Tag Archives: Anhedonia

Feel Permanently, Emotionally Numb? The Possible Roots In Childhood Trauma.

emotional_numbness

Emotional numbness is a coping mechanism that can be necessary to psychologically protect us when traumatic events are occurring. However, emotional numbness becomes a problem if it persists after the traumatic events are over meaning that it no longer serves any useful purpose.

For example, emotional numbness may have helped us survive adverse childhood experiences. However, if it carries on into adulthood and is no longer needed to protect us, its effects become negative.

emotional numbness

PTSD and CPTSD:

Emotional numbness protects us from experiencing overwhelming psychological pain. It does not just manifest itself in those who had very difficult childhoods, but it can also affect people who have experienced any kind of significant trauma. Indeed, emotional numbing is frequently a main symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) : click here to read my article on the difference between these two conditions.

Psychological defence mechanism:

If, during childhood, we suffered significant trauma we may have spent a lot of time feeling threatened and very frightened. As an unconscious response to this, we may have ‘switched off’ our feelings as a psychological defence mechanism against such mental distress.

Anger hiding vulnerability:

It is not unusual for individuals who shut down their emotions in childhood to develop into adults who hide their deep sense of vulnerability (stemming from their childhoods) by becoming excessively angry whenever they feel threatened. In this way, the excessive anger may often be masking the person’s underlying feelings of powerlessness and fear.

In other words, such individuals may become angry with others when these others behave in ways that remind them (usually on an unconscious level) of how they were profoundly hurt as children in a desperate attempt to prevent themselves being hurt in a similar fashion again.

In this way, the anger such individuals express as adults (particularly when it seems to be highly disproportionate to the provocation), may frequently be not so much a reaction to current events but, rather, a reaction to how these current events remind them of traumatic childhood events.

For example, when I was about twenty I had an argument with a friend who reacted by demanding that I ‘get out of [his] house!’ Before I knew it, I had punched him (which surprised me as much as it surprised him).

It was only in retrospect that it occurred to me that his words had triggered a memory of what happened to me when I was thirteen, namely my mother throwing me out of her house (permamently) so that I was obliged to move in with my father a step- mother (who, it must be said. did not want me there either).

Damaging long-term effects:

But back to emotional numbness – whilst it has, relatively speaking, short-term survival value (it prevents us from being psychologically destroyed by our childhood, traumatic experiences), repressing our feelings can have seriously adverse effects in the long-term.

For example, our repressed psychological pain may express itself somatically (ie by harming the body) in the form of, for example, ulcers, headaches and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Also, repressing emotions requires considerable effort; this can lead to deep and chronic exhaustion (for a long period of my life, I was having to go to bed at three o’clock in the afternoon and would get up about eight o’clock the next day – this equates to seventeen hours in bed out of every twenty-four. However, because of my extreme insomnia, only a small fraction of that time would be spent asleep; even then, the sleep was shallow and full of terrible nightmares so I certainly did not get up feeling properly rested).

emotional numbness

Anhedonia:

Shutting down our feelings helps dampen down negative feelings, but also dampens down positive feelings, leading us to experience a kind of emotional deadness and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure – click here to read my article on this).

In order to try to counteract such emotional deadness, sufferers may desperately try to gain at least some form of ‘positive’ stimulation but find, in order to do so, that they must undertake extreme and risky activities which may include:

– excessive drinking

– excessive smoking

– taking powerful street drugs

– unsafe and promiscuous sex

– excessive gambling (click here to read my own experience of this)

– dangerous driving

– excessive spending

Resources:

Overcome Fear Of Emotions hypnosis download. Click here for more information.

 

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

 

 

 

Childhood Trauma Leading to Anhedonia (Inability to Experience Pleasure).

anhedonia

There is an established relationship between having experienced trauma as a child and suffering from anhedonia (the inability to experience feelings of pleasure) as an adult.

Anhedonia drains the color from life, rather like seeing a film in high resolution color suddenly fade into a grainy, blurred, black and white. One feels just intense emptiness and a complete blunting of positive emotional response. It can affect all areas of life including :

– social interaction

– career satisfaction

– food

– sex

– music

– sports

– previous hobbies and interests

– previously close and/or intimate relationships

anhedonia

Many who suffer anhedonia will have every aspect of their lives affected, whereas others may be affected in some areas but not in others.

In connection with research into the link between childhood trauma and anhedonia, Frewen et al have introduced the concept of ‘negative affective interference’. Essentially, this refers to the idea that in, in response to positive events, those suffering anhedonia are not only unable to feel any pleasure but the positive event may actually lead to them feeling worse. For example, when witnessing a beautiful sunset from the balcony of a luxury hotel in an idyllic setting, not only will those with anhedonia experience no joy, but experience an increase in negative affect (mood) such as intensified feelings of anxiety, guilt or shame. It is this increase in negative feelings in response to positive events which is referred to as ‘negative affect interference’.

Frewen et al’s study also showed that different types of childhood trauma led to different kinds of negative affective interference in response to positive events. For example, those who suffered emotional abuse as a child were more likely to experience increases in anxiety, whereas those who had suffered childhood sexual abuse were more likely to experience feelings of shame.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTIONS RELATING TO ANHEDONIA :

The above findings suggest that therapeutic interventions for those suffering from anhedonia should not only focus on increasing positive affect but also on strategies for regulating negative affect in response to positive events.

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

Deep Brain Stimulation – A Cutting-Edge Treatment for Depression

deep_brain_stimulation

In some people, severe clinical depression does not respond to established forms of treatment such as psychotherapy, behavioural therapy, drug treatment or electrconvulsive therapy (ECT). Such a depressive state is medically referred to as TREATMENT RESISTANT DEPRESSION (TRD).

However, there is new hope for people with TRD due to the discovery of a new, cutting -edge treatment known as DEEP BRAIN STIMULATION (DBS).

DBS is still in the relatively early stages of being researched and evaluated for efficacy but some initial studies have provided extremely promising results. At present, it is expensive and not very easy to access, but this state of affairs could, of course, change in the future.

WHAT DOES DBS TREATMENT INVOLVE?

DBS treatment involves an electrode being inserted deep within the brain ; once inserted, it sends out small pulses of current which help specific brain regions involved in contributing to symptoms of depression regain normal functioning.

WHAT DOES RESEARCH INTO THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DBS INDICATE SO FAR?

Research into the effectiveness of DBS is ongoing and is trying to ascertain the specific brain regions where electrodes should be inserted in order to produce the maximum possible benefit to the patient. This is quite a complex area of study due to the fact that several areas of the brain are involved in giving rise to symptoms of depression. Different adversely affected brain regions correspond to different symptoms (such as intense and pervasive sadness, weight fluctuations, low self-esteem, sleep problems and anhedonia – anhedonia means an ‘inability to experience feelings of pleasure’ and is one of the hall-marks of clinical depression).

Another complication is that the different regions of the brain which give rise to the different symptoms of depression are all INTERCONNECTED so that a change in functioning of one region has knock-on effects in relation to the other brain regions to which it is connected. The main brain regions which have been focused on so far are :

– the ventral striatum

– the nucleus accumbens

– the medial forebrain bundle

deep_brain_stimulation

THE MAIN STUDIES :

One study showed that six months after DBS treatment patients were able to recover psychologically from negative events in their lives significantly better than they were able to prior to treatment.

Another study showed that six months after treatment patients’ symptoms of depression had significantly improved.

A third study has given particularly exciting results – the region of the brain that was targeted in the study was the medial forebrain bundle, and, out of the 7 people who received the DBS treatment in the study, 6 experienced a RAPID and very significant alleviation of their depressive symptoms.

 

RESOURCE :

eBook :

        

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

 

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

 

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