Tag Archives: Child Stress

A Closer Look at the Link Between Childhood Experiences and BPD.

childhood trauma and bpd

BPD And Childhood Trauma

One of the things that frequently marks the childhood of individuals who later develop BPD is LOSS, especially when the loss has occurred as a result of death, divorce or serious illness (necessitating long periods in hospital). In one particular research study looking at this, it was found that three-quarters of those suffering from BPD had experienced such losses in childhood.

Abuse also plays a large part in the development of BPD. One study found that 75% of those suffering from BPD had experienced sexual abuse during their childhood compared to 33% of those who suffered from other psychiatric conditions.

However, it is not just obvious trauma in childhood that is linked to the later development of BPD. More subtle forms of problematic parenting also put the child at risk. Examples of this include:

– the parent/s emotionally withdrawing from the child
– inconsistent parenting (eg praise and punishment being distributed in an UNPREDICTABLE manner)
– parent/s discounting, belittling or ignoring the child’s feelings

Another form of problematic parenting which has been linked to the child later developing BPD include:

– the parent behaving too much like a friend rather than a responsible, caring figure
– turning the child into a CONFIDANT
– role reversal : treating the child like a parent

OBJECT RELATIONS THEORY:

Parenting problems are so closely tied to putting the child at risk of later developing BPD because as illustrated, for example, by object relations theory, the way a parent brings up a child has a critical influence on the way the child develops, especially in relation to the following:

– how the child goes on to see him/herself (self-identity, self-concept)
– how the child goes on to view others
– how the child goes on to deal with relationships (functioning in this area often becomes deeply impaired).

The theory suggests, then, that problematic parenting can lead to the child developing identity problems later on together with problems of self-image (affected children will often later develop a view of themselves as ‘bad’, or, even, ‘evil’) with concordant effects upon behavior. Often, also, a feeling of profound HELPLESSNESS will develop.

In relation to how the affected child sees others, certain patterns have been found to emerge. For example, the child may develop into an adult who deeply mistrusts those in authority, viewing them as overwhelmingly vindictive, malicious and punitive. Interestingly, also, however, there can develop a tendency to IDEALIZE people of importance to him/her in the initial stages of knowing them; because, however, this is likely to lead to UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS of the one who has been idealized (especially in relation to them – the idealized one, that is – being able to protect and nurture them) when these high expectations are not lived up to the failure gives rise to feelings of having been BETRAYED in the one who had those expectations.

In conclusion, it should be pointed out that a very difficult childhood does not guarantee the later development of BPD, but risk is elevated if the individual also has a genetic disposition to developing emotional problems.

Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

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

Childhood Trauma : Defense Mechanisms Resulting from Stress.

defense mechanisms and childhood trauma

Childhood Trauma And Defense Mechanisms

In response to stress resulting from our childhood trauma and other factors we often develop psychological DEFENSE MECHANISMS in an attempt to protect ourselves (though, very often, we are not consciously aware that many behaviours/defense mechanisms we have developed have developed in order to try to reduce the adverse effects of stress (though not all, eg CONVERSION – see below).

Often, however, the behaviours we develop which serve as these defense mechanisms to protect ourselves against stress are, at best, unhelpful, and, at worst, extremely damaging. I list and give a brief description of the main defence mechanisms that may develop below:

1) COMPENSATION: this behaviour occurs to offset a weakness or failing in ourselves eg someone who has very low self-esteem becoming a workaholic in an attempt to gain social status.

2) CONVERSION : anxieties can be CONVERTED into physical symptoms eg racing heart, sweating, high blood pressure, psychosomatic illnesses.

3) DENIAL : this defense mechanism is well known and the term has entered into the realms of popular vocabulary. It refers to a situation in which someone will not acknowledge something is wrong (eg after being told by a doctor one has only 3 months to live).

4) DISPLACEMENT : this is when we transfer the emotions we feel caused by one person onto somebody else who has nothing to do with how we’re feeling eg a man badly treated by his boss at work coming home and taking his anger and frustration out on his children.

5) DISSOCIATION : this is when we avoid examining how our behaviours relate to our beliefs by avoiding looking, too closely, at this relationship eg seeing ourselves as caring and compassionate but doing little or nothing to help others

6) FIXATION : this is when we have behaviours which stay fixed at an earlier stage of development and are therefore not appropriate to the life stage the individual is at eg a middle-aged remaining highly emotionally dependent upon his parents

7) IDENTIFICATION : this is when we behave, dress etc in a way which duplicates the way the person we are modelling ourselves on would behave and dress etc (this can occur on both conscious and unconscious levels and is not considered abnormal in young people).

8) INTROJECTION : this is when we turn our feelings towards others onto ourselves. Freud, for example, believed someone who is clinically depressed has, unconsciously, turned his/her anger with another/others onto himself and is, therefore, in effect, punishing him/herself with his/her depressive feelings in a way he/she unconsciously wishes to inflict upon others.

9) INVERSION : this is where we REPRESS a desire which we are uncomfortable having and act in a way which expresses the opposite eg a repressed homosexual who acts in an obsessively homophobic manner. This often occurs on an unconscious level.

10) PROJECTION : this is really the opposite of introjection (see above). It is where we constantly see faults in others which we, ourselves, are ashamed of and feel guilty about having eg constantly pointing out selfishness in others when we ourselves are ashamed of our own selfishness. Again, this can occur on an unconscious level.

11) RATIONALIZATION : this is when we, in effect, deceive ourselves and tell ourselves that something we have, in fact, done due to bad motives we have really done for socially acceptable reasons eg a man who divorces his wife and leaves his young family may tell himself it’s in the best interests of everyone, when, really, deep down, he is doing it purely in his own interest

12) REGRESSION : this is when we go back to behaving in a way that is no longer appropriate and would usually only occur at a much younger age eg a middle-aged man having a child-like tantrum.

13) REPRESSION : this is when we, unconsciously, bury feelings and attitudes which are unacceptable to us, and contrary to our moral beliefs, deep in the mind away from conscious access eg an illicit sexual attraction. When we consciously bury feelings that we are not comfortable with (often referred to in popular language as ‘putting something to the back of our mind’) it is called SUPPRESSION.

14) RESISTANCE : this is where there is a barrier between what we have repressed/banished into the unconscious mind. In other words, what we have repressed is not allowed conscious access. Freud believed this process meant the psychological tension produced by keeping the feeling, memory etc repressed can’t be resolved and so perpetuates the emotional pain that the individual is feeling.

15) SUBLIMATION : this is where the energy associated with feelings that are unacceptable to us (usually sexual, according to Freud) and buried in the unconscious mind is channeled into something else that is socially acceptable. Unlike many of the other defence mechanisms that I have described, this can be very positive, and, even, Freud thought, produce great art.

16) TRANSFERENCE : this is where feelings and emotions we have about a particular individual are transferred onto somebody else who was not the original cause of them. For example, an individual in therapy who transfers the feelings of hatred he feels towards his mother onto the therapist.

17) WITHDRAWAL : this is when we just cut off from a stressful situation, give up, lose interest and become apathetic eg a man who stops trying to make conversation with his wife or take any interest in her after the relationship has been very difficult for a long period of time and he can no longer cope with it

eBook:

depression and anxiety

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

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

Latest Research Leads to New List Of Main Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Symptoms: The List

Main Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms :

Recent research has led to an expansion of the description of the main borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms. Following the development of the Sheldern Western Assessment Procedure 200 (an assessment tool which includes 200 questions that aid in the diagnosis of BPD) experts, based on up-to-date research, have now developed a much more detailed and comprehensive list of symptoms of BPD than used to be the case.

The list is published in a book by Patrick Kelly and Francis Mondimore -called Borderline Personality DisorderNew Reasons For Hope – who are experts in the field of BPD. I reproduce the list of symptoms in full below:

 

FULL OF PAINFUL AND UNCOMFORTABLE EMOTIONS : unhappiness, depression, despondency, anxiety, anger, hostility.

INABILITY TO REGULATE EMOTIONS : emotions change rapidly and unpredictably; emotions tend to spiral out of control leading to extremes in feelings of anxiety, sadness, rage, excitement; inability to self-soothe when distressed so requires involvement of others ; tends to catastrophize and see problems as unsolvable disasters ; tends to become irrational when emotions stirred up which can lead to a drop in the normal level of functioning ; tends to act impulsively without regard for the consequences

BECOMES EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO OTHERS QUICKLY AND INTENSELY : develops feelings and expectations of others not warranted by history or context of the relationship ; expects to be abandoned by those s/he is emotionally close to ; feels misunderstood, mistreated and victimized ; simultaneously needy and rejecting of others (craves intimacy and caring but tends to reject it when it is offered) ; interpersonal relationships unstable, chaotic and rapidly changing.

DAMAGED SENSE OF SELF : lacks stable self-image ; attitudes, values, goals and feelings about self may be unstable and changing ; feels inadequate, inferior and like a failure ; feels empty ; feels helpless, powerless and at mercy of outside forces ; feels like an outsider who does not belong ; overly needy and dependent ; needs excessive reassurance and approval.

 

eBook :

borderline personality disorder

 

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

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

Childhood Trauma Leading to Excessive Need for Approval.

 

excessive need for approval

What Causes An Excessive Need For Approval?

If we did not receive approval from those close to us in childhood we may grow up to have an excessive need for it from others later in life as a kind of compensation and in order to raise our shattered self-esteem. This can make us vulnerable and excessively anxious to make everybody like us and admire us. Of course, this is impossible to achieve.

It is just not possible to interact fully in society without sometimes experiencing disapproval and rejection. Very often, such rejection and disapproval does not mean that there is anything particularly wrong with us.

Indeed, it could be much more to do with failings in the other person, obvious examples are prejudice, discrimination, biased and irrational thinking or misdirection of emotions which were not originally generated by us (eg ‘displacenment’ – the psychological term for when somebody takes something out on us which was not our fault; or ‘projection’ -the psychological term for constantly ‘seeing’ in other people the things we don’t like about ourselves and may have repressed).

excessive need for approval

Frequently, too, a person’s behaviour towards us might be due to distorted beliefs stemming from psychological wounds that have been inflicted upon them in the past (eg a woman who distrusts men because her husband used to beat her).

When we are (inevitably) sometimes rejected, a useful exercise is to calmly think about why we have been responded to in a negative manner and analyze if it really was something to do with us or to do with something else not really connected to us.

For example, perhaps the person who behaved in a negative way towards us was over-tired or under a great amount of stress. In such a case, the disapproval is likely to be ephemeral, in any event, and something we do not need to dwell upon or take personally.

Obviously, when someone rejects us it does not mean that we are of no value. Even if we have done something wrong, one action or set of actions does not define us as a person (either in the present or in the future). To become defined in such a way would be absurdly limiting and simplistic. Human beings are, after all, complex creatures (hence expressions like : ‘he’s the sum of his contradictions’).

Individuals who have an excessive need for approval often feel that it is imperative that EVERYBODY approves of them. I repeat, this is impossible, and, in my view, undesirable (often, history has shown us, the most enlightened and edifying views can meet with vicious opposition). We do not need the approval of everyone we meet in order to live a happy and meaningful life. Also, other people’s views of us should not be given equal weight (eg most of us would value the view someone we respected had of us more than the view a stranger had).

It is also important to point out that we can sometimes feel hurt and upset if someone criticizes us in a mannner which we do not feel is warranted – to avoid falling into such a trap we need to remind ourselves that we need not let our mood be affected adversely by something negative someone says about us if we know it not to be true.

Finally, it is worth saying how it might be helpful to react when someone disapproves of us when we HAVE done something we regret. A constructive response might be as follows:

a) we can learn from the criticism

b) just because we know we have done something wrong, it is illogical to overgeneralize from this and view ourselves as a wholly bad person

c) accept that we feel temporarily uncomfortable but to keep in mind, too, that this feeling will pass and that we are not necessarily being totally written off as a person by the individual we have upset, let alone by everybody else for evermore!

RESOURCES :

OVERCOME THE NEED FOR APPROVAL MP3 – CLICK HERE

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

Childhood Trauma: Food and Nutrition which may Help with Resultant Depression.

depression and nutrition

Due to the side-effects associated with anti-depressants, together with the controversy which surrounds their effectivenes, some individuals prefer to try to treat their depression in more natural ways; in relation to this, many people adjust their intake of nutrients in ways which research suggests may lift their mood. I examine the foods and nutients which may help this goal to be achieved below:

FOODS AND NUTRIENTS WHICH MAY HELP TO LIFT MOOD :

Not only does some research suggest that the foods and nutrients listed below may help lift mood when depressed, it suggests they may also make depression less likely to recur once feeling better:

1) SELENIUM : this can be found in oysters, mushrooms and Brazil nuts

2) CHROMIUM : this can be found in turkey and green vegetables

3) ZINC : this can be found in shellfish, seafood and eggs

All of the above nutients can also be bought in supplement form from chemists and health food shops. However, they should not be taken in large doses so be sure to read the relevant labels to obtain the recommended amounts to take.

4) VITAMIN B12 : this vitamin, which can also be bought as a supplement from health shops and chemists, is thought to help maintain general mental alertness and, also, help keep feelings of depression at bay. It can be found in salmon, meat, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and yeast extract.

FISH

Some scientists recommend eating fish as a way of reducing depressive symptoms. The reason for this is that some research studies have provided evidence that FISH OILS have both an ANTI-DEPRESSANT and MOOD-STABILIZING effect. However, because of the amount of fish oil which needs to be ingested, one would have to consume a vast quantity of fish. In order to rectify this problem, many companies now produce FISH OIL CAPSULES (eg OMEGA – 3) as dietry SUPPLEMENTS. These contain very concentrated fish oil. However, more research needs to be conducted in order to come to a definitive verdict on their effectiveness. One benefit of them, however, is that they have no side-effects, apart from, rarely, a mildly upset stomach.

5-HTP

Otherwise known as HYDROXTRYPTOPHAN. The body manufactures this from tryptophan (an AMINO ACID) in the diet (sources include turkey and bananas) and it is linked to the production of SEROTONIN (a neurotransmitter which I discuss in other posts – please enter ‘SEROTONIN’ into this site’s search facility if you wish to access those posts) in the brain. Depleted serotonin levels in the brain are thought to be connected with depression and insomnia. Indeed, taking supplements of 5-HTP has been linked to not only helping to treat depression and insomnia, but, also, obesity.

The Cochrane Review (2001) found two studies suggesting that 5-HTP was more effective at treating depression than placebos, but, also, concluded that more research needed to be conducted in order to reach a proper conclusion in relation to how beneficial it is.

CONCLUSION:

A lot more research needs to be conducted in order to come to any definitive solutions about just how helpful diet, nutrients and supplements are at treating mental health conditions. However, there is a vast number of people who take them and are convinced of their effectiveness.

Finally, I wish to stress that it is extremely important to speak to a doctor if you are considering coming off any prescribed medication.

 

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

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) : Further Treatment Options.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Individuals suffering from psychiatric conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) find there are a vast array of therapies on offer purporting to be able to effectively treat them. The choice can seem overwhelming and confusing.

In the case of BPD, however, although many different therapists may claim that the particular therapy that they offer is beneficial, research shows that there are only a few which result in significant improvement.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one example of an effective treatment, but, as I have dealt with that in several of my other posts (just enter ‘CBT’ into this site’s search facility if you are interested in reading any of them) so will not discuss it further here. Instead, in this post I will look at the following 4 evidence-based therapies for individuals suffering from the condition of BPD. These are:

1) DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (DBT)

2) MENTALIZATION BASED THERAPY (MBT)

3) TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY (TFP)

4) SCHEMA THERAPY

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOUR THERAPY –

this was the first therapy specifically designed to treat BPD. Research into its effectiveness have yielded encouraging result : it reduces the risk of the individual who undergoes it from attempting or commiting suicide, and, further, after a year of being treated with DBT many show a significant improvement in their condition (although, despite this improvement, they may still feel substantial emotional distress; due to this fact, it is clear treatment programs lasting significantly longer than a year need to be implemented and assessed).

What does DBT involve? The therapy uses a combination of psychotherapy and group therapy. The group therapy helps the individual recognise that his/her intense emotions often get out of control, in a destructive way, and teaches techniques related to how these emotions may be regulated (controlled) by the individual who suffers them.

DBT is strongly influenced by Buddhist philosophy, and, drawing from it, encourages the individual to accept his/her distress (see my post entitled ‘Why Fighting Anxiety can Make It Worse’ for more on why such an approach is effective); it also encourages the individual being treated to meditate to calm down the inner emotional storms that may often rage within them.

In conclusion, it is worth saying that although much research suggests that DBT is very effective for treating BPD, because it is complex, and uses techniques from several other therapies, it is difficult for researchers to know exactly which elements of the therapy are the effective ones. More research is necessary to answer that question.

MENTALIZATION BASED THERAPY –

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

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

– reduce hospitalizations

– reduce suicidal behaviours

– improve day-to-day functioning

TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY (TFP) –

this type of therapy is based upon the theory that individuals who suffer from BPD often have severe difficulties with their perception of interactions with others. Following on from this observation, the theory also assumes that the BPD sufferer will tend, too, to misinterpret his/her relationship with the therapist. In order to try to correct these chronic misperceptions and misinterpretations relating to the individual’s personal interactions, the therapist helps the individual gain awareness of what is going wrong with his/her interpersonal interactions and teach him/her strategies and techniques which help to correct the problem. Research into the effectiveness of TFP continues.

SCHEMA THERAPY –

SCHEMAS are deeply embedded CORE BELIEFS ABOUT ONESELF, OTHERS and THE WORLD IN GENERAL; these deeply held beliefs are LAID DOWN IN CHILDHOOD. The therapy aims to change the BPD sufferer’s NEGATIVE, MALADAPTIVE and UNHELPFUL SCHEMAS into more POSITIVE, ADAPTIVE and HELPFUL ONES.

Early research into the effectiveness of this type of therapy suggests that it can significantly improve quality of life and reduce BPD symptoms. Whilst these findings are encouraging, it is necessary to carry out further research into the therapy’s effectiveness.

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

Childhood Trauma: Does ‘Multiple-Personality Disorder’ Exist?

multiple personality disorder

does multiple personality disorder exist?

I have written other posts on DISSOCIATIVE DISORDERS of which one is DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER, commonly referred to as ‘MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER’. I will not repeat what I’ve already said in other posts, but, essentially, DISSOCIATIVE DISORDERS refer to the idea that, under enormous stress, some people will ‘cut off’ (dissociate) from unbearably painful reality (as they perceive it) as a psychological defense mechanism.

In the interests of fairness, I have decided, in this particular post, to look at arguments AGAINST one specific dissociative disorder, namely DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER (D.I.D), or, MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. My own position, for what it’s worth, is one of neutrality.

Although there is a sound and quite compelling theory behind why D.I.D should occur, together with research evidence which purports to support its existence and the idea it is often caused by severe childhood trauma, critics point out weaknesses in this ‘supportive’ research evidence. For example, whilst a correlation has been shown to exist between its reported existence and experiences of childhood trauma also reported by the sufferer, it has been pointed out that a correlation does not necessarily imply causality (as all beginner statisticians know). In other words, just because a person who has reported suffering from D.I.D and also reports having suffered severe childhood trauma, this does not prove that the latter has CAUSED the former.

Some critics go a step furter in their skepticism, and challenge the idea that D.I.D. exists at all. They draw our attention to the fact that much of the ‘evidence’ (I use inverted commas in representation of the critics’ stance) for its existence derives from patient self-reports, as does the ‘evidence’ that they’ve suffered severe childhood trauma. Often, such ‘evidence’ goes entirely uncorroborated.

multiple personality disorder

It has been suggested, even, that in order to support their own theoretical frame-works (which they may have a vested interest in preserving) some psychotherapists may put the idea of the condition into the patient’s head, especially if they use hypnosis as one of their therapeutic tools (the suspicion being the idea of the condition’s existence is given to the patient through suggestion – individuals tend to be, after all, particularly suggestible whilst under hypnosis.

Furthermore, it has been stated that the media must bear some responsibility; many novels and films, after all, have plot lines revolving around a character with ‘multiple personality disorder’. It is said that this does not only fuel the idea of its existence in the public’s imagination, but it may even give certain disturbed individuals ‘the idea’ and they may, in some sense at least, mimic the symptoms they have learned about from such media. Such critics have even suggested the individual purporting to have the condition is doing so in a desperate bid for attention.

I must stress again that my own position is neutral, and, in the interests of such neutrality, I shall conclude by pointing out that very recent research has supported the genuineness of the condition. These researchers have also clearly stated that D.I.D. is likely to serve an adaptive and protective function as a defense-mechanism against intolerable mental anguish, as suggested in my opening paragraph.

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

Why We Worry.

 

why we worry

Other posts in this category have already dealt with how early life experience of trauma can contribute to us becoming anxious adults, and, also, that the type of negative thinking (cognitive) style we may have developed as a result of the early trauma can perpetuate symptoms of depression and anxiety. But what are the other causes of excessive worrying and what are the other ways of dealing with the problem? It is to this question I now turn:

CAUSES OF ANXIETY/EXCESSIVE WORRY:

1) OUR GENETIC INHERITANCE: It seems we can inherit a predisposition towards anxiety genetically. This means, for example, if we have a parent who is very anxious, all else being equal, we are more likely to become anxious ourselves due to our genetic inheritance. (Also, of course, if we have a very anxious parent, we are more likely to develop anxious responses due to ‘learned behaviour’ – ie modelling our behavioural reponses on those of the anxious parent). However, the key word here is ‘predisposition’; in other words, having an anxious parent will not guarantee that we, ourselves, will become anxious adults, but, rather, we will be more vulnerable to this happening if other factors also affect us in life (such as those detailed below):

2) LATER LIFE EXPERIENCES: If we have suffered the experience of early life trauma, the damage done by this can be compounded (made worse) by going on to experience yet further trauma in later life. It is particularly unfortunate, then, that early life trauma can in itself create problems for us in later life, thus increasing the probability that further trauma will strike (which is one reason, amongst many others, why early therapeutic intervention is crucial for those affected by childhood trauma).

3) DRUGS: It is not just a side-effect of many illicit drugs which can create anxiety conditions; some prescribed drugs, too, can cause anxiety as a side effect. It is, of course, always important to ask doctors about possible unwanted effects of the medications they may prescribe.

4) INTERNAL CONFLICTS: Sometimes we behave in ways which CONFLICT with our own ideals and values, or the ideals and values we have INTERNALISED from our upbringing and culture (even if we have only internalized them on an unconscious level). Freud believed we all have such internal conflicts, a price he thought was paid for living in a ‘civilized’ society, in which we are compelled to repress many natural human instincts (for those who are interested, you may wish to investigate further Freud’s view of how the ‘Id’ (the name he gave to our instinctual self/basic impulses) and the ‘Superego’ (the name he gave to our conscience/moral selves, which develops due to learning from parents, teachers, society, culture etc) may be constantly ‘at war’ with each other.

Therapists who place emphasis on the link between INTERNAL CONFLICTS and ANXIETY tend to recommend what is known as PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.

5) NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS: This refers to how the brain we possess is physically set up or ‘wired’ Some of us are, it seems, ‘wired’ in such a way that our ‘internal alarm systems’ are highly sensitive. I have discussed in other posts how the brain’s physical ‘wiring’ can be affected by the experience of early trauma.

 

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

Childhood Trauma: Treating the Root Cause of Related Symptoms.

overcoming shame

childhood trauma and root cause of symptoms

I had been perplexed for a very long time, given the emotional symptoms I was experiencing, which, it had always been obvious to me, were in large part related to my childhood experiences, why I had never been offered therapy, by the NHS, which could specifically address this issue. In fact, the professionals I had seen, incuding GPs and psychiatrists, rarely, if ever, asked me about my childhood, nor did they seek, in any way that I could ascertain, to link my symptoms to it. I can only assume that therapy addressing emotional problems which are linked to childhood experiences are deemed to be too expensive; perhaps it relates to where you happen to live, as different regions have different budgeting priorities. I know, though, that such therapies are available.

MEDICAL MODEL :

It is a common problem. In the UK, mental illness is almost invariably addressed using the MEDICAL MODEL (ie drugs are used to alter brain biochemistry). Some studies have shown, however, that anti-depressants work no better than PLACEBOS. We must ask, then, if, in many cases, treating mental illness with drugs is simply inappropriate? Would it not be better, in a lot of cases, to address the root cause of the symptoms -childhood trauma and/or other relevant life experiences?

PSYCHODYNAMIC AND PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY:

These tharapies both seek to address root causes of adult psychological difficulties. Many of my posts have already discussed the fact that childhood trauma, very often, lessens (often, through physiological effects on the brain) the individual’s ablility to cope with stress in adult life. Here is a recap of symptoms childhood trauma can lead to:

– alcohol/drug misuse
– dissociative disorders (see my post on this in the ‘EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA’ category).
– self-harm (eg cutting self with sharp instrument, burning self with cigarette ends – see my post on this in above category)
– suicide attempts, suicide
– eating disorders
– acute depression
– extreme anxiety
– post-traumatic stress disorder (see my post on this in above category)
– obsessive-compulsive disorder

childhood trauma and treating the root cause of symptoms

Clearly, such difficulties can cause the individual severe distress, so it is important to investigate ALL the possible treatment options.

Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy aims, as I have already said,to address the root cause of distressing psychological symptoms: they are based upon the idea that we all SUPPRESS (ie bury deep down in the mind) feelings that, if they were allowed full access to consciousness, would OVERWHELM us with ANXIETY and EMOTIONAL PAIN. However, this requires psychological effort, and, in order to keep them suppressed, we must employ DEFENSE MECHANISMS (these may be employed both on conscious and unconscious levels). Examples of such defense mechanisms are PROJECTION and REACTION FORMATION:

– PROJECTION: this refers to how we EXTERNALIZE things we dislike about OURSELVES. For example, someone who is (needlessly) ashamed of being homosexual may go around calling everybody else ‘gay’ (using the word in a perjorative sense, of course)

– REACTION FORMATION: here, the individual feels the need to constantly proclaim s/he is not what, deep down, perhaps unconsciously, s/he feels s/he actually is. For example, someone who suppresses their aggressive instincts may feel the need to constantly proclaim how peace loving they are and how incapable of inflicting physical harm on others. In Shakespeare’s play, HAMLET, Iago seems to be aware of this psychological concept of reaction formation when he states, heavy with insinuation: ‘Methinks she protests too much’. Indeed, many of Freud’s ideas were anticipated in Shakespeare’s works.

There are other defense mechanisms which would take up too much space to go into here, but they all involve CUTTING OURSELVES OFF FROM OUR TRUE FEELINGS or trying to banish them in other ways, due to real, or perceived, societal and cultural demands.

It is thought that the MORE PAINFUL AND DIFFICULT KEEPING THE FEELINGS SUPPRESSED IS, THE MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFORT THE MECHANISM OF SUPRESSION TAKES UP, and, therefore, THE MORE INTENSE THE REPERCUSSIONS, OR COSTS, IN TERMS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS, ARE (see list above for examples of these symptoms).

Psychotherapy aims to get us in touch with the feelings we are suppressing and work through them; some types of psychotherapy aim to bring what is buried in the unconscious into conscious awareness to enable such a process.

TYPES OF THERAPIES AVAILABLE:

1) SHORT-TERM PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this usually consists of about 20 sessions spread over 20 weeks.

2) PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOTHERAPY: this can consist of 2 or 3 sessions per week. There is no time limit – as many sessions are provided as required.

3) PSYCHOANALYSIS: this can comprise up to 5 sessions per week. Again, there is no time limit and as many sessions are provided as required.

By working through suppressed feelings (such as anger or fear) with the therapist, the rationale is that the past gradually loses its grip on the present, and, thus, its power to cause continued suffering.

DOES IT WORK?

Certainly, if considering such therapy, great care is needed when selecting a suitable therapist (eg checking their training, success rate, recommendations etc) as it is possible the treatment can do more harm than good if not properly implemented.

The psychologist, Hans Eysenck, argued that patients who underwent psychoanalysis recovered from their psychological difficulties no better than untreated controls. HOWEVER, there is, in fact, plenty of research which SUPPORTS its effectiveness; for example: Roth et al (1996) and, also, Holmes et al (1995).

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

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