Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma And Ptsd

Ten Childhood Experiences That May Lead To PTSD

I list below ten types of childhood experiences which, depending on their intensity and the vulnerability of the individual who experiences them, could lead to the later development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). However, it is important to stress that such experiences will NOT NECESSARILY lead to these conditions.

1) ACCIDENTS –  the more serious, the more likely it will give rise to psychological problems

2) DEATH OF A SIGNIFICANT LOVED ONE

3) ADOPTION – whilst often a very good thing, it is a massive psychological upheaval for the child and a factor which can add to the stress is if the child feels s/he has no control over the process

4) DIVORCE – the more acrimonious the divorce, all else being equal, the more likely the child is to be affected adversely by it.

5) VIOLENT ACTS – this includes both being the victim of domestic violence and/or witnessing another family member being the victim of such violence.

6) NATURAL DISASTERS – eg earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, especially if the child is completely helpless in the situation and can do nothing to make him/herself safer.

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7) NEGLECT – this can be physical, emotional or both. The earlier the neglect takes place in the child’s life, the more likely s/he is to develop psychological problems as a result.

8) ABUSE – physical, sexual or emotional. Bullying by peers and siblings can also have seriously harmful effects on the child’s mental health. All else being equal, the more the child PERCEIVES him/herself as being abused, the more serious the psychological consequences are likely to be.

9) MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS – the more serious, the more they are likely to harm the child psychologically. Being separated from parents/friends/siblings due to extended stays in hospital can also have a deleterious effect upon the child’s health.

10) MOVING – this may be difficult for the child to cope with if, for example, it involves moving away from friends, changing school or going to live in a country with a significantly different culture.

Resources :

Help for PTSD from MIND

eBook:

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Above eBook available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Effects of Anxiety on How We Think, Feel, Communicate and Behave

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

We know that, if we have experienced significant childhood trauma, we are more likely, as adults, to experience various forms of mental illness than those who were fortunate enough to have had relatively stable and secure childhoods. One such condition we may develop due to our childhood difficulties is clinical anxiety and it is this condition that I wish to examine in this article.

Specifically, I want to look at how anxiety makes us think, feel, communicate and behave. So, let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) HOW ANXIETY MAKES US THINK :

– it is difficult to think clearly; it is like being enveloped by a mental fog or trying to think through treacle

– thinking becomes circular and repetitive – the same obsessive details regarding our problem go round and round in our mind, to absolutely no avail

– our thoughts become ‘stuck’ or ‘locked into’ our problem and we cease to make mental progress; thinking becomes futile and exhausting

– concentration on anything but our problem is impaired

– our sense of perspective becomes impaired; we are prevented from seeing the ‘bigger picture’

– we become mentally dominated by our problem, making it very hard to address other important aspects of our lives effectively as with have very little ‘mental energy’ to spare

– we become negative and pessimistic

– our confidence regarding other aspects of our lives is undermined

– we cannot view the problem we are obsessing about objectively or rationally

– we become focused on our short term survival, at the expense of our long-term interests (we may, for example, resort to drink and/or drugs in an attempt to gain some respite from our anguished psychological state – this is known as ‘DISSOCIATING’: click here to read my article on this)

2) HOW ANXIETY MAKES US FEEL :

– at best, being in a state of anxiety is unpleasant and painful, at worst it can lead to a profound sense of anguish and a feeling of being mentally tortured and tormented

– even simple tasks seem impossibly overwhelming (during my own protracted experience of extreme anxiety, I stopped brushing my teeth, rarely shaved and once, when my condition was at its worst, did not change any of my clothes for three months. I did not go out, except for cigarettes and alcohol, and survived by ordering in Indian takeaways. Looking back now, I’m surprised I survived the period)

– feelings of mistrust for others frequently develop; indeed, we might start to feel threatened by others, which, at the extreme end of the scale, can develop into clinical paranoia

– our senses can become accentuated so that being in bright light, or hearing loud noises, can feel like a physical assault (to this day, I much prefer overcast days to sunny ones)

– our ‘startle response’ becomes exaggerated so that the smallest of things, like a soft knock at the door or the phone ringing, can ‘make us jump’ or even terrify us

DIAGRAM TO SHOW HOW THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS CAN INTERACT AND FEED OFF ONE ANOTHER TO DEVELOP A VICIOUS CYCLE :

3) HOW ANXIETY AFFECTS HOW WE COMMUNICATE :

– language, like thinking, becomes circular and repetitive – we go over the same ground again and again.

– if people try to reassure us, we find reasons why we cannot be reassured

4) HOW ANXIETY MANIFESTS ITSELF IN OUR BEHAVIOUR :

-we feel stuck on ‘red alert’, constantly hypervigilant and expecting imminent disaster

– we may be unable to sit still, instead fidgeting nervously or pacing around the room

– alternatively, we may feel frozen by fear and sit motionless

– we may be highly irritable and quick to anger

– we may feel paralyzed by fear, almost completely unable to function and unable to cope with the smallest of life’s demands

– we may find it extremely hard to rest and impossible to relax

– sleep may be very badly affected – shallow, fitful, full of nightmares and unrefreshing (we may feel as tired after our so-called ‘sleep’ as we were just before we went to bed)

– high levels of stress and anxiety may also adversely affect our physical health, leading to, for example, palpitations, headaches, stomach problems, aches and pains. At the worst end of the spectrum, long-term and severe anxiety is thought to be linked to some forms of cancer, stroke, heart problems and high blood pressure

– we become scared of taking even very small risks, opting instead for safety and security; this can greatly restrict how we live our life and deprive us of many opportunities

RESOURCES:

RESOURCE :

OVERCOME FEAR AND ANXIETY HYPNOSIS PACK 

EBOOK :

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Now available on Amazon for instant download.  CLICK HERE.

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

PTSD – What Happens in the Brain?

childhood_trauma_effects

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the potentially devastating effects that may follow on from childhood trauma, and, in this context, the condition is frequently referred to as ‘complex PTSD.’ But what is actually happening inside of the brain in individuals who are suffering from this most serious condition?

To answer this question, it is necessary to look at two particular brain structures; these are :

1) THE AMYGDALA -this structure can be viewed as the brain’s ‘FEAR CENTRE’

2) THE HIPPOCAMPUS – this structure is able to activate/deactivate the amygdala

ptsd_biology_brain

Next, it is necessary to understand that :

under stress, the body produces two hormones called ADRENALINE and CORTISOL :

The functions of these two hormones are as follows:

– ADRENALINE – this produces physical responses to stress such as increased heart rate and sweating

– CORTISOL – this flows to the hippocampus and at first helps to lay down the memory of the trauma, but, in excessive quantities over sustained periods of time, it can damage the hippocampus, causing its cells to degenerate and, eventually, die. This process is called APOPTOSIS.

Indeed, if the traumatic experience is severe enough these biological changes in the brain (ie the excessive production of neurotoxins such as cortisol) can cause the hippocampus, in effect, to shut down.

This means it can no longer regulate or switch off the FEAR PRODUCING AMYGDALA,  causing the latter brain structure  to go into overdrive.

Thus, a situation arises in which the AMYGDALA BECOMES OVERACTIVE DUE TO THE UNDERACTIVITY OF THE HIPPOCAMPUS. Without proper intervention, this state of affairs may persist for many years.

The processes described above can lead to what has been called a TRAUMATIC CASCADE, causing the individual to feel a constant state of hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance, anxiety and fear, perceiving danger, or the threat of danger, everywhere.

IMPLICATIONS FOR TREATMENT :

In such a poor and intensely painful emotional state, it is not possible for the individual to start properly processing, in a therapeutic manner, his/her experiences of trauma. This prevents the recovery process from getting underway.

In order to rectify this, a vital step, before therapeutic processing of traumatic experiences can begin, is to bring these constant feelings of fear and anxiety down to a level at which they are at least manageable. This may involve the prescribing of appropriate medication, behavioural techniques, or a combination of the two.

Indeed, studies involving both humans and animals have shown that such interventions can lead to the recovery of the hippocampus so that, once again, it may begin to regulate the amygdala as intended and alleviate excessive and superfluous feelings of fear and anxiety.

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Above eBooks available for instant download at Amazon. $4.99. CLICK HERE

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

Top 10 Most Common Thoughts of Those with PTSD.

 

One of the worst things about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be that we feel completely alone and cut off from the rest of society. We can feel that nobody else could possibly comprehend the intensity of our suffering. This is certainly what I felt when my depression and anxiety were at their worst – indeed, I felt like this for several years as all therapeutic interventions in the first few years of my condition failed.

When we are at our lowest, it can be helpful to remember that others are suffering as much as we are. In the case of PTSD, research has shown that sufferers tend to have the same kind of thoughts – I list the top ten below:

– I can’t trust people anymore

– Other people want to harm me and the world is a dangerous and  threatening place

– I am utterly helpless

– The reason I can’t cope is that I’m weak

– Something terrible is just about to happen

– I am completely unable to cope and this will never change

– It’s my fault that the trauma happened, I should have done something which would have prevented it

– From now on I can’t make a single mistake, if I do, it will be extremely dangerous to me

– I can never rely on anyone to protect me

– I will never recover from feeling this way

It should be noted that these thoughts could be operating beneath the level of conscious awareness – therapy can help expose these underlying core beliefs and help the individual to replace them with more positive ones; cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is often very effective in this regard. However, some people are uncertain whether or not to seek such therapy (many are available in addition to CBT). As a general guide, it is probably best to seek professional help if you are suffering from symptoms such as those described below:

One of the main questions to ask is:

– Are my symptoms interfering with my social, occupational or academic functioning?

If this is the case, it is definitely advisable to seek expert advice on what kind of therapy may ameliorate your symptoms. Even just talking to someone about the traumatic experience/s can be of value. Specific symptoms that can be addressed through various types of therapy include :

– poor sleep/insomnia

– the development of a harmful dependence on alcohol and/or drugs

– intrusive and distressing nightmares, memories or flashbacks

– constantly feeling agitated and irritable

– difficulty responding on an emotional level  to family/partner

Professional support is particularly advisable for those who are socially isolated and/or have nobody else to talk to about their traumatic experiences.

I hope you have found this post helpful.

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

How Does PTSD Develop?

WHAT IS THE DEVELOPMENTAL PROCESS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)?

The psychologists Foa et al. developed the following model to illustrate the psychological process through which PTSD develops.

When a person experiences something which is very traumatic the memory becomes enmeshed into the brain’s circuitry – in essence, a FEAR STRUCTURE becomes incorporated into the brain.

THE FEAR STRUCTURE can be divided into 3 individual units. These are as follows :

a) STIMULI of the trauma. This refers to things which my trigger memories of the trauma. Stimuli my gain access to the brain via any of the 5 senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch). To use a simple example, someone traumatized by being injured in an explosion in a war may have the trauma response triggered by loud bangs such as fireworks going off (the loud bang being the stimuli).

b) RESPONSES to the traumatic event. This includes both physiological responses (e.g. racing pulse, hyperventilation) and psychological responses (such as a feeling of terror).

c) MEANINGS ATTRIBUTED TO THE STIMULI AND RESPONSES (e.g. this means I must be in great danger).

When somebody suffering from PTSD experiences an event which triggers the original memory of trauma, laid down in the brains circuitry, they feel intense distress. Typically, in response to this distress, they will take evasive action (i.e. try to evade, or get away from, the event which is triggering the traumatic response). It is the meaning aspect of the fear structure ( c, above) which creates the most anguish. The problem lies in the fact that they find it exceptionally difficult to reconcile their old (pre-trauma) beliefs about events and their new (post trauma) beliefs about events (doing this successfully, which therapy can help them, eventually, to do, is known as the PROCESS OF ACCOMMODATION).

An example of pre- and post- traumatic beliefs, which, if the process of accommodation has not taken place, would be in opposition with one another are :

PRE-TRAUMA – the world is a pretty safe place in which I can generally feel relaxed in

POST -TRAUMA – the world is very dangerous and unpredictable and I must always be on my guard against threats which seem to be coming at me from every direction (at worst, leading to clinical paranoia)

COMPULSION TO MAKE SENSE OF THE TRAUMATIC BELIEF

The individual who suffers from PTSD will often try , obsessively, to make sense of the traumatic event which occurred to him/her. This arises because s/he finds it impossible to square what has occurred with pre-trauma beliefs.

THE DEEP PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN OF TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF THE TRAUMATIC EVENT

Whilst the individual suffering from PTSD feels driven to make sense of the trauma, constantly thinking about it creates feelings which are both terrifying and overwhelming. THIS CREATES A TERRIBLE PSYCHOLOGICAL TENSION IN THE MIND – there is the PULL TOWARDS ATTEMPTING TO MAKE SENSE OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE ONE HAND, BUT ALSO THE PULL OF TRYING TO STOP THINKING ABOUT IT ON THE OTHER.

Foa and her colleagues have put forward the theory that it is the tension, created by having one’s thoughts pulled powerfully in two directly opposing directions, which leads to the extreme HYPERAROUSAL (intense anxiety).

The two opposing views of the world the individual tries desperately to fit together (‘safe world’ versus’ unsafe world’) is rather like trying to FIT TWO PIECES OF JIGSAW TOGETHER, ONE OF WHICH HAS BEEN DAMAGED, SO IT NO LONGER FITS.

Therapy can lead to a resolution of this dilemma, leading to a compromise belief, linked to the two opposing beliefs, such as :

THE WORLD IS GENERALLY SAFE FOR ME BUT NOBODY HAS A COMPLETE GUARANTEE, OCCASIONALLY BAD THINGS HAPPEN.

TREATMENTS :

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY IS AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR THE EFFECTS OF TRAUMA – there is a lot of research evidence to support this.

Also, hypnotherapy can provide relief from many of the symptoms of trauma (eg anxiety, fear etc).

 

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