The Course of BPD over the Life Span



There has, unfortunately, been little research on what those who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults were like, in terms of their personalities and character traits, as children; however, there is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence, much of which has come from these individuals’ parents. Whilst we must be wary of setting too much store by these verbal reports, I thought some of them worth recording in this article – the findings can be refined, of course, as more research is conducted into this area in the future.



Some parents have said that their offspring who developed BPD as adults were already displaying unusual behaviours in their first year of life; the parents reported that the babies :

– did not seem to ever show much sign of pleasure

– were particularly prone to bouts of crying/distress

– became easily upset by changes made to their routines

– had poor quality sleep

– were difficult to soothe when upset/distressed


In the case of young children who went on to develop BPD as adults, the anecdotal evidence from parents gives the following picture :

– they were particularly demanding and attention-seeking

– prone to excessive worrying/anxiety

– prone to extended periods of sadness

– became excessively upset in response to changes made to plans/routines

– often displayed signs of separation anxiety when departing home for school

– became easily frustrated

– frequently displayed excessive temper-tantrums

– displayed abnormal sleep patterns

– had a tendency to develop physical complaints in response to stress (eg headaches, stomach aches)


Because adolescence is a period of marked behaviour change and emotional upheaval anyway, it is necessary to exercise extreme caution when diagnosing mental illness in this age group. However, a potential in the individual to develop BPD may be suspected when there are significant problems in the following areas of behaviour :

– frequent displays of extreme emotions which the individual has great difficulty controlling (also known as emotional dysregulation)

– poor impulse control with dangerous outcomes (eg violence, excessive risk-taking)

– suicidal threats, gestures, attempts

– frequent displays of extreme temper

– impairments relating to thinking and reasoning


If an individual develops full-blown BPD, this most usually occurs in the late teens/early adulthood. It is very important to seek treatment as the symptoms of BPD can get worse as the illness progresses.

Symptoms of BPD are triggered by stress, in particular, by interpersonal stress. Naturally, it follows that the more stress the BPD sufferer is exposed to, the more frequently, and the more severely, his/her symptoms will emerge. 

As the BPD sufferer approaches middle-age, symptoms such as impulsivity may diminish somewhat; however, symptoms such as the inability to control emotions and suicidal ideation can maintain a more tenacious grip upon the individual in the absence of effective treatment.





Above eBook now available for instant download on Amazon. Click here.

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





Insomnia More Common in Childhood Trauma Survivors



I have already published on this site a great many articles about how those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at considerably higher risk of suffering from psychiatric conditions, as adults than average. One such condition is that we tend to be far more prone to developing what psychologists term ‘hypervigilance’ (partly due to the fact that, as children, we learned to be on the constant lookout for potential threats).

It has been proposed by the psychologists Perlisent et al. (1997), that such hypervigilance, and the associated hyperarousal of our nervous systems that it entails, can be linked to insomnia in those who have experienced early life trauma. Insomnia, in this group of the population, is especially likely to occur during periods of adult life when the individual is exposed to further significant stress; this is due to the fact that (as several studies have shown) those who have suffered childhood trauma are, on average, far less able to cope with stress as adults than average.


– The psychologists Sadeh et al. (1995) found that adults who had experienced severe abuse in childhood experienced significantly less ‘quiet-motionless’ sleep than average.

– Bader et al’s study (2007) confirmed the above results and also found that those who had experienced significant childhood trauma :

– took significantly longer to fall asleep than average

– experienced significantly less ‘refreshing’/poorer quality sleep than average




I have already said that the sensation of hypervigilance/hyperarousal those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma frequently experience is likely to be one contributory factor that puts us at greater risk than average of developing insomnia in our adult lives.


Also, it has been proposed by the researchers Otte et al. (2005), that those who have experienced childhood trauma may, as a result, have neurophysiological reasons for being prone to insomnia, as their brains have been affected in such a way that they become far more reactive to stress is usual (click here to read my post on how childhood trauma can affect the physical development of the brain).


Another explanation as to why more sleep disturbance is found in those who suffered early trauma is that they tend to have a far greater stock of distressing memories than average which, when triggered, lead to nightmares and the associated deleterious effect on sleep.


Finally, it has been suggested by the psychologists Gregory et al (2005) that it is not infrequently the case that those who have experienced early life trauma have had chaotic upbringings and, as a result, did not learn healthy sleeping patterns during childhood.


We have already seen that those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing insomnia.

Fortunately, however, with an increasing amount of research being conducted into the condition, we are learning more and more about how we can overcome it. I provide a list of the main ways the experts suggest we deal with insomnia below:

1) Remind ourselves that insomnia is a common complaint and that it does not do as much harm as many people think

2) Remind ourselves that it is eminently treatable and does not need to be a long-term condition

3) Turn off the light as soon as we go to bed and ensure the room is as dark as possible. The reason for this is that the darkness helps the body produce more of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.

In connection with this, it should be noted that ‘blue light’ is especially disruptive to sleep. Unfortunately, gadgets such as computers, tablets and smartphones emit such blue light so it follows that we should refrain from using such gadgets directly before we go to bed.

Indeed, research now shows that wearing amber-tinted glasses (which block out blue light) can improve not just our sleep, but also our mood.

Finally, in relation to the effects of light on sleep, it has been found that individuals who feel the need to have a night light switched permanently on, perhaps because they suffer from nightmares/ night terrors, may benefit from one that emits red light; this is because red light does not adversely affect the body’s production of melatonin.

4) Only go to bed when sleepy (hopefully, this will lead to a mental association between bed and sleep – but to help make this happen, it will also be necessary to stick to point number 5, below).

5) If you’ve been lying in bed awake for more than 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.

6) Research suggests that the ideal room temperature in which to sleep is approximately 18 degrees Celsius

7) Psychologically, it helps anxious/fearful type individuals to feel extra-safe in their bedroom which may be achieved, for example, by fitting a strong lock to the bedroom door.

8) It is well known, of course, that taking at least moderate exercise during the day helps one to sleep well at night; in this respect, T’ai chi and yoga may be of particular benefit.

9) A small amount of carbohydrate (say, 200-250g) before going to bed can have a relaxing and soporific effect.

10) Research suggests that room humidity of about 65% is optimum for most people.

11) Many people lie in bed at night worrying about what they have to do the next day. Therefore, making a ‘to do’ list before going to bed and then telling yourself you now don’t need to think about it again until the next day can be helpful in preventing nocturnal fretting.

12) Try aromatherapy (e.g. spray some lavender aroma on your pillow)

13) Try visualization techniques

14) Try to concentrate on thinking about positive things (such as happy memories)

15) If negative or distressing thoughts intrude, try a thought blocking technique such as mentally repeating a neutral word such as ‘the’.

16) Trying desperately to sleep, of course, does not work. Paradoxically, trying to stay awake can help to induce sleep.

17) Remind yourself that, even though you are not asleep, the rest is still doing you good.


Resource :

Insomnia Beater Pack


KLAUS BADER  et al., Adverse childhood experiences associated with sleep in primary insomnia. Journal of sleep research. First published: 17 August 2007

Otte C, Hart S, Neylan TC, Marmar CR, Yaffe K, Mohr DC. A meta-analysis of cortisol response to challenge in human aging: importance of gender. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005;30(1):80-91. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2004.06.002

AviSadeh D.Sc.James P.D.McGuire M.D.HenrySachs M.D.RonSeiferPH.D.A nneTremblay Roberta Civita Robert  M.Hayden PhD Sleep and Psychological Characteristics of Children on a Psychiatric Inpatient Unit. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Volume 34, Issue 6, June 1995, Pages 813-819

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


Combined Effects of Divorce and Emotional Abuse on The Child.


Sometimes, when parents divorce, the child finds s/he is left to be brought up by a dysfunctional parent, perhaps because the single-parent is under enormous stress and/or suffers from mental illness. Indeed, this was the situation I found myself in from the age of eight, so I know how serious the effects on the child may be.

Specifically, in this article, I wish to look at the potential adverse effects on the child of being brought up in a single-parent family in which the single-parent is emotionally/verbally abusive towards him/her. In my own case, my mother would refer to me as ‘scabby’ (due to the wounds I incurred through self-harming) and ‘poof’ (I was ultra-sensitive), amongst much else.

About 80%of those who go on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) have been the victims of child abuse – the most common forms of child abuse that BPD sufferers experienced during their childhoods are EMOTIONAL AND VERBAL ABUSE. Such abuse can absolutely devastate the individual’s self-esteem.

Three common forms of emotional and verbal abuse are :

1) Unavailability

2) Domination

3) Degradation

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) Unavailability – this refers to when the parent is much more concerned with their own lives than with the emotional welfare of the child. Such parents show their child little encouraging interest or positive attention, and very little warmth and affection, even in times of need.

2) Domination – this occurs when a parent controls the child with menacing behaviour, threats and general intimidation.

3) Degradation – this is when the parent constantly undermines the child, including over-focusing upon, and over-emphasizing, misbehaviour. Very often, this results in the child becoming convinced that s/he is a ‘bad’ person (see also my article on this by clicking here).

Often, too, the abuse is directed at the child more indirectly and subtly (though, often, it’s not all that subtle!) through body language and facial expressions (e.g. by looking contemptuous – being treated with contempt is especially devastating – of the child or full of hatred towards him/her). Such treatment can be extremely damaging (especially, of course, if it is frequent and repetitive), and the potential psychological damage it can do should in no way be underestimated.


What if the child who is suffering such verbal and emotional abuse lives in a one-parent family, due to divorce, so that there is no other parent around to protect him/her? Clearly, in such a situation, it is overwhelmingly probable that the psychological damage done to the child will be all the more profound.

Many studies have been conducted upon the effects of divorce on children; these include :

deep distress

– extreme separation anxiety

– depression

– anxiety

– anger / anti-social behaviour

– intense fears of further abandonment

– greatly increased neediness

– age regression 

If on top of the effects of divorce, not only does the child not receive support and affection but is actually verbally and emotionally abused by the remaining parent, the result can be massive psychological trauma.


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here for more details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Stressful Experiences Linked to Childhood Obesity

We are frequently reminded by the media that, in the western world, obesity in children has increased at an alarming rate since around the 1970s; worse, this rate of increase is expected to keep on growing for the foreseeable future. Indeed, in the United States, for example, one in six children are now medically classified as overweight or obese.

The reasons that children become obese can be contributed to by both genetic and environmental factors. In the past, research into the causes of childhood obesity have tended to focus on the balance between the child’s intake of calories versus his/her level of physical exercise; in this article, however, I intend to focus on other environmental causes; more specifically, the effects of stress.

The link between stress and childhood obesity has only been examined by psychologists since relatively recently. Some of the main findings from studies that have been conducted have been as follows :

  1. research by the psychologists Huffman et al. (1980) found that children growing up in one-parent families were more likely to be obese than those who grow up in a secure nuclear family (although this by no means implies a simple, direct, cause and effect relationship; it could, for example, be that one-parent families tend to have less money which in turn causes more stress which, in its own turn, makes it more likely the children in the family will become obese (due to a reliance on cheap, junk food, for instance)
  2. the researcher, Rhee (2008), found that children from dysfunctional families were more likely to be obese than were children from stable homes.
  3. children who suffered neglect were more likely than non-neglected children to be obese (Lissau, Sørensen TI.,1994)
  4. children who live in homes where at least one other has mental or physical health problems were more likely to be obese than those children who did not; children who grew up in households where money worries were substantial were more likely to be obese than their more financially privileged contemporaries
  5. Research conducted by Mutlu et al.(2016) conducted a study involving 314 individuals, half of whom were obese and half of whom were non-obese. All of these individuals were required to fill out the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). The results of the study were that 68.8 % of the obese individuals reported having experienced childhood trauma in contrast to only 38.8% of the non-abuse group reporting such experiences. Therefore, the researchers were able to conclude that obesity in adulthood is strongly associated with the experience of early life trauma.


The main theories for the link between stressful experiences and obesity in childhood are as follows :

  1. Booth et al. (2014) have suggested that there is a direct physiological link between stress and obesity, namely that stress causes an increase of CORTISOL in the body and this, in turn, adversely interferes with the METABOLIC PROCESS
  2. stress leads to poor eating habits (for example, due to ‘comfort eating’, craving carbohydrates etc.) and lowers physical activity levels (for example,  due to poor motivation to exercise connected to low mood/reduced will-power)


The implications of these findings for treatment are clear: by addressing factors such as those referred to above, and, thereby, reducing stress levels in the members of problematic families, it may well follow that childhood obesity levels can be reduced.


People who have suffered childhood trauma, and, as a result, have gone on to develop mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder (BPD) have, statistically, worse PHYSICAL health, on average, than those who are mentally well. One reason for this, although there are many) is that both the sufferer and their doctors can be so focused upon treating their emotional difficulties that their physical health tends to take second place and is consequently rather neglected.

One problem that the psychiatric conditions mentioned above can lead to is DYSFUNCTIONAL EATING BEHAVIOR (or, to put it rather more simply, over-eating; for example, what is commonly referred to as ‘COMFORT EATING’). As this often leads to obesity, significant physical health problems may develop (eg heart disease).

Indeed, in the USA it is estimated that up to 325,000 deaths per year are linked to obesity (Allison et al., 1999).

On top of the serious physical problems, it may cause. obesity can aggravate mental health conditions by setting up a vicious circle. For example, the depressed person eats more and more to soothe his/her inner turmoil and becomes obese as a result – because of the prejudice which exists within society, being obese lowers his/her self-esteem and confidence; this, in turn, leads to greater feelings of depression which leads to even greater unhealthy eating-behaviour, and so the self-damaging cycle continues…


Not infrequently, the problem becomes one of being unable to resist the temptation to binge eat. Indeed, it is under consideration that BINGE EATING DISORDER might be officially entered into DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists) as a psychiatric disorder, not least due to the fact that 40% of those who binge eat become obese (Johnson et al, 1996).


The primary requirement for those who wish to control their eating behaviour and lose weight involves MODIFYING BEHAVIOURS. Hypnotherapy can be of use by:

– motivating the individual to make beneficial dietary changes

– motivating the individual to monitor their eating (a technique which helps weight reduction) by keeping a diary of what they eat, for example

– motivating the individual to take some moderate exercise

– increasing the individual’s self-control

– helping to control eating desire stimuli (e.g. by motivating the individual to eat in the same place every day)

– helping to address distorted thinking which leads to excessive eating (eg irrational and faulty belief systems)

– helping to address the emotional dysregulation  (uncontrolled emotions) which can lead to over-eating/binge eating

– reducing the person’s levels of stress and anxiety which may have been causing the over-eating/binge eating

– improving the individual’s self-esteem (low self-esteem often underlies the causes of over-eating/binge eating).


Stradling et al. (1998) carried out research which suggested HYPNOSIS FOCUSING ON STRESS REDUCTION has a significantly beneficial effect upon weight loss. Furthermore, research that was conducted by Davis and Dawson (1980) found that the use of AUDIO RECORDINGS for SELF-HYPNOSIS was effective in helping people to CONTINUE to lose weight (this is very important, because, often, people lose weight at first but then quickly put it back on again).

Overall, most research has suggested that a hypnosis component in a weight loss program helps with weight loss.

  • Allison et al. (1999). Annual deaths attributable to obesity in the United States.JAMA. 1999 Oct 27;282(16):1530-8.
  • Booth et al. (2014). Detrimental and protective fat: body fat distribution and its relation to metabolic disease.Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation.Volume 17: Issue 1. Published online: 28 Mar 2014
  • Davis, S. & Dawson, J. G. (1980). Hypnotherapy for weight control. Psychological Reports,
    46, 311314
  • Huffman et al. (1980) Parenthood—A Contributing Factor to Childhood Obesity. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2010 Jul; 7(7): 2800–2810. Published online 2010 Jun 30. doi: 10.3390/ijerph7072800. PMCID: PMC2922726. PMID: 20717539
  • Johnson et al. (2000) What is a binge? The influence of amount, duration, and loss of control criteria on judgments of binge eating. International Journal Of Eating Disorders.<471::AID-EAT13>3.0.CO;2-8
  • Lissau, Sørensen TI.(1994) Parental neglect during childhood and increased risk of obesity in young adulthood. Lancet. 1994 Feb 5;343(8893):324-7.
  • Rhee (2008). Childhood Overweight and the Relationship between Parent Behaviors, Parenting Style, and Family Functioning. Sage Journals. First published January 1.
  • Stradling, J., et al. (1998) Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. Int J Obes 22, 278–281 (1998).

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




Childhood Events And Experiences Linked To Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder (which used to be called ‘manic depression’) is a condition in which the affected individual oscillates between periods of severe depression and periods of mania, combined with periods of relative ‘normality’ intervening between these episodes.

The information below, adapted from DSM (diagnostic statistical manual) shows symptoms which may be experienced during the DEPRESSIVE PHASE  and, secondly, the symptoms which may be experienced during the MANIC PHASE.




inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)


loss of sense of humour

loss of interest in attachments/relationships


negative beliefs about the future

negative beliefs about self


self-degrading delusions (eg. ‘I am evil’; ‘I am the most terrible person in the world.’)

unrealistically self-critical and self-blaming

unrealistic/delusional magnification of problems


loss of will power/ability to act autonomously  (sometimes referred to as ‘paralysis of the will’)

strong desire to ‘escape’

wishes for death/plans of suicide (sometimes referred to as ‘suicidal ideation’)


easily becomes exhausted

loss or gain in appetite

loss of interest in sex (libido)

insomnia (especially early morning waking followed by inability to get back to sleep).



greatly increased enjoyment of life/elation


increased humour

greater intensity of feeling in connection to relationships/attachments


a positive view of self

optimism regarding the future

blames others

delusions of grandeur

impaired decision-making

denial of problems/difficulties


strong urge to take positive action



strong desire to ‘better’ self

strong desire for independence


very energetic / full of vigor /hyperactive

increased sex drive (libido)

lowered need/desire for sleep/ insomnia


The research that has been conducted in order to attempt to answer the question posed above suggests that certain childhood experiences are much more common in those who go on to develop the bipolar disorder when compared to the childhood experiences of individuals who do not go on to develop the condition.

A study by the psychologist Cohen found that families in which individuals grew up who later developed bipolar disorder were much more likely than average to :

– be different  / stand out from other families eg ethnic minority, mental illness, sudden financial impoverishment

– be very sensitive to the fact they do not ‘fit in’ with other families, with an accompanying acute need/desire to be accepted

– be highly concerned about elevating their social status

– have a strong desire to conform

– have a strong desire to gain prestige (eg through becoming very wealthy)

– insist that the children in the family keep to very exacting standards of behaviour (strongly linked to the desire to be socially accepted).

Another study, carried out by the psychologist Gibson, resulted in similar findings; these were that individuals who went on to develop bipolar disorder were more likely to have grown up in families who :

– were preoccupied with gaining prestige

– were prone towards feeling great envy of other families they regarded as having higher social status

– were highly competitive

– pressurized the child into helping them gain social prestige (eg by excelling academically or in the arts)

Finally, a study carried out by the researcher Becker also tends to confirm the findings above. His results showed that those who went on to develop bipolar disorder were more likely to come from families who :

-subjected them to great pressure to achieve


Managing Bipolar Disorder | Self Hypnosis Downloads: CLICK HERE. – Information about bipolar disorder



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

Betrayal By Parents : Long-term Effects.


When parents/primary caretakers, the very people who have a profound responsibility to protect and nurture their child, perpetrate abuse against him/her, the child’s psychological development is likely to be damaged on a fundamental level.

The child will come to view the parent/primary caretaker as a threat and danger to him/her; as a result, the child’s relationship with them will become highly insecure.

The breakdown of this deeply vital relationship is then very likely to severely distort how the child comes to see him/herself, others, and the world in general as s/he grows up and enters adulthood. Indeed, this negatively skewed view can last a life-time if appropriate therapy is not sought out.


The adverse effects of the abuse upon the child are likely to be complicated and intensified due to the essentially ambiguous relationship which tends to exist between the abused child and his/her abusive parent/primary caregiver; almost invariably, the child will have conflicting and ambivalent feelings towards the abusive parent: on one level, loving and needing them, but, on another level, hating and fearing them.


Any child who has suffered significant childhood trauma, at the hands of his/her parent/primary caregiver, will, in all likelihood, develop a profound sense of having been betrayed; as a result of the abuse, and these feelings of betrayal it has evoked, the long-term effects on personality are likely to include some, or all, of the following:

negative and self-lacerating view of self

– negative and suspicious view of others

– a negative, pessimistic and cynical view of the world in general

– very significant difficulties in trusting others

– extreme sensitivity to the effects of stress and very impaired ability to calm self down once the reaction to stress has been triggered

– severe difficulties developing and maintaining intimate relationships

– a propensity to become easily consumed by rage and anger 

– feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and general lack of personal autonomy

– feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, shame and guilt 


Two therapies (although there are others) that research shows can be highly effective at addressing such difficulties as those listed above are:



Does Betrayal Trauma Increase Risk Of ADHD?

Why Betrayal In Childhood May Increase Risk Of Being Revictimised As An Adult

Learning To Trust Again After Childhood Betrayal By Parents




Click here





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


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

Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn? Trauma Responses

Most of us are already familiar with the concept of the ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived danger, namely that when presented with a threat our bodies respond by preparing us to fight against it or run from it. This response served our ancestors if they came face-to-face with a dangerous predator or encountered a similar emergency.

However, there are two other responses to a threat which are less well known. These are the freeze response and the fawn response (Walker M.A.) I will explain what these are in due course.

Walker M.A.. refers to these responses to threat as the 4F responses and each of them represents a different response that modern-day humans can display if they have been subjected to sustained and repeated trauma during their childhood.

If we have suffered problematic relationships with our main caregivers during our early life, it is likely that we will grow up to be very suspicious about forming close relationships with others during later life. The conscious or unconscious reasoning behind this is that if we can’t trust and rely upon our parents, whom can we trust and rely upon?

On top of this problem, any relationships we do form, with their inevitable ups and downs, are prone to remind us of similar relationship problems we had in our early lives with our caregivers. This can trigger upsetting and painful flashbacks.


Those lucky enough not to have experienced a significantly disrupted childhood only utilize the 4F responses appropriately or, in other words, only when they are faced with real danger. However, those who were exposed to serious, ongoing trauma during childhood, adversely affecting their mental health, frequently become FIXATED with one, or perhaps two, of the 4F responses and these become DEEPLY INGRAINED and REFLEXIVE.

Unlike those who did not experience a traumatic childhood, these individuals will also tend to over-rely on these responses and use them inappropriately, i.e. when there is no serious threat. These responses upon which they have become fixated, learned as a defence mechanism during childhood, tend to remain on a hair-trigger and are therefore easily activated.

Let’s look at each of the 4F responses to childhood trauma in turn:

1) THE FIGHT TYPE – The individual who has become fixated, due to his childhood experiences, on the ‘fight’ response avoids close relationships with others by frequently becoming enraged and by being overly demanding. It is theorized that he is largely unconsciously driven to behave in this way because he has a deep-rooted need to alienate others so that an intimate relationship cannot develop. The largely unconscious reasoning behind this is that such a relationship would make him intolerably vulnerable because it would carry with it the risk of rejection, similar to the rejection experienced in childhood, which would be psychologically catastrophic for him.

2) THE FLIGHT TYPE – It is theorized that this type of individual, for the same reasons as above, avoids close relationships with others by immersing himself in activities (for example, by becoming a workaholic) which do not leave him the time to build deep, serious relationships with others.

3) THE FREEZE TYPE – This type avoids serious relationships with others by not participating with them socially. Often they will become reclusive and increasingly take refuge in fantasies and day-dreams.

4) THE FAWN TYPE – According to Walker M.A., the fawn type will often go out of their way to help others, perhaps by performing some kind of community service, but without building up emotionally close, or intimate, relationships, due to fear, like the other three types detailed above, of making himself vulnerable to painful rejection which would reawaken intense feelings of distress experienced as a result of the original, highly traumatic childhood rejection.


Some researchers describe five defence strategies an individual may develop depending upon his/her unique, traumatic childhood experiences, rather than the traditionally quoted three (fight, flight, freeze) or four, as described above (fight, flight, freeze or fawn).

We are already familiar with how individuals may fight, flee, freeze or fawn as an unconsciously learned response to childhood trauma but let’s also briefly consider what has been termed the SUBMIT and APPROACH.


This involves becoming submissive and compliant in an attempt to prevent further harm, this defence might involve going into a state of dissociation.


This often takes the form of a ‘cry for help”, or example, regressing to an infantile state and crying in an attempt to appeal to the protective instincts of others or it may involve trying to ‘win others over’; for example, using charm and humour to try to placate another’s anger.


Walker, P., Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood. Trauma. Publisher Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.  1492871842, 9781492871842 


Beat Fear and Anxiety Pack| Hypnosis Downloads


How to Stop Seeking Approval | Hypnosis Downloads




Is Your Predominant Response To Trauma Flooding Or Dissociation?

The Freeze Response To Trauma And Polyvagal Theory

Reducing The Pain Associated With Being Stuck In ‘Fight / Flight’ Mode.


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

Why Can Effects Of Childhood Trauma Be Delayed?

Delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can occur as a result of a severely disrupted childhood, is defined by the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) as PTSD which develops at least six months after the traumatic event/s; however, PTSD can take much longer than this to manifest itself.

One reason why PTSD may not become apparent immediately is that the individual who has been affected by trauma is able, for a period of time, to employ coping mechanisms (either consciously or unconsciously) which keep the condition at bay. During this period, some of the effects of the traumatic experience/s lie dormant. However, due to the experiencing of further triggers (stress-inducing reminders of the original trauma), the person’s neurobiological processes (already harmed by the original trauma) may be further adversely affected until a ‘tipping point’ is reached and the s/he meets the criteria for being diagnosed with the disorder.

In other words, there is an interaction between the original damage caused by the trauma and exposure to further stressors later on in life. It follows from this that the more severe the original trauma, and the more severe the stressors life throws at the individual subsequently, the greater is his/her accumulated risk of developing PTSD. Indeed, this is borne out by the research.


The original trauma, then, makes the individual more susceptible to being affected adversely by further life stressors. In neurological terms, this is thought to be because the original trauma can damage an area of the brain known as the amygdala; damage to this region makes a person’s fear/anxiety response to stressors much more intense than is normally the case (click here to read my article on how the effects of childhood trauma can physically harm the brain).

The more the individual affected by the original trauma subsequently experiences stressful triggers (see above) which cause him/her to relive it, the more damaged, and hypersensitive to the effects of further stress, the amygdala (see above) becomes. Eventually, the amygdala’s response to perceived threat and danger (there does not have to be any real threat or danger; indeed, one of the hallmarks of PTSD is that it causes the sufferer to see threat everywhere, where it does not, in fact, exist)  become so exaggerated that the individual finds him/herself living in what amounts to a state of almost constant terror (indeed, I myself was in just such a state for more time than I care to recall).


As the individual starts to perceive, irrationally, threat everywhere, the range of triggers (see above) s/he experiences grows ever wider; this, in turn, yet further sensitizes the amygdala and reinforces the individual’s stress response. Thus, a vicious cycle develops.


I will finish with a quote from the psychologist Shalev, which I think speaks for itself and requires no further elucidation from me :

‘Following trauma, there is a critical period of brain plasticity during which serious neuronal changes may occur in those who go on to develop PTSD.’

NB. To learn more about BRAIN PLASTICITY, and how we can take advantage of the phenomenon to aid our own recoveries,  click here to read my article).

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



Childhood Trauma : Reactions to Trauma According to Age

Trauma affects children in different ways depending upon the age group they fall into. In this article, I will look at how 3 different age groups may be affected. These are :

– very young children (0-3 years)

– young children (4-11 years)

– adolescents

VERY YOUNG CHILDREN: it is a myth that just because very young children cannot verbalize the effect that trauma has on them, and often can’t understand the trauma, they are unaffected by it. On the contrary, this age group is extremely vulnerable and the effects of trauma on them can be very serious indeed.

Due to the fact that this age group is unable to explain the distress they feel in words, they may, instead, ‘act out’ their distress through their behaviour. I provide some examples below :

– fear of separation from the caregiver

– excessive displays of temper

– sadness

– anxiety/fearfulness

– irritability

– easily startled

– aggressive behaviour

– excessive crying

– excessive screaming

– very demanding of attention through both positive and negative behaviours

– development of new fears


The brains of children in this age group are developing very rapidly and, as such, their brain development is extremely vulnerable to being adversely affected.

Research shows that severe trauma at this stage of life can damage the development of the area of the brain known as the cortex. Damage done to the development of this part of the brain can lead to :

– inability to properly regulate (control) their emotions

– delays in language development

– impaired I.Q.

– problems relating to perception and awareness

– memory problems

– attentional difficulties

Finally, it should be pointed out that at this age children are utterly dependent on the emotional support of their primary care-giver. If this is not forthcoming the effects of trauma can be particularly severe.


The effect of trauma on children in this age group may result in :

– ‘traumatic play’ – this type of play tends to be repetitive and relates to the trauma, either directly or symbolically

– difficulty articulating the effect that the trauma has had upon them

– ‘developmental regression’ – this means reverting back to an earlier stage of development eg distress at having to be separated from parents in situations where this distress was not displayed prior to the trauma

– frequently feeling fearful in a variety of situations (not just those situations which relate to the original trauma)

– problems with sleep, which may include having nightmares and experiencing ‘night terrors’

– loss of speech

– bed-wetting

– a constant concern for own safety and the safety of family members

– a compulsion to constantly re-tell the details of the traumatic experience

– difficulties concentrating at school

– inappropriate guilt and shame relating to the trauma

– reckless behaviour

– aggressive behaviour

– psychosomatic symptoms (ie symptoms brought on by stress with no obvious physical cause) eg headaches and stomach aches


The physical development of the brain is not complete until the mid-twenties. The adolescent brain and nervous system is, therefore, is especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of trauma. Damage to such development, in particular, has been linked to difficulties in regulating (controlling) emotions and difficulties forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

Adolescence, too, is a time of significant emotional growth, and, therefore, traumatic experiences at this crucial stage of life can have a profound and very-long lasting effect upon the individual’s view of the world, of others and of him/herself.

Other specific problems the adolescent may develop as a result of trauma include :

reliance on alcohol/drugs to escape from mental anguish 

– promiscuous sex (this can be another form of dissociation)

– ‘acting out’ feelings of distress (eg aggression, violence, anger) 

– self-destructive behaviour

– depression/anxiety

– withdrawal from family/friends

– repetitive fantasies of revenge

– post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – click here to read my article on this

– depression (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and major depression)

– inappropriate guilt and shame (click here to read my article relating to this)

– feeling like a ‘bad’ person (click here to read my article on why this happens)




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

Childhood Trauma Leading to Self-Hatred and Intense Self-Criticism



Following a childhood in which we had the experience of neglect, abuse, abandonment or a combination of these, it very frequently follows that we grow up to become intensely self-critical and even consumed by feelings of self-hatred. Indeed, these are both key symptoms of clinical depression and also of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) – both of these conditions, as I have frequently discussed in other articles, are strongly associated with severe childhood trauma.

When an individual’s childhood is traumatic, there is, for him or her, a constant sense of being in danger; lack of emotional support, encouragement and affection from the parents leaves the child feeling perpetually anxious and fearful.

One psychologically defensive reaction to this can be for the individual to develop what is termed PERFECTIONISM – on an unconscious level this is an attempt to finally gain the parents’ approval.

However, because perfection is generally impossible to achieve, a sense of constant failure develops which can develop into self-hatred. This is because (again, on an unconscious level) the individual believes it is this ‘constant failure’ that is the root cause of the parental rejection (although, of course, this belief is erroneous – the real problem is the inability of the parents to bond in an emotionally healthy way with their son or daughter).


As the child growing up in a traumatic environment will perceive that environment (either consciously or unconsciously) to be unsafe -or, to put it more bluntly, dangerous – s/he, as a survival technique, will tend to become HYPERVIGILANT (constantly on the alert for any sense of imminent threat).

This tendency, as the child gets older, will tend to become DEEPLY EMBEDDED INTO THEIR PERSONALITY and they are likely to GENERALIZE THEIR CONSTANT SENSE OF DANGER ONTO THE WORLD IN GENERAL.

In other words, s/he is likely to develop a CORE BELIEF that THE WORLD IS A FUNDAMENTALLY UNSAFE AND THREATENING PLACE. This leads to a psychological process that psychologists have termed ENDANGERMENT (projecting a sense of danger onto situations which are, in reality, essentially safe).


All of this means that the individual will have a marked tendency to constantly attempt to analyze how others are reacting to him/her and to then frequently presume that they are evaluating and judging him/her in negative ways (even if there is, in fact, little or no evidence that this is the case).

Also, it is likely that the individual will develop PERFORMANCE ANXIETY; this entails constant self-criticism and self-castigation for ‘not doing well enough.’ The individual’s perceived parental view of him/her ( ‘you are not good enough’) becomes INTERNALIZED and transformed into the (false) belief: ‘I am not good enough.’




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

An Examination of the Exquisite Emotional Sensitivity of BPD Sufferers.

An Examination of the Exquisite Emotional Sensitivity of BPD Sufferers.

Those who develop borderline personality disorder (BPD), often as a result of severe childhood trauma, are, without exception, EXTREMELY EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE.

An expert researcher into the condition of BPD, Shari Manning PhD, has identified three areas of emotional functioning which appear to be different in individuals who suffer from BPD compared to those individuals who are fortunate enough not to suffer from it. The three areas of problematic emotional functioning identified by Shari are as follows :




Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1)   Emotional sensitivity – individuals suffering from BPD show exceptionally high levels of sensitivity; metaphorically speaking, it is almost as if their nerve endings were exposed.

Also, to others, it appears that their emotional responses are way out of proportion to the event which provoked the response.

However, there is an explanation for this: usually, when the BPD sufferer reacts to a particular event with what seems like excessive emotion, it is because the event has triggered (usually unconsciously) memories of highly traumatic event/s in childhood (for example, a memory of loss or rejection which was profoundly painful to the BPD sufferer as a child).

2)  Emotional Reactivity – those with BPD are much more easily tipped over the edge into emotional distress because it seems, their ‘set-point’ of emotional intensity is much higher than that of a non-BPD sufferer to begin with. In other words, their baseline level of emotional intensity is much higher than that of the average person.

This clearly goes against the theories of those who wish to stigmatize people suffering from BPD that the BPD sufferer becomes highly emotional in order to ‘manipulate’ others.

What makes BPD sufferers’ emotional responses even more intense is that they tend to have reactions to their reactions. Another way of putting it is that these individuals have emotions about emotions, which are also sometimes called secondary emotions or meta-emotions. For example, a BPD sufferer may go into an extreme rage following an argument with a loved one, and, then, as a secondary emotion, feel an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Now swamped by emotion, this can lead to yet further intense emotional responses eg suicidal ideation – the emotional reactions feed off, and feed into, each other, in a highly detrimental manner.

3)  Delayed Return To Baseline Emotional State – the third problem that BPD sufferers have is that once they become emotionally distressed, it takes them longer than the average person to calm down and for their emotions to return to baseline levels. Indeed, BRAIN ACTIVITY STUDIES have shown that once emotionally aroused, the activity in the relevant areas of the BPD sufferer’s brain takes longer to subside than similar activity does in a non-BPD sufferer’s brain.




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

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – Four Subtypes












Borderline personality disorder is frequently linked to the experience of severe childhood trauma. 

An expert on the subject of borderline personality disorder (BPD), Theodore Milton, has proposed FOUR SUBTYPES of this serious disorder. These four subtypes are :





Let’s look at each of these four subtypes in turn:


Milton describes this category of individuals as:

– pessimistic

– resentful

– complaining and critical.

– irritable and impatient.

– unpredictable.

– having a marked tendency to swing between expressing a deep need of others and pushing them away (this is known as AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT STYLE).

– possessing a deep sense of inadequacy.

– prone to outbursts of explosive anger. 


This category of individuals has characteristics in common with those who suffer from DEPENDENT PERSONALITY DISORDER. Milton also describes those who suffer from this subtype of BPD as tending to be :

– depressive.

– prone to self-harming behaviours. 

– angry (although this can often be suppressed)


According to Milton, those individuals who fall into this category have characteristics in common with those who suffer from HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER. They also :

– tend to have a superficial charm.

– have a marked tendency towards thrill-seeking (e.g. impulsive sex, gambling, dangerous driving etc.)

– tend to be highly attention-seeking.


Finally, Milton describes this subtype of BPD sufferers as :

– consumed by self-hatred.

– particularly prone to self-harming behaviours.

– prone to physical self-neglect.

-attracted to indulging in risky behaviours.

Other Personality Disorders May Exist Co-morbidly With BPD  :

If, as adults, we have been unfortunate enough to develop borderline personality disorder, it is quite possible that we have also developed other personality disorders that exist alongside it concurrently (or, more technically, CO-MORBIDLY).

Which Other Personality Disorders May Exist Co-morbidly With BPD?

According to Zanarini (1998), the four personality disorders that are most likely to exist simultaneously alongside (co-morbidly with) BPD are as follows :

(For those who are interested, there are eleven personality disorders in total).

The percentages given in brackets after each of the four personality disorders displayed above represent the chances of an individual having that particular personality disorder existing co-morbidly alongside his/her BPD.

Why Is It Common For These Four Personality Disorders To Exist Co-morbidly Alongside BPD?

  • Avoidant Personality Disorder: BPD sufferers are at risk of also suffering from this because, as children, they are likely to have felt threatened by, and been betrayed by, significant others leading them, as adults, to view people in general as potentially dangerous (to their emotional, or, even, physical well-being) and therefore best kept at a distance.
  • Dependent Personality Disorder: BPD sufferers are at risk of also suffering from this because they are likely to have grown up in an environment which caused them to fail to develop confidence in their own coping skills and to feel vulnerable, hopeless and helpless.
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder: BPD sufferers are at risk of also suffering from this because they are likely to have grown up being perpetually harmed by significant others and/or living with the constant fear that significant others may hurt them at any (unpredictable) moment (psychologically, physically or both).
  • Anti-social Personality Disorder: BPD sufferers are at risk of also suffering from this because, as children, they are likely to have lacked positive role models, been mistreated and abused leading to them, as adults, to have internalized few, if any,  positive values, to be distrustful, cynical, angry and resentful. Such feelings can then be projected onto society as a whole and ‘dog-eat-dog’ / ‘every-man-for-himself’ / ‘look-after-number one-because-nobody-else-will’ / ‘everyone -is-essentially-selfish-and-will-ultimately-betray-you’  and nihilistic view of the world may develop.

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

BPD and the Science Behind Self-Harming Behavior


Those who sought to stigmatize the very serious and distressing psychological condition known as borderline personality disorder, or BPD, used to like (and perhaps still do) to put forward the theory that self-harming behaviour in those suffering from BPD is ‘merely attention-seeking’ (ridiculous when one considers the stark and brutal fact that one in ten people suffering from BPD end up dying by suicide; a statistic which is bewilderingly, and, in my view, disgracefully, often conveniently overlooked).

Clearly, suicide is the ultimate form of self-harm; however, at times of stress, those with BPD often engage in other forms of self-harm which include: cutting the skin, picking at skin to prevent healing, burning the skin with cigarettes/lighters/matches etc, hitting oneself, and even banging one’s head against a wall or jumping from dangerous heights.

Whilst the idea of self-harm is difficult for mentally healthy individuals to understand, science (see theory two, below) is now beginning to shed further light upon why BPD sufferers in distress may do it. I outline two of the theories which have been put forward below :


Those who have suffered severe childhood trauma, and have subsequently gone on to develop BPD, very often have been conditioned/brainwashed to view themselves as a ‘bad’ person (click here to read my article explaining the psychological process which causes this to happen). It is, therefore, possible that the self-harming behaviour which the majority of those who suffer from BPD sadly carry out may be DRIVEN BY AN INTERNAL, UNCONSCIOUS NEED TO PUNISH THEMSELVES DUE TO DEEP SEATED FEELINGS OF SELF-HATRED AND SHAME.


When an individual inflicts physical harm upon him/herself, NEUROPEPTIDES are released in the brain (Stanley et al.); these are molecules which help neurons (brain cells) communicate with one another, and, in so doing, they influence our behaviours, thoughts and feelings. One important group of neuropeptides are OPIOIDS and these are thought to help explain why individuals might self-harm.  But why should this be so?

The answer is that research has found that individuals who suffer from BPD tend to have ABNORMALLY LOW LEVELS OF BASELINE OPIOIDS. Because opioids act as natural pain-killers (in connection with both physical and emotional pain), and physical harm to the body causes more of them to be released, it is possible individuals in severe emotional pain self-harm to BOOST THEIR LEVELS OF OPIOIDS AND THUS REDUCE THE INTENSITY OF THE EMOTIONAL PAIN FROM WHICH THEY ARE SUFFERING.

Other neuropeptides released into the body as a result self-harming behaviour, and which may also help explain why BPD sufferers are driven to inflict self-injury are oxytocin and vasopressin.



Stop Self Harming – Self Hypnosis Downloads


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

Peter Pan Syndrome And Childhood Trauma




What Is Peter Pan Syndrome?

First, it should be stated that the so-called ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ is not an official psychiatric term and will not be found in the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual). However, many psychologists find it a useful concept and I include reference to it on this site as it shares many elements in common with borderline personality disorder or BPD , and both conditions are linked to adverse childhood experiences.

The Jungian Concept Of ‘Puer Aeternus’

One of the Jungian personality archetypes (basic personality types that the psychologist Carl Jung described in his theories) was the PUER AETERNUS (Latin for ‘eternal boy’) and this idea is closely linked to the concept of the ‘Peter Pan Syndrome.’ However, the term ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ was first made popular when it was used in the title of a book on psychology by Dr Dan Kiley : ‘The Peter Pan Syndrome – Men Who Never Grow Up.’


The main features commonly described as being associated with individuals with the complex are as follows:

– avoidance of adult responsibilities as far as possible

– preference for living in a fantasy world/in own head, rather than in reality

– possessing an attitude of ‘entitlement ‘(i.e. the belief that ‘the world owes them a living.’)

– the tendency to lack any real direction in life

– the tendency to put in the minimum of effort in order to get by

– prone to tantrums/tendency to employ negative behaviour to get attention/own way

– impulsive

– hedonistic/will tend to prioritize gaining pleasure and instant gratification over behaving responsibly and achieving long-term goals (a sort of ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ attitude)

– the tendency to live in the past/romanticize and idealize the past rather than look to the future

– the tendency to have employment problems/difficulties in staying in jobs for long due to lack of responsibility/lack of long-term planning/resentment of having to actually work for a living etc

– the tendency to seek pleasure irrespective  (up to a point) of moral considerations

– emotionally stunted/trapped in an adolescent mentality

– the tendency to develop intense ‘crushes’ and to idealize potential romantic partners .

– the tendency to deal with problems by what has been termed ‘PRIMITIVE DENIAL’, a kind of ‘if I don’t think about it, the problem doesn’t exist’ attitude, and/or to blot out problems with drink and/or drugs.

– a tendency to perpetually blame others for own problems

– a strong need to ‘belong’

– high sensitivity to rejection

– high level of emotional vulnerability/lacks the necessary skills to protect own feelings – therefore easily hurt

– tends to have fragile self-esteem and is prone to react with rage when feels it is under threat


In later life, often around middle-age, such individuals may suddenly change when hit by the reality that it is not usually possible to just sail through life and have everything go your way. As a result, these individuals may suddenly feel overcome by a sense of guilt due to having wasted their talents, and, consequently, become DRIVEN TO ACHIEVE AS A FORM OF OVER-COMPENSATION FOR THEIR EARLIER LACK OF APPLICATION – this can, for some, lead to a dramatic kind of social/vocational ‘come-back,’ although, for others, it can, sadly, be too late.




Reference : 

Kiley, Dr Dan (1983). The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Never Grow Up. Avon Books. 



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



The Long-Term Effects of Parental Rejection

My father walked out on my mother when I was eight. Always highly disturbed, my mother became yet worse and threw me out of the house when I was thirteen. This made it necessary for me to go and live with my father and his new wife, where I was not wanted. Indeed, the sense of this was unremittingly palpable. So, what are the long-term effects of parental rejection?

It pretty much goes without saying that both a mother’s and father’s acceptance of, and love for,  their child is of paramount importance in relation to (to give just 4 examples):

– how the child’s personality develops

– his self-image

– his self-esteem

– how he learns to relate to others

Being rejected by parent/s can have an enormously negative effect upon each of these. Not only can these effects last throughout childhood, but, without therapy, can extend years and years into adulthood; in fact, they can last a lifetime.

Ronald Rohner, of the University of Connecticut, an expert on the effects of parental rejection, is quoted as saying the following on the subject :

‘In our half-century of international research, we’ve not found any other class of experience that has a strong and consistent effect upon personality development as does the experience of being rejected, especially by parents in childhood. Children and adults everywhere, regardless of differences in race, culture and gender, tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceive themselves to be rejected by their caregivers and other attachment figures.’

A major part of Ronald Rohner’s research was to carry out a meta-analysis (an analysis of a large number of studies – in this case, 36 involving about 10,000 participants) of research, that had already been conducted by others, upon the effects of parental rejection. This analysis revealed, amongst many other things, the following :

1) the pain of having experienced parental rejection during childhood tends to extend into adulthood

2) those who have suffered parental rejection in childhood tend to develop difficulties forming trusting relationships in adulthood

3) neurological studies (studies of the physical brain), such as Eisenberger et al., 2004, suggest that parental rejection activates the same part of the brain which is activated by the experience of physical pain.  as there appears to be a common neural alarm system that responds to both physical and social pain. (I myself remember telling various psychiatrists that I felt a perpetual extreme pain in my head, and, at the time, though I was going crazy, especially as they offered no explanation. I am now relieved to have discovered the likely cause).

Indeed, Rohner goes on to explain that this type of pain can go on for years. This happened in my own case; I was almost totally incapacitated – I very rarely left my flat, stopped practising even the most basic form of self-care, was unable to read, or even watch television.


Contrary to popular belief, the effects of a father’s rejection of a child can have at least as powerful an adverse effect on the child’s psychological development as rejection by the mother, according to Rohner’s review of the available evidence.

Compounding the ill-effects of parental rejection, because of the psychological damage it can do to the child, such children may develop interpersonal problems at school and, consequently, experience PEER REJECTION, too. I briefly discuss this below :


The Implicit Social Hierarchy :

In schools, it is unavoidable that children will be judged by their peers in relation to their perceived likability/popularity/desirability/acceptability etc. so that, in effect, they are informally and implicitly ‘assigned’ a position in the social hierarchy.

Social Exclusion And Effects On Self-Esteem :

The way in which we were affected by such judgment by our peers when we were at school (our sensitivity to the acceptance/exclusion process tends to peak in middle school which coincides with the period in our lives when we are trying to discover our own personalities, independent of our family) has a significant effect upon how our self-esteem develops and this effect can extend well into adulthood, or even endure for a lifetime.

Responses To Social Exclusion: Aggression Or Withdrawal :

Those individuals who are chronically bullied, victimized and/or ostracized by their peers at school frequently respond in one of two ways: by becoming aggressive or by withdrawing.

Aggression :

An aggressive response might manifest itself by being directed specifically at those who have rejected the individual, or, alternatively, by being directed at other children more generally (a form of displacement, making others the victims).

Withdrawal :

If, however, the child passively accepts his/her rejection, s/he is likely to become socially withdrawn, sad and depressed.



A Study On The Link Between Peer Rejection And Increased Aggressive Behaviour :


A study by  Dodge et al. (2003) showed that rejection by peers in early elementary school was correlated with increased antisocial behaviour later on (however, it should be noted that, in this study, the correlation was only significant among children who, prior to experiencing rejection by peers, were already displaying a greater than normal propensity to behave in an antisocial manner). The study also found that this effect applied equally to both male and female students.

The researchers involved in this study also suggested that the increase in students’ propensity to behave in antisocial ways following rejection by their peers could, in large part, be attributed to the fact that their experience of having been rejected had caused them to develop ‘biased patterns of processing social information’ (for example, in this study it was found that these rejected students were more likely misinterpret a neutral or non-hostile social signal as being hostile). Indeed, the child rejected by his peers may become hypervigilant to any potential signs of hostility directed towards him/her by others. (Cognitive therapy can be very helpful in helping people to overcome biased informational processing).

On a more positive note, the researchers of this study also suggested that even a relatively low, but stable, level of positive regard by peers during childhood can have a very significant ‘buffering’ effect on the later development antisocial behaviour (i.e. make such a development less likely to occur).


Rejection, Shame And School Massacres :


Although it is extremely rare, according to research conducted by Leary et al., 2006, students who carry out (or attempt to carry out) school massacres have very frequently been socially rejected and shamed by their peers prior to committing (or attempting to commit) the atrocity.

The Lingering Effects Of Shame :

Being made to feel shame as a child can frequently lead to a profound sense of being intrinsically and irreparably ‘flawed’ as a person, unworthy of love or respect; such self-loathing can (in the absence of effective therapy) last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.

Shame And Alcoholism :

Research by Brown (2006)  has found that females who have experienced significant and chronic feelings of shame as children are at much-increased risk of turning to alcohol as adults in an attempt to reduce the intensity of the emotional pain they feel in connection with this abiding sense of shame. Indeed, Brown suggests that such individuals can be helped to reduce their dependency on alcohol by embarking upon a therapy that helps them to overcome their shame.

Shame And Grandiosity :

Another possible response to shame is a kind of over-compensation, resulting in grandiosity and a desperate need achieve and succeed so as to gain and maintain a constant sense of external validation to help ward off deep-seated feelings of shame which continually threaten to overwhelm one. Such individuals may become highly competitive and driven to be more ‘successful’ than others, especially individuals who make up their social group, including their friends; indeed, they may adopt the mantra: ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.’ (Gore Vidal).

The combined effects of parental and peer rejection can be excruciatingly painful, of course. In fact, because humans have evolved as social creatures, experiences of rejection are is arguably the most painful of all the psychological experiences we undergo in life, especially if our experience of rejection is chronic and severe, as the following study suggests :



Have you ever experienced intense, almost unbearable, emotional pain and mental anguish as a result of a rejection?

I remember, on occasions in the past, trying to explain to my psychiatrist how the turmoil in my mind resembled an excruciating, almost physical, pain.

Such pain, of course, is likely to be particularly acute and devastating if that rejection comes from a parent, or, indeed, from both parents.

As I have stated in other posts on this site, I have the dubious distinction of having been rejected by both my parents on separate occasions – by my mother when I was thirteen years old and then, some years later, by my father and step-mother, making me homeless and, therefore,  humiliatingly necessitating me to be taken into the home of a friend’s parents, to whom I remain grateful (incidentally, my step-mother was deeply religious and founded a charity for the homeless – Watford New Hope Trust – a cruel irony that was far from lost on me, let me assure you).

Effects Of Rejection On The Brain :

Recent studies have shown that the emotional pain of rejection activates the same area of the brain that physical pain does; the brain area involved is known as the ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX.

Further evidence that the way we experience emotional pain is similar to how we experience physical pain comes from the finding that the medication Tylenol, which is taken to reduce feelings of physical pain, also ameliorates sensations of emotional pain.

Also, a study connected to Purdue University, Australia, compared two groups of individuals:

GROUP 1: were asked to recall a physically painful event that had taken place in the previous 5 years.

GROUP 2: were asked to recall an emotionally painful event which had taken place in the last 5 years.

RESULTS: Those in GROUP 2 (who relived the adverse emotional event) reported experiencing higher levels of pain induced by this replaying in their minds of this unhappy event than those in GROUP 1 experienced as a result of recalling their physically painful event.

One reason for the level of pain we may feel as a result of rejection is that we have a marked tendency to blame ourselves for the rejection (we may infer we must be in some way lacking) even though such self-blame is very often objectively unwarranted.

Also, emotional pain caused by rejection can keep coming back to haunt us, again and again, and again…we may even obsessively think about our rejection and the person who rejected us. When it comes to physical pain, however, once it is over the memory of it does not result in us re-experiencing it.

Evolutionary Explanation Of Why Rejection Can Be So Painful:

We have evolved to find rejection painful as our distant ancestors lived in groups which increased their likelihood of survival. Rejection by the group would have endangered their survival so they evolved to find social rejection painful as it discouraged them from behaving in ways that could result in such rejection (just as, for example, we have evolved to find coming into direct contact with fire painful to help to prevent burning and damaging our skin).

And rejection by parents, for our ancestors, could easily prove fatal.





Dodge KA, Lansford JE, Burks VS, Bates JE, Pettit GS, Fontaine R, Price JM. Peer rejection and social information-processing factors in the development of aggressive behaviour problems in children.Child Dev. 2003 Mar-Apr;74(2):374-93. PMID: 12705561

Rohner, R. P. (1980). Worldwide Tests of Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory: An Overview. Behavior Science Research, 15(1), 1–21.



Childhood Trauma, The Shame Loop And Defenses Against Shame

Abandonment Issues, Fear Of Rejection And Therapies

How Emotional Suffering Is Like Physical Pain.


Can’t Let Go Of Childhood Trauma? Here Are Possible Reasons Why