic, stressful and involves chronically dysfunctional relationships with significant others (most of all, our primary carer) we are at high risk of developing negative core beliefs and a rigid way of thinking that can very seriously harm our adult lives including our intimate relationships, friendships and career.

Possible Therapies :

Therapies that can help you change your core beliefs and correct a dysfunctional, rigid thinking style that derives, at least in part, from the theories of Albert Ellis (a pioneer and expert in this field of psychology) include rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)  and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).





Signs An Adult Was Abused As A Child

False Core Beliefs : Their Childhood Roots

False Core Beliefs : Their Childhood Roots


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



Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged


Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

Except in very extreme cases, such as severe physical abuse, the vast majority of parental mistreatment of children not only goes unreported, but is unacknowledged and, essentially, ignored (although this situation is gradually improving as people become more educated about the potentially devastating effects of bad parenting).

Emotional Abuse :

In particular, emotional abuse can be very subtle yet profoundly insidious and damaging (more so, even, than physical or sexual abuse) and very frequently goes ‘under the radar’.

Examples Of Unacknowledged/Ignored Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

The above list, of course, is not exhaustive.


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

BPD Sufferers May Avoid ‘Mentalising’ Due To Parental Rejection

Peter Fonagy, an internationally renowned clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and expert in borderline psychopathology and early attachment relationships, and who has produced some of the most influential work relating to this field, has stressed the importance of MENTALISING (or, more precisely, the avoidance of it) in relation to borderline personality disorder (BPD).

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Mentalising’?

The term ‘mentalising’ refers to a person’s ability to perceive, understand and make use of other’s emotional states (and their own).

Why Might Those Suffering From BPD Avoid ‘Mentalising’?

According to Peter Fonagy’s theory, children of cold and rejecting parents avoid mentalising because thinking about their parents’ lack of emotional warmth, rejection, absence of love and, perhaps, even, hatred would be too psychologically distressing and painful.

Prevention Of Recovery :

However, Fonagy also theorizes that this evasion (both conscious and unconscious) of the truth about how one’s parents treated one and felt about one prevents the individual from resolving the trauma and recovering from the emotional mistreatment. He proposes that it is necessary for those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to confront, and consciously process, the traumatic elements of their childhoods, and, in particular, their difficult, perhaps tortured, childhood relationships with their parents.

The Need For Understanding And Verbal Expression :

Only by understanding what happened to one in childhood, and by learning to express, verbally, this understanding, Fonagy proposes, is recovery possible.

Conclusion :

Whilst Fonagy’s theory has been influential, some researchers have criticized it for not placing enough emphasis upon the fundamental problem sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) frequently experience – namely their inability to control intense emotional reactions (often referred to as ’emotional dysregulation’.


MBT, like DBT, was designed specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. MBT is largely based upon the idea that the core reason why individuals develop BPD is that they EXPERIENCE PROBLEMS EARLY IN LIFE IN CONNECTION WITH HOW THEY BONDED, AND RELATED TO, THEIR PRIMARY CAREGIVERS, which, in turn, leads to them experiencing further DIFFICULTIES WITH FORMING AND MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS IN LATER LIFE. MBT seeks to help the individual suffering from BPD empathize with others, ‘put themselves in their shoes’, and develop awareness and understanding in relation to how their volatile emotional outbursts affect others (people with BPD tend to have an impaired ability to do this if they do not seek out treatment).

So far research into the effectiveness of MBT has been encouraging. It has been found to:

– reduce hospitalizations

– reduce suicidal behaviours

– improve day-to-day functioning

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






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

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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.


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. 

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?

  • CATEGORY ONE: It was found that in this group the cortisol receptor gene in the hippocampus had been affected in a way that led to HIGHER LEVELS OF CORTISOL (a stress hormone) circulating in the bloodstream which would have resulted in members of this group, when still alive, being particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of stress.
  • CATEGORY TWO: It was found in members of this group that the cortisol receptor gene had been significantly less adversely affected than in members of group one.

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.


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


The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Psychopathology And Sexual Orientation

The Link Between Childhood Trauma, Psychopathology And Sexual Orientation

Childhood Trauma And Sexual Orientation :

A study, based on statistics and information derived from the National Longitudinal Study Of Adolescent Health (2001-2002) examined the link between sexual orientation and history of childhood maltreatment. This research involved analysis relating to 13,962 participants that comprised young people between the ages of 18 and 27, of which :

  • 227 were gay/lesbian
  • 245 were bisexual
  • 13,490 were heterosexual

One of the primary aims of the study was to examine how sexual orientation was linked to experiences of childhood trauma and it was found that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals
  • bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced childhood trauma (including physical and sexual abuse) compared to heterosexuals


Psychopathology :

The study also looked at the prevalence of psychopathology amongst the three groups (see above) of participants and it was found that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals
  • bisexual participants were also more likely to have experienced symptoms of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals

(Psychopathological symptoms included depression, binge drinking, use of illegal drugs, smoking, alcoholism, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts)

Mediating Factors :

It was also found that :

  • gay and lesbian participants were more likely to have experienced homelessness/housing adversity than heterosexuals
  • bisexuals were more likely to have experienced homelessness/housing adversity and also more likely to have suffered violence visited upon them by their intimate partners than heterosexuals

Conclusion :

The researchers concluded that factors such as the above, i.e. higher levels of childhood trauma, homelessness/housing adversity and experiences of domestic violence found amongst the gay/lesbian/bisexual population partially mediated (underlay) their higher rates of psychopathology compared to heterosexuals. However, their statistical analysis suggested that only about 10-20 per cent of this difference was explained by the factors (childhood trauma, homelessness/housing adversity, domestic violence) described.

More research is necessary to tease out more information about how these various factors inter-relate to one another and what other factors may explain the association between childhood trauma, psychopathology and sexual orientation.



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

Start Your Own Mental Health Blog

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My Own Experience Of Blogging :

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

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

Should You Start A Blog?

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

Writing As Therapy :

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

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

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

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



Above – Franz Kafka


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

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

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


Pennebaker (1994) developed a structured writing activity for trauma survivors in which they were encouraged to write about their thoughts and feelings connected to their traumatic experiences for 3-5 days per week and for 15-20 minutes each time. Prior to this, in 1988, Pennebaker and his colleagues found that DEEP DISCLOSURE through the means of writing improved both mood and physical health.

Frisina et al., 2004, carried out a meta-analysis (overview) of studies that had looked at the benefit of writing activities amongst clinical populations. They found that expressive writing had benefits for mental health and even greater benefits for physical health.

A leading theory is that certain forms of writing can reduce levels of stress and this, in turn, has health benefits. A study conducted by Esterling (1990) supports this idea – the study showed that making a conscious effort to conceal one’s emotions is linked to adverse effects on one’s immunity system and that the opposite (i.e. the EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS, INCLUDING THROUGH WRITING has beneficial effects on the same system.)


Expressive writing can, of course, be undertaken without financial cost and can be done at home at one’s own convenience. Some choose to publish their writing on the internet by starting a website. This can be done under a pseudonym if anonymity is desired or, of course, access to the site can be restricted. Other options include journaling, writing poetry, short stories and novels.

However, writing about one’s traumatic experiences does not, of course, help everyone equally. For example, those suffering from severe clinical depression may find it less effective, as may those suffering from PTSD or complex PTSD. In the case of complex PTSD/PTSD, some may fear being triggered by writing about their experiences and may find it better to pursue such writing under the guidance and with the support of an appropriately qualified therapist.


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

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




Divorce : Signs Children Are Being Used As Pawns Or Weapons

Introduction :

I have already published on this site articles which examine the potentially very psychologically damaging effects that divorce, particularly a  divorce that is acrimonious, can inflict upon the child. My own parents divorced when I was eight years old, so I do have some personal experience in relation to this subject.

When parents who separate feel extremely bitter, hostile, or, even, vengeful towards one another, it is a sad fact that some use their own children as pawns, or weapons, in an attempt to hurt and punish one another (or, of course, just one parent may act in this way). When this occurs, the distress the child feels as a result of his/her parents’ divorce is likely to be compounded and potentially induce in him/her a state of profound mental conflict and confusion as a result of split loyalties that are impossible to resolve.

It is important to ask, then, what are the signs that a child is being used as a pawn/weapon in such a manner? I list some of these below:

Signs The Child Is Being Used As A Pawn / Weapon :

  • preventing the child from seeing/speaking to / contacting the other parent
  • deceiving the child into believing that the other parent is to blame for the collapse of the marriage
  • exploiting the child by making him/her a ‘go-between’ / messenger to relay messages, particularly hostile, critical and disparaging messages, to the other parent
  • pressurising the child into taking sides
  • asking the child whom (i.e. which parent) they love more
  • questioning the child about the other parent’s behaviour/ using the child as a kind of ‘spy’ to gain ‘ incriminating’ information about the other parent
  • cancelling visitation at short notice to punish the other parent
  • causing, on purpose, the child to be late for visitation to punish the other parent
  • undermining the other parent’s reasonable rules, decisions and discipline merely to antagonize and frustrate him/her (i.e. the other parent)
  • openly displaying aggression and hostility towards the other parent in front of the child


Using The Child As An Emotional Crutch :

When my parents got divorced, my mother started to use me as a sort of personal counsellor; she even, shamelessly, referred to me as her ‘own Little Psychiatrist’; it was always her life we discussed, never, or extremely rarely and briefly, mine. For this reason, and many others which I have written about elsewhere on this site, I feel I was largely robbed of my childhood; this has had terrible repercussions on my adult life (which I have also written about elsewhere on this site).

Indeed, it is not uncommon for parents, in the wake of a stressful divorce, to treat their child as a confidante, a friend, a spouse or even a parent (click here to read my article about the phenomenon of parentification and its potentially extremely psychologically damaging effects) and use him/her for emotional support that s/he is not developmentally mature enough to cope with and at a time when s/he (the child) is him/herself in particular need of emotional support. This is particularly the case if such confiding in the child involves spitefully ‘turning the child against’ the other parent.


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