Factors That Make Complex PTSD More Severe

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We have seen from several other articles that I have published on this site that the experience of a traumatic childhood is linked to the development of complex PTSD later on in life.

Whilst all cases of complex PTSD are extremely serious, certain factors are thought to increase the risk that we will develop an especially severe form of the disorder. These are as follows :

  • the person responsible for causing the trauma was a parent / primary carer (this worsens the effect of the trauma because of the emotional devastation caused by being harmed and betrayed by the very person whose responsibility it was to care for us and protect us)

  • how protracted the experience of the trauma was (on average, the longer the trauma lasts, the worse the effect will be ; tragically, some people experience pretty much ongoing trauma of one form or another (some of which may overlap and occur simultaneously) from birth to eighteen years which may, potentially, have a particularly adverse affect upon multiple stages of brain development and upon the young person’s development in general.

  • the individual is isolated during the period of trauma (this worsens the effect of the trauma due to the fact that emotional support from significant others (such as members of the wider family, teachers, therapists etc) have a protective effect on mental health ; this protective effect is unavailable to those who experience their trauma in isolation.

  • the earlier in life the traumatic experience occurs, the more psychological harm it is likely to do. This is because the young brain is especially ‘plastic’ / malleable and, therefore, more vulnerable to being damaged by the experience of protracted, high levels of stress / fear / anxiety.

  • the person responsible for causing the trauma is still in contact with the traumatized individual

RELATED ARTICLES :

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

 

 

Sex Addiction Therapy

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Sex Addiction And Childhood Trauma :

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma are at higher than average risk of developing an addiction to sex in adulthood (for example, see my post entitled : Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Hypersexuality‘).

Blotting Out Emotional Pain :

One reason why those who have suffered childhood trauma may become addicted to sex is that the act of sex helps them to ‘blot out’, or make themselves feel ‘numb to’, or ‘dissociate’ from unbearable emotional pain connected to their early life experiences (for example, those who have suffered severe childhood trauma may go on to develop borderline personality disorder and a major symptom of this condition is a propensity to develop addictions – including sex addiction).

Related Addictions And Psychological Conditions :

 Indeed, because most people who suffer from sex addiction are generally unwilling to discuss their problem with others, the fact that they are suffering from it only becomes apparent when then develop a trusting relationship with a therapist who they initially went to see for help with other addictions such as alcoholism or drug abuse. Alternatively, they may have initially gone to see the their therapist in order to seek treatment for depression, anxiety or low self-esteem (all of which are also more common in those with a history of childhood trauma).

Currently, sexual addiction is regarded as being similar in nature to addiction to chemical substances because the act of sex seems to have a similar ‘numbing’ effect (see above) on feelings of mental anguish (however, it should be noted that, as a discrete condition, ‘sex addiction’ is not yet  (at the time of writing) included in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders.

How Does Sex Addiction Manifest Itself?

Sexual addiction can manifest itself in a number of ways, including :

  • Voyeurism

  • Exhibitionism

  • Fantasies

  • Internet Pornography

  • Sadomasochism
  • Compulsive use of prostitutes

High Sex Drive :

In fact, sexual addiction is NOT the same as simply having a high sex drive (indeed, a high sex drive can be a sign of good psychological health) but involves a compulsive quality that brings about negative results (for the sufferer, those s/he comes into contact with, or both).

Negative Consequences :

Sexual addiction can seriously, adversely impact upon the individual’s quality of life. For example, it may :

  • cause financial problems

  • result in the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases

  • lead to legal problems

  • impair relationships

Sex Addiction Therapy :

sex_addiction_therapy

Once a person suffering from sex addiction recognizes that s/he has a problem which is significantly spoiling his/her quality of life, seeking help from a therapist can be very helpful. Confiding in a trusted, accepting, empathetic therapist can help to reduce feelings of shame related to the addiction and the therapist can provide advice about how to avoid triggers and how to develop healthier and more functional coping mechanisms to deal with negative feelings.

Therapies used to treat sex addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy (the latter may be more appropriate when the problem is clearly related to childhood issues).

RESOURCES :

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

Postpartum Depression And Childhood Trauma

postpartum depression

A study conducted by Choi et al., (2017) suggests that women who have suffered from traumatic childhoods are at higher risk than average of suffering from postpartum depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (also called postnatal depression) is a sub-type of depression which occurs within twelve months of the baby’s birth and affects over 10 per cent of women (it can also affect the father / partner, although this is rarer).

Symptoms may include :

  • feeling one cannot care for the baby adequately

  • frustration, anger and irritability

  • feelings of guilt / shame

  • feelings of emptiness

  • problems bonding with baby

  • anxiety and sadness

  • anhedonia

  • decreased or increased appetite

  • insomnia

  • social withdrawal

  • poor self-care

  • fear of hurting self, partner or baby

  • impaired ability to make decisions

  • extreme fatigue / lethargy

N.B. The above list is not exhaustive

The Study :

The study involved one hundred and fifty adult, female participants, each of whom provided self-reports about :

  • whether they had suffered childhood trauma

  • whether they had suffered postpartum depression during the first six months following the birth of their child

Also measured, a year after the birth of the baby, were :

  • the quality of mother / infant bonding

  • infant development

  • the physical growth of the infant

postpartum_depression

RESULTS OF THE STUDY :

The main findings of the study were as follows :

  • those women who had experienced childhood trauma had significantly greater symptoms of depression in the six months following the birth of the baby compared to those women who took part in the study and had not experienced childhood trauma

  • one year after the women had given birth to the child those women who had developed postpartum depression, on average, bonded significantly less well with their babies compared to the group of women who had not developed postpartum depression

  • one year after the women had given birth to the child those children born to the women who had suffered postpartum depression were, on average, significantly less well physically developed than the infants of the women who had not developed postpartum depression

From these findings the researchers concluded that those women who had suffered childhood trauma were more likely to suffer postpartum depression which, in turn, increased risk of impaired mother-infant bonding and sub-optimal physical development of their children.

CONCLUSION :

The researchers concluded that perinatal care should address both maternal histories of childhood trauma as well as depressive symptoms.

It should also be noted that, as well as stressful life events potentially contributing to the development of postpartum depression, genetics and hormonal changes may well also play a part ; more research is needed.

RESOURCE :

Overcome Postnatal Depression | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Let Go Of The Past

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The following six strategies can help us to let go of the past and move on with our lives more effectively :

1) VALIDATION :

According to Horowitz, if our past childhood trauma and the pain it has caused is, subsequently, invalidated (e.g. denied, ignored, dismissed, minimized, mocked etc.) by those who have harmed us, the psychological harm done to us is amplified. This makes it harder to move forward in our lives.

However, if this is the case, it can be helpful to seek and obtain validation from significant others, such as a therapist who is trained to work with childhood trauma survivors, or from what Alice Miller (1923-2010) referred to as an ‘enlightened witness.’ Miller defined an ‘enlightened witness’ as a compassionate and empathetic person who helps the childhood trauma survivor ‘recognize the injustices [s/he] suffered and give vent to {his/her] feelings.’

2) EXPRESSION OF PAIN :

This pain we have been caused does not necessarily need to be expressed directly to those responsible ; for example, we may describe our experiences and feelings in a journal, or, as Franz Kafka did, write a letter to the person/s responsible (in the case of Kafka, the letter was to his abusive and narcissistic father) without actually sending it (instead, his biographer informs us that he gave it to his mother to give to his father – he was too frightened to approach his father directly – but she never did, possibly because she believed it wouldn’t do any good).

Talking about our traumatic childhood experiences can, however, be very difficult ; you can read about why this is in my previously published article entitled : Why It’s So Difficult To Talk About Our Experiences Of Extreme Childhood  Trauma.

Sadly, too, some doctors may be reluctant to discuss our childhood trauma with us for reasons that I outline in my previously published article entitled : Why Don’t Doctors Ask About Childhood Trauma?

3) CONSCIOUS DECISION : 

Because we might have been ruminating, perhaps obsessively, on the trauma and injustice contained in our past, the process of turning things over and over in our minds may have become almost automatic. It is therefore necessary to make a firm, conscious decision to embark upon the journey of letting go. In connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published post : ‘Mindfulness Meditation : An Escape Route Away From Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.’

4) ADOPT BENEFICIAL TIME PERSPECTIVE :

According to TIME PERSPECTIVE THERAPY (developed by Zimbardo, Sword and Sword) we should use the past to our advantage (such as learning from previous mistakes and focusing on good things that happened rather than dwelling on the bad) ; develop the ability to live in the present and enjoy it, but not in such a heedless and hedonistic way that it endangers our future ; and, also, adopt an optimistic view of the future and plan for it (by setting achievable goals). To read more about TIME PERSPECTIVE THEORY, click here.

5) CULTIVATION OF COMPASSION :

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) can effectively help people move on from their traumatic childhood experiences. It was initially developed in the early part of this century by Paul Gilbert and can be particularly effective in helping those suffering from feelings of shame resulting from their traumatic experiences (such feelings are a very common response to a traumatic childhood which is why I have devoted a whole category to the examination of it on this site : see the SHAME AND SELF-HATRED section).

Specifically, CFT can help with :

  • alleviating feelings of being ‘worthless,” inadequate’, ‘ a bad person‘ etc

  • alleviating negative emotions such as self-disgust and anxiety

  • reducing concern about what others think of one

  • reducing feelings of anger towards those who have mistreated us

  • reducing levels of arousal and hypervigilance

6) REFRAME :

Many people do not realize the damage that their childhood has done to them and may take a sanitized view of it due to what they are taught to believe by those who harmed them or by society more generally (in connection with this, you may be interested in Alice Miller’s classic book entitled : ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware : Society’s Betrayal Of The Child.’

By reframing the past, with the help of a psychotherapist, we can start to obtain a genuine insight into what really happened to us which, in turn, empowers us and makes us less of a slave to the unconscious forces that may be ruining our lives.

RESOURCE :

Let Go Of The Past | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Childhood Trauma And Getting Trapped In The ‘Shame Loop.’

shame

When I was a young child I remember that one of my mother’s methods of making sure my behavior met her exactingly high standards was through the use of shame. In particular, if I was out with her in public and did something to upset her she would shout : ‘If you don’t do as I say immediately I will pull your trousers and pants down right now in public and spank your bare backside until it’s red raw. Red raw!’ (she had a penchant for repeating particular phrases at the end of sentences for dramatic effect), seemingly oblivious to what others in the shop (or wherever we happened to be) thought of her.

She would then grab my hand and drag me on my way (without, to my memory, her ever carrying out her threat, at least not to its fullest extent, which would, presumably, have led to her arrest, even in the 1970s). I say ‘drag’ because it was usually at a volicity with which my little legs, whirring around in a blur like a cartoon character’s, struggled desperately to keep up (I only have memories of my mother holding my hand in this controlling, even punitive way, via exertion of excessive, vice-like pressure ; never tenderly or affectionately). Anyway, suffice to say this left me mute and compliant for the rest of my maternally-imposed excursion, if not the rest of the day.

When, as children, our parents consistently rely, due to their own inadequacies, on shaming us in order to control us or simply to demean us to make them feel powerful, the long-term effects can be severe indeed, especially in the absence of effective therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy).

shame

THE SHAME LOOP :

Scheff (1990) proposes that in response to a childhood in which we were persistently shamed to a significant degree we can become trapped in a SHAME LOOP in which :

  • (Stage one) shame becomes internalized and cannot be discharged which, in turn, leads to :

  • (Stage two) feeling shame for feeling ashamed, which results in :

  • (Stage three) the feelings of shame intensifying ; this builds up even greater feelings of shames being fed back into the shame loop so that :

  • Stage one is reactivated with still greater destructive energy and the cycle, in the absence of effective therapeutic intervention, is reinvigorated.

RELUCTANCE TO SEEK TREATMENT :

And, as you might guess, because individuals feel shame for feeling ashamed, they find it very hard indeed to confide in others about what they perceive as their ‘dark secret’, thus failing to seek professional help and compounding their problems.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, SHAME AND SELF-HATRED :

Sadly, intense feelings of shame and self-hatred are very common in adult survivors of chronic and significant childhood trauma which is why I have included a whole category of articles devoted to the topic within this site which you can access immediately by clicking here.

RESOURCES :

Let Go of Shame | Self Hypnosis Downloads

 

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