Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Effects

Why Complex PTSD Sufferers May Avoid Eye Contact

A study by Lanius  et al. was conducted to cast light upon why many with individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including those suffering from complex-PTSD, often find it excruciatingly uncomfortable every time the rules of social etiquette compel them to make eye to eye contact with another human being (I, myself once attempted to circumvent this problem by deliberately buying a pair of glasses with lenses that were by far the wrong strength for me so that, whilst, to whomever it was I was required, as the law of social norms decrees, to make eye contact, I appeared to be doing so in the conventionally stipulated manner,  in fact, all that my eyes were actually meeting with was a comfortingly, non-threatening blur).

Returning to Lanius’ et al.’s experiment :

The experiment consisted of two groups :

1) Survivors of chronic trauma

2) ‘Normal’ controls

What Did The Experiment Involve?

Participants from both of the above groups were subjected to brain scans whilst a making eye to eye contact with a video character in such a way as to mimic real life face to face  contact.

What Were The Results Of The Experiment?

In the case of the ‘normal’ controls (i.e. those who had NOT suffered significant trauma), the simulated eye to eye contact with the video character caused the are of the brain known as the PREFRONTAL CORTEX to become ACTIVATED.

HOWEVER:

In the case of the chronic trauma survivors, the same simulated eye contact with the video character did NOT cause activation of the PREFRONTAL CORTEX. Instead, the scans revealed that, in response to the simulated eye contact, the part of the chronic trauma survivors’ brains that WAS ACTIVATED was a very primitive part (located deep inside the emotional brain) known as the PERIAQUEDUCTAL GRAY.

INTERPRETATION OF THESE RESULTS :

The prefrontal cortex helps us judge and assess a person when we make eye contact, so we can determine whether their intentions seem good or ill.

However, the periaqueductal gray  region is associated with SELF-PROTECTIVE RESPONSES such as hypervigilance, submission and cowering.

Therefore, we can infer that those with PTSD / complex PTSD may find it hard to make eye contact because their brains have been adversely affected, as a result of their traumatic experiences, in such a way that, when they make eye contact with another person, the ‘appraisal’ stage of the interaction (normally carried out by the prefrontal cortex) is missed out and, instead, their brains, due to activation of the periqueductal region, cause an intensely fearful response.

This constitutes yet another example of how severe and protracted childhood trauma can damage the physical development of the brain.

Link : Lanius et al’s study.

eBook :

childhood-trauma-brain

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

RESOURCE :

Overcome Fear of Eye Contact | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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

Effects Of Childhood Trauma

effects of childhood trauma

The effects of childhood trauma can be devastating and, in the absence of effective therapy, can last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.

This website contains over 850  articles, all written by psychologist, writer and educator, David Hosier, BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE), himself a survivor of childhood trauma, on the effects of childhood trauma and closely related topics.

The most well known study on the effects of childhood trauma is called The ACE Study /Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

The main findings of this extremely important study were as follows :

Those who experience significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of:

  • And, if you explore this website, you will discover that the above list is far from exhaustive when enumerating the myriad effects of childhood trauma.

What Types Of Childhood Trauma Did The Study Focus Upon?

The study focused upon the following types of childhood trauma :

  • Abuse (emotional, sexual or physical)
  • Living in a household within which a family member who was an alcoholic or drug addict
  • Living in a household within which the mother was physically abused
  • Parental divorce/separation
  • Neglect (emotional or physical)
  • Living in a household in which a family member went to prison
  • Living in a household within which a family member suffered from mental illness

NB The study found that the more of these adverse childhood experiences the child suffered, and the more intense and long lasting they were, the greater the child’s risk of developing the problems listed above.

This website takes the ACE study as its starting point and, if you choose to explore it, you can find a wealth of information about :


RESOURCES :

UNLOVED AS A CHILD? | HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS  : CLICK HERE

LET GO OF THE PAST | HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS : CLICK HERE


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

Hartman’s 12 Stages Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

12-steps_ptsd_diagram
Hartmans twelve stages

I have written extensively on this site about how severe and chronic childhood trauma can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood (see the PTSD section on the main menu). This is also sometimes referred to as complex post-traumatic stress syndrome (CPTSD). In order to understand the theoretical difference between PTSD and CPTSD, click here.

In connection with PTSD, the writer and researcher, Hartman, has proposed a model of how the very serious psychiatric condition can progress over time, involving the afflicted individual going through 12 painful steps.

The 12 Steps Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

  1. Acute anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Resentment
  4. Anger
  5. Fear
  6. Anxiety
  7. Feelings of worthlessness
  8. Shame
  9. Guilt
  10. Confusion
  11. Pain
  12. Activating events / Triggers

Now let’s look at PTSD in relation to childhood trauma (often referred to as complex PTSD) and dispel some of the myths and confusion that surround the topic

COMPLEX PTSD / PTSD – FACTS AND FICTION :

MYTH 1 – PTSD can only be caused by traumatic war experiences.

In fact, nearly three quarters of people in USA will experience a severe trauma at some point in their lives. Of these, about one fifth will go on to develop symptoms which are severe enough and long-lasting enough to be clinically classified as PTSD.

Taking the two above statistics above, it clearly follows that about 15% of people in the USA will suffer from PTSD at some point during their lives.

Whilst traumatic war experiences are indeed one cause of PTSD (what used to be called ‘shell shock’) many other life experiences also lead to the condition; these include natural disasters, being the victim of a serious physical attack and SEVERE CHILDHOOD TRAUMA (PTSD that derives from childhood experiences is also referred to as complex PTSD).

Statistics also show that women are about twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as men are at any given time (this is thought to be connected to the fact that women are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse).

A further breakdown of statistics is shown on the table below:

images

MYTH 2 – Those who develop a psychological condition after a trauma are weak – they should be able to move on with their lives and put it behind them.

Developing PTSD has nothing to do with weakness. Everybody is potentially at risk of developing PTSD given particular experiences, it is just that different experiences affect people in different ways.

Indeed, research now shows that severe and prolonged trauma, particularly in CHILDHOOD, can adversely affect the physical development of the brain (click here to read my article on this) which can in turn make the individual vulnerable to developing not only PTSD but, also BPD (borderline personality disorder), severe anxiety and depression. THIS CAN IN NO WAY BE CONSTRUED AS THE INDIVIDUAL’S FAULT.

In such a situation, however, intensive therapy can help to reverse any harm that was done to the developing brain due to a brain quality known as neuroplasticity.

MYTH 3 – People develop PTSD immediately after the traumatic event that triggered it.

This is not always the case. It is true that if the severely traumatic experience is a one-off event, such as being violently mugged, symptoms of PTSD do tend to occur soon afterwards.

However, in the case of childhood abuse, which may have extended over a period of years, full blown PTSD may not develop for many years after the abuse has ended (click here to read my article explaining why this is).

It is for this reason that, in many cases, people do not realize that they have PTSD and therefore erroneously blame themselves for how they feel and behave (e.g. they may be prone to outbursts of extreme anger and rage).

And even if they realize they seem to have a condition similar to PTSD, they do not link it to their traumatic childhood experiences.

Unfortunately, this means many PTSD sufferers who could benefit from therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) are not getting the help which could, potentially, dramatically improve their lives.

eBook :

         PTSD

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

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 the his/her accumulated risk of developing PTSD. Indeed, this is borne out by the research.

 

ORIGINAL TRAUMA LEADS TO GREATER VULNERABILITY TO EFFECTS OF FURTHER STRESS :

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 amydala (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).

VICIOUS CYCLE:

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.

CRITICAL PERIOD OF BRAIN VULNERABILITY :

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).

 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

This article examines the link between narcissistic disorder and childhood trauma. Several of my articles have already looked in some detail at the link between childhood trauma and the subsequent risk of developing a personality disorder (or disorders) if appropriate psychotherapeutic intervention is not sought.

Whilst precise mechanisms underlying the link between childhood trauma and subsequent development of a personality disorder are still being researched, it is a statistical fact that the experience of childhood trauma and personality disorder are very frequently indeed seen to be ‘co-morbid’ (this is a psychological term used to mean existing in the same patient – i.e. if the patient has a personality disorder, he/she very probably also experienced severe childhood trauma).

Suffering from a personality disorder has a profoundly damaging impact on a person’s life if it is left untreated. People who suffer from personality disorders tend to have very rigid, inflexible and damaging (both to themselves and others) ways of managing vital areas of their lives such as work, relationships and even leisure time which, naturally, causes whole host problems.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER :

 

A good place to start is to look at how the DSM-IV (a diagnostic manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists) defines narcissistic personality disorder. Here’s the definition :

‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy’

Other features of narcissistic personality disorder are :

– a grandiose sense of self-importance
– expectations of being treated as special
– an extremely fragile sense of underlying self-esteem

The psychologist Masterson (1981) expanded upon the definition to include two particular types of a narcissist:

1) the manifest narcissist
2) the ‘closet’ narcissist

Let’s look at both of these :

1) the manifest narcissist: similar to the description provided in DSM-IV (above)

2) the ‘closet’ narcissist: the person suffering from this disorder tends to present him/herself as timid, shy, inhibited and ineffective but reveals in therapy elaborate fantasies of a grandiose self

A narcissistic personality disorder is thought to be due to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. In therapy s/he will tend to seek the admiration s/he craves from the therapist, and, if the therapist is skilled and experienced, s/he will often uncover an array of psychological defence mechanisms which the patient uses to protect him/herself from unbearable emotional pain. These can include :

1) IDEALIZATION: this is often the primary defence whereby the individual IDEALIZES HIS/HER RELATIONSHIPS at first, elevating both self and other, in terms of status and specialness, to (illusionary) high levels

2) DEVALUATION: this refers to the individual discounting and regarding as worthless anyone who undermines his/her grandiose vision of him/herself

3) DETACHMENT: this is linked to DEVALUATION (above) and refers to the individual’s propensity to sever links with anyone who threatens to undermine his/her exalted view of him/herself

4) ACTING OUT: this refers to performing extreme behaviours to express thoughts, feelings and emotions the person feels incapable of otherwise expressing

5) SPLITTING: this refers to the cutting off from consciousness the part of themselves that holds the emotional pain to prevent it from becoming integrated into consciousness, as, for this to occur, would be psychologically overwhelming

6) PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION: this is when the person (unconsciously) projects onto another (imagines the other to possess) parts of their own ego and then expects the other to become identified with whatever has been projected

7) DENIAL: in its simple form this just means not accepting certain unpleasant parts of reality to protect the ego

8) AVOIDANCE: also sometimes referred to as ‘escape coping’ – making efforts to evade dealing with particular stressors

9) PROJECTION: this defence mechanism involves attributing to others one’s own unwanted or socially/culturally unacceptable emotions, attributes or thoughts

In essence, the individual with narcissistic personality disorder lives in a world where everything is viewed in extremes of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Underneath the defence mechanisms, there invariably lies an extremely FRAGILE SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM. Therefore, the individual really feels EXTREMELY VULNERABLE and tends to have an overwhelming need to PROTECT HIM/HERSELF FROM ANY THREAT TO HIS/HER EXTREMELY PRECARIOUS SELF-IMAGE. The person with the disorder has a disturbance of the basic structure of the self.

 

NARCISSISTIC SUBTYPES :

 

1) ACQUIRED SITUATIONAL NARCISSISM – this type of narcissism can develop as a result of an individual acquiring great wealth, celebrity and/or status.

In the case of celebrities, for example, their narcissistic tendencies may be encouraged due to the adoring, sometimes worshipful, behaviour of fans, attention from the media, the sycophantic manner in which they are treated by deferential and submissive assistants, and the obsequiousness of general hangers-on and ‘Yes-men.’

If the person had incipient narcissistic traits prior to achieving celebrity status, these may become exacerbated by his/her new station in life leading to the development of full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

2) AGGRESSIVE NARCISSISM – a person with this type of narcissism has a grandiose view of him/herself, is prone to pathological lying, lacks empathy, lacks the ability to feel remorse, is cunning and manipulative and, not uncommonly, will display a superficial charm (it overlaps – i.e. has features in common with – antisocial personality disorder.

3) CODEPENDENT/INVERTED NARCISSISM – the individual who suffers from this psychological condition is drawn towards/attracted to classical narcissists, feeding their emotional needs and becoming codependent upon them

4) COLLECTIVE/GROUP NARCISSISM – this syndrome entails an individual developing a grandiose, highly superior and elevated view of both him/herself and the group to which s/he belongs.

When all group members view themselves and their group in this elitist manner the group itself may morph into a narcissistic entity.

Ethnocentrism is an example of this; it involves a whole culture or ethnic group regarding itself as far superior to others, rather like many of those who oversaw the building of the British Empire.

5) CONVERSATIONAL NARCISSISM – in the case of this form of narcissism the individual has a great need to talk about him/herself and, if the conversation diverts from this topic, s/he is likely to make efforts to revert it back to being about him/herself.

6) CORPORATE NARCISSISM – this refers to an individual who runs a corporation and is obsessed with profits to the extent of being prepared to act morally unscrupulously and even criminally.  S/he is not averse to exploiting those who can help him/her achieve this goal (e.g. employees).

Whilst such a strategy can be effective in the short-term, in the long term it tends to alienate employees and the general public.

 

7) CROSS-CULTURAL NARCISSISM – this refers to individuals who are immigrants but are also fiercely and aggressively of the view that the original culture from which they came is vastly superior to the new culture which imbues his/her new geographically location.

8) MALIGNANT NARCISSISM – the malignant narcissist can be regarded as a hybrid of a classical narcissist and someone suffering from antisocial personality disorder. Additionally, s/he frequently displays paranoid traits.

Such individuals often go to extreme lengths to gain and hold onto, power over, and control of, others.

They are likely, too, to despise, ridicule and display general contempt and disdain for anyone who has authority over them.

If it comes to the choice between another person liking them or being afraid of them, they will tend to prefer the latter scenario.

Their lust for power and success leads them to become trapped on a treadmill, forever chasing more of these things and never being satisfied with the extent to which they already have them.

Because of the obsessive nature of the condition, and the individual’s inability to ever feel satisfied, it often leads to psychological breakdown and illness, hence its name: malignant narcissism.

9) MEDICAL NARCISSISM – this refers to people in the medical profession, such as surgeons, who have an unhealthy, powerful drive to appear utterly competent and infallible at all times; it is unhealthy as it can lead such individuals to hide and cover up their errors so that their patients and colleagues are not made aware of them. This is a form of negligence which may, of course, lead to the suboptimal treatment of patients, or, in extreme cases, serious harm to them.

Those who suffer from this syndrome are sometimes referred to as having a ‘god-complex’.

10) PHALLIC NARCISSISM – those who suffer from this hold themselves in extremely high regard, tend to have great social aspirations (a desperate desire to ascend the ‘social ladder’), are desperate to obtain the admiration of others, are self-promoting, prone to boastfulness, vain and highly sensitive in relation to how they are perceived by others. They are, too, often reckless.

Whilst determined to achieve their goals and outwardly self-assured, their condition arises from a drive to overcompensate for inner feelings of deep, personal inadequacy.

11) SEXUAL NARCISSISM – individuals with this condition perceive themselves as having great sexual prowess and also have a strong sense of entitlement regarding having sex with others as if it were their natural right and due. This can lead to sexually predatory behaviour.

Again, this type of narcissism is a form of overcompensation for having low self-esteem and those afflicted by it usually have problems with experiencing emotional and psychological closeness/intimacy with others.

12) SPIRITUAL NARCISSISM – people with this condition are of the view that their religious/spiritual beliefs make them superior (especially morally) to others. Essentially, their religious beliefs feed their ego (and, again, this is likely to be a compensatory measure caused by an inner sense of inadequacy).

13) UNPRINCIPLED NARCISSISM – people with this condition have very little or no conscience, are unempathetic and uninterested in the feelings and needs of others, are duplicitous, devious, dishonest, unscrupulous, amoral, interpersonally exploitative and regard life as a game that must be won at almost any cost. Highly competitive, the quote ( I forget from whom):

‘It is not enough for me to succeed, my friends must fail’

is, perhaps, a not altogether inaccurate summation of their attitude to life.

14) AMOUROUS NARCISSIST – individuals with this type of narcissism view themselves as highly sexually desirable and use their sexuality to manipulate and control others. Seduction, for them, is a game and they need to make sexual conquests to give themselves a sense of self-worth.

They tend to exploit their partners and can often be what is colloquially referred to as ‘heartbreakers’.

15) FANATIC NARCISSISM – individuals of this type have low self-esteem which is usually due to having experienced significant childhood trauma. They compensate for a lack of success in their lives through living a rich fantasy life in which they may imagine achieving great things and gaining unlimited social admiration. They also tend to have paranoid traits.

16) COMPENSATORY NARCISSISM – this type overlaps with/underpins many of the above types of narcissism. Those suffering from the condition have feelings of inadequacy stemming from traumatic childhood experiences and retreat into a fantasy world in which they can compensate for their failure in real life by being a great success in their internal, imaginative worlds.

They are often passive-aggressive and because they are very concerned about what others think of them, are prone to experiencing high levels of social anxiety.

17) CEREBRAL NARCISSISM – with this type, the person holds themselves in excessively high regard, and views him/herself as superior to others, for the intellectual abilities of which s/he perceives him/herself to be in possession.

18) SOMATIC NARCISSISM – a person with this condition is besotted by his/her own body/body image and highly physically self-admiring. S/he regards his/her deeply attractive body ( according to his/her own estimations) as bestowing upon him/herself superior status compared to those cruelly devoid of similar physical attributes.

 

THE THERAPEUTIC APPROACH TO TREATING NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER :

Research suggests that one of the main keys to psychotherapeutic intervention is an acknowledgement of the person’s pain, their overwhelming sense of their own vulnerability and their consequent desperate need to protect themselves from further psychological suffering. The therapist needs to reassure them that their defences have been identified as self-protective, and, as such, are understandable.

RESOURCE :

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DEALING WITH NARCISSISTS | SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS


 

emotional-abuse-ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above eBookCHILDHOOD TRAUMA: EMOTIONAL ABUSE by David Hosier MSc now available as eBook on Amazon –  CLICK HERE TO FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

 

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

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT) is an exciting new treatment option for those suffering with BPD. It is a therapy which has elements in common with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is an evidence-based treatment (ie it is backed by scientific research).

In the past, BPD was considered to be extremely difficult to treat, but, with the development of therapies such as CBT and DBT, the prognosis is now far more optimistic.

DBT was originally created by the psychologist Marsha Lineham; at first, it was developed with the treatment of females who self-harmed and were suicidal in mind. However, since then, its possible applications have become much broader; it is now used to treat both males and females suffering from a large array of different psychological conditions.

As already stated, DBT has many elements in common with CBT; in addition to this, it also borrows from ZEN and a therapy, which is becoming increasingly popular, called MINDFULNESS.

DBT has been particularly successful in the treatment of BPD (for information about BPD see Category 3 of the main menu : BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA). It is thought that one of the main CONTRIBUTING FACTORS of BPD is a traumatic childhood in which the child grows up in an INVALIDATING ENVIRONMENT (eg made to feel unloved and worthless). Such a childhood environment is especially likely to result in the child developing BPD in later life if he/she also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY (carries certain genes making him/her particularly vulnerable to stress).

When a person is suffering from BPD the condition causes him/her to REACT WITH ABNORMAL INTENSITY TO EMOTIONAL STIMULATION; the individual’s level of emotional arousal goes up extremely fast, peaks at an abnormally high level, and, takes much longer than normal to return to its baseline level.

This condition leads to the affected individual – a victim of his/her uncontrollable, intense emotional reactions – prone to stagger in life from one crisis to the next and to be perceived by others as emotionally unstable. It is thought that, due to the invalidating environment which the sufferer experienced in childhood, the normal ability to develop the coping strategies needed to regulate emotions is blocked, leaving the person defenceless against painful emotional feelings and leading to maladaptive (unhelpful) behaviors.

It is this problem which DBT was is now used to address. The therapy teaches individuals how to cope with, and regulate, their emotions so that they are no longer dominated and controlled by them. This is vital as the inability to control feelings will often wreck crucial areas of life, including friendships, relationships and careers. It is because of these possible effects that DBT also helps individuals develop SOCIAL SKILLS to help reduce the likelihood of them occurring.

DBT has been found to be effective in helping people suffering from a large range of psychiatric conditions; these include;

– self-harming
– depression
– suicidal ideation
– bipolar
– anxiety
– ptsd
– eating disorders
– substance abuse
– low self-esteem
– problems managing anger
– problems managing relationships/friendship

eBook :

borderline personality disorder

 

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

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

Why We Worry.

Stop worrying

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:

Stop worrying

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) 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.

ADVERSE EFFECTS OF WORRY :

The harmful effects of worry, quite apart from it being a painful state of mind in per se which stops us enjoying the present (many also worry about the fact that their worrying is spoiling their lives, thus adding an extra, even more superfluous, layer of suffering – this phenomenon is sometimes referred to as METAWORRY), include :

insomnia (e.g. trouble falling asleep. waking too early and being unable to get back to sleep, shallow, unrefreshing, broken sleep and nightmares) ; increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) / complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) ; impairment of the immune system (and, therefore, of disease and premature death).

METHODS THAT RESEARCH SUGGESTS CAN BE USEFUL FOR REDUCING WORRY :

1 Mindfulness

2. Accept worry, rather than fight it.

3. Distracting activities

4. Setting aside a 30 minute ‘worry period’ each day. This suggestion comes from Penn University, based upon their research. According to the researchers it can help if, when a worry enters are head we :

a) identify and acknowledge it

b) decide upon a time and place to think about the worry

c) if the worry returns outside of the planned 30 minute ‘worry period’, remind self you will think about it later

d) use the ‘worry period’ proactively and efficiently, focusing on solutions.

5. Physical exercise.

RESOURCES:

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

Childhood Trauma Recovery