Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma Treatment

Treating Conditions Related to Childhood Trauma by Getting Right Fats in Diet.

diet and childhood trauma

trauma and diet

As far as diet is concerned, there are good fats and bad fats. The fats we put into our bodies are of particular importance because of their effect upon brain functioning. Again, some fats have a very positive effect upon the brain, whilst others have a damaging effect.

Fats of great benefit to the brain include OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID – such fats are vital to good mental functioning (in fact, the composition of the brain is 60% fat).

An intake of the correct fats enables the brain to manufacture its cells effectively – the specific type of fats required are called LIPID FATTY ACIDS. A lack of these has a detrimental effect upon brain function. The type of fat required by the brain cannot be manufactured by the body so needs to be taken in by the diet. Food sources for the fat include:

– vegetable oils
– sesame oils
– corn
– walnuts
– green leafy vegetables

diet and childhood trauma

Lack of OMEGA-3 leads to neurons (cells in the brain) not working properly; at worst, it can even mean some neurons will die.

SATURATED FATS:

This type of fat can be damaging to the brain. It can lead to brain cell membranes becoming rigid – this undesirable occurrence, in effect, means that communication between the brain cells becomes inefficient; the brain, therefore, develops problems transmitting information between these cells.

CONCLUSION: RESEARCH SHOWING BENEFITS TO BRAIN FUNCTION OF GOOD INTAKE OF OMEGA-3:

Research has shown that as intake of OMEGA-3 goes up (within limits, obviously), so to does the quantity of the neurotransmitter known as SEROTONIN available in the brain. This is of great benefit as SEROTONIN helps to keep our mood CALM, STABLE and POSITIVE. Research has also shown that OMEGA-3 improves the effective functioning of another neurotransmitter in the brain known as DOPAMINE – this helps us to REGULATE OUR MOOD AND EMOTIONS.

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

Trauma: How Cognitive Processing Therapy can Help.

It is always important to treat post-traumatic stress and this is particularly the case in relation to childhood trauma. This is because it is during childhood that we form our core beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in general. Childhood trauma can severely distort these beliefs in a highly destructive manner. Without treatment, these damaging views and beliefs can endure for a life-time, blighting the entire life of the affected individual, even ruining it.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a particular type of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and there is now much evidence from research studies that it can prove highly effective in the treatment of the effects of trauma:

Frequently, individuals who have suffered childhood trauma find themselves in a perpetual and distressing struggle with painful memories. Thoughts about these often become circular and overwhelming, never reaching a resolution. The person experiencing them can feel more and more conflicted as time goes on if effective treatment is not sought.Indeed, many who seek therapy do so because they find they have become ‘stuck’ or ‘caught up’ in their painful thoughts, memories and feelings and they feel unable to properly integrate or make sense these.

CPT helps people to understand what they went through, how it affected them, and how it has affected, in a negative and distorted way, their view of themselves, others and the world in general (psychologists refer to such thinking as a ‘negative cognitive triad’, one of the key symptoms of clinical depression).

CPT aims to help individuals rectify this negative cognitive triad and gain AUTHORITY over their trauma-related memories and feelings, or, to put it another way, CPT helps people to be IN CONTROL OF THEIR MEMORIES AND RELATED FEELINGS, rather than the other way around.

Many individuals who have experienced childhood trauma, also, very frequently, find themselves ‘living in the past’: continually brooding on what happened, why it happened and how it has adversely affected their lives; such ruminations may become obsessive. CPT helps break this pattern of thinking: one of the key elements of CPT is to help people CREATE A BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE PAST AND THE PRESENT so that the individual can free him/herself to finally live in the ‘now’ rather than the ‘then’.

For more information about CBT and help for recovery from trauma a good site is: http://www.psychologytools.org/ptsd.html

Because I found CBT very useful in my own recovery, and, additionally, because it has a very solid evidence base showing that it is an effective therapy, I have listed links to two online CBT courses below :

I found CBT an important part of my recovery and therefore highly recommend A Clinically Proven Online CBT Course For Panic and Anxiety Disorder Created By Professional Therapists. Adheres to the Ethical Guidelines set down by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapists (BABCP). FREE 30 DAY TRIAL.Click Here!

CBT program to address anxiety featuring the A.W.A.K.E.method. Full refund within 15 days of purchase if unsuitable. Click Here!.

I hope you have found this post of interest. Please click on the FOLLOW icon if you would like instant notification of new posts. New posts are added to this site at least twice per week. You are also welcome, of course, to leave a comment, to which I will reply as soon as I am able.

Best Wishes, 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).

Childhood Trauma: Identity Problems and How to Tackle Them.,

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

One outcome of childhood trauma can frequently be that the person who has suffered it is prone to develop IDENTITY PROBLEMS.

A person’s identity represents their attempt to pin down the essential elements s/he sees (rather than what others see) that make the individual who s/he are. One’s identity develops over time.

Our identity can be helpful to our psychological health (if we see ourselves in largely positive terms) or unhelpful to it (if we see ourselves in largely negative terms). People, especially if suffering from depression, lacking in confidence etc, extremely often view themselves FAR MORE NEGATIVELY THAN WOULD BE OBJECTIVELY WARRANTED; whereas many others (not suffering from mental illness, in many cases) may see themselves in far too glowing terms (this ‘over self-congratulatory’ view adopted by many is thought to have developed to confer evolutionary advantages on those who have it – appearing confident to potential mates, for example – provided, I suppose, it is not absurdly exaggerated).

Aspects of our lives which can affect our identities include:

– our values
– our physical appearance
– our mental/physical health
– our education
– our achievements (or lack, thereof)
– our work (Freud attributed especial importance to this, as he did to sexual fulfilment, the thwarting of which, he proposed, could lead to extreme neurosis)
– our relationships
– our age (please, don’t remind me)
– our financial situation
– our perception of our social status (or lack, again, thereof)

The identity which emerges from such factors is strongly related to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT:

This begins very early in our lives. Ages 4 years to 6 years are thought to be a critical time; TRAUMA during this period is LINKED to the DEVELOPMENT OF IDENTITY PROBLEMS IN LATER LIFE. From the ages of about 6 years to 12 years, the child normally develops the skills necessary to MANAGE EMOTIONS, a skill strongly linked to identity (eg ‘cool’ versus ‘volatile’); indeed, if TRAUMA INTERFERES WITH THIS PROCESS AN EXTREMELY TEMPESTUOUS ADOLESCENCE CAN FOLLOW).

In ‘normal’ development, adolescents may experiment with various identities and this process gradually leads to the stage in which there is a sense of the identity becoming crystallized. Again, however, individuals affected by trauma will often find this period exceptionally stressful and find that NO CLEAR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY EMERGES – THEIR SENSE OF THEIR OWN IDENTITY CAN BE CONFUSED AND THEY MAY FEEL THAT THEY ‘DON’T KNOW WHO THEY REALLY ARE’.

CONFUSED IDENTITY IN ADULTHOOD AS A RESULT OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA:

By adulthood, then, those who have experienced childhood trauma will often find that their identity is UNSTABLE and FRAGILE – this will often mean that their attitudes, values and sense of who they are are all prone to wildly fluctuation; these changes are frequently dramatic (eg oscillating between feeling deep love and deep hatred towards the same person; or, sometimes, perhaps, feeling exceptionally important only to shift without warning or obvious trigger into a feeling of despair, self-loathing and worthlessness).

IDENTITIY PROBLEMS AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD):

Identity problems in adulthood are often a symptom of BPD. BPD frequently occurs as a result of childhood trauma and much more about the condition can be discovered in the by clicking here to read my article about it.

DEVELOPING A MORE CONSISTENT AND STRONGER SENSE OF ONE’S IDENTITY:

How can people with identity problems make their sense of identity stronger? One possible place to start this process, which needs to be gradually worked on over time, is for the individual suffering from the crisis in identity to consider the things which are of most importance to him/her in life; identities are largely formed based on these considerations. Prorities in life which people choose to concentrate on, and, which, therefore, contribute to making up their identities include:

– friendships/relationships/family
– academic interests
– career
– creativity (eg painting, writing, acting)
– hobbies
– choice of entertainment (eg musical taste, taste in film/cinema/theatre, favourite kinds of books etc)
– material possessions
– spirituality/religion/atheism/agnosticism
– charity work (eg for homeless, rehabilitation of ex-prisoners, environment, hospice, Amnesty International)
– physical appearance
– financial situation

This is not, of course, an exhaustive list and there may well be other areas that can be added, depending on preferences.

A starting point might be to pick out 3 or 4 areas of interest (this, in itself, reflects identity, and, therefore, can be seen as providing foundational pieces of the jig-saw yet to emerge, as it were) and to concentrate on these at first (other elements can be added later; merely starting the process may lead to other ideas emerging at a later time).

For each of the factors selected, it can then prove of use to set some goals relating to how these areas may be incorporated, or, more fully incorporated, into one’s life (these goals need to be quite specific and achievable; there is little point starting with such challenging goals that they may prove impossible to meet and thus damage morale).

Here are some examples:

– because academic achievement is important to me, I will enrol in a night-school class (investigate and specify appropriate course) and complete the course
– because family and/or friends are important to me I will attend an anger management course
– because creativity is important to me I will set aside two hours a week to write poetry/novel
– because my mental health is important to me I will seek out appropriate counselling and complete the sessios recommended (provided the therapy proves of potential value, of course)

The more the individual is able to incorporate and develop areas such as those listed above, which reflect his/her true values, interests and priorities, the more AUTHENTIC and REWARDING the person’s life is likely to be; the more, too, will the individual’s true and stable sense of self continue to evolve.

RESOURCES :

OVERCOME IDENTITY PROBLEMS MP3. CLICK HERE.

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

Childhood Trauma: Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

EMDR

Individuals who have suffered severe childhood trauma may, as a result of it, later suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or similar condition. Some professionals advocate a relatively new technique which aims to address this; it is known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

WHAT IS EMDR?

The therapist administering EMDR will first examine the issues related to the individual’s psychological difficulties and, also, help him/her develop strategies to aid in relaxation and deal with stress. After this, the therapist encourages the individual to recall particular traumas, whilst, simultaneously, manipulating his/her eye movements by instructing him/her to follow the movements the therapist is making with a pen, or similar object, in front of the individual’s face). The theory is that this will facilitate the individual in effectively reprocessing his/her traumatic experiences, thus alleviating psychological distress.

THIS SOUNDS A LITTLE ODD; WHAT IS THE RATIONALE BEHIND EMDR AND, HOW, EXACTLY, IS IT THOUGHT TO WORK?

My first reaction to hearing about this particular therapy was that it sounded somewhat strange. However, the rationale behind EMDR is that disturbing memories from childhood need to be PROPERLY PROCESSED by the brain in order to alleviate symptoms associated with having experienced childhood trauma (eg PTSD, as already mentioned); this is because the view is taken that it is the UNRESOLVED TRAUMA that is the cause of the psychiatric difficulties the individual who presents him/herself for treatment is suffering. Those professionals who recommend the therapy believe that the EYE MOVEMENTS INDUCED BY THE THERAPIST IN THE INDIVIDUAL BEING TREATED LEAD TO NEUROLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES IN THE BRAIN WHICH AID IN THE EFFECTIVE REPROCESSING OF THE TRAUMATIC MEMORY, and, in this way, ameliorates psychological problems from which the individual had been suffering.

 

WHAT ARE THE STAGES INVOLVED IN EMDR THERAPY?

These are briefly outlined below:

1) The first stage is the identification of the specific memory/memories which underlie the trauma.

2) Next, the individual is asked to identify particular negative beliefs he/she links to the memory (e.g. ‘I am worthless’)

3) Then, the individual being treated is asked to replace the negative belief with a positive belief (e.g .’I am strong enough to recover’ or ‘I am a person of value with potential to have a bright future’ etc)

4) In the fourth stage, the therapist moves a pen (or similar object) in various, predetermined motions in front of the individual’s face and he/she is instructed to follow the movements with his/her eyes (e.g repeatedly left and right). Whilst this is going on, the therapist instructs the individual to simply, non-judgmentally observe his/her own thoughts, letting them come and go freely and without trying to influence them in any way – just to accept them, in other words, and let them happen.

5) This procedure is repeated several times.

Each time the process is undertaken, the therapist asks the individual being treated to rate how much distress he/she feels – this continues until his/her self-reported level of distress becomes very low. Similarly, each time the process is undertaken, the individual is asked to report how strongly he/she now feels he/she believes in the positive idea given in stage 3 (see examples provided above); therapy is only concluded once the level of reported belief becomes very high.

N.B. The therapy is actually more involved than this, so the above should only be taken as a brief outline. There are, too, different variations of procedure outlined above which can be employed within the EMDR range of therapies available.

 

EMDR CAN HELP UNBLOCK TRAUMATIC INFORMATION HELD IN THE BRAIN AND HELP US TO HEALTHILY INTEGRATE IT INTO OUR LIFE STORY AS A WHOLE :

When we suffer severe trauma we are not able to fully mentally process what it is that has happened to us and the trauma becomes mentally entrenched – in other words, what happened to us becomes locked or ‘stuck’ in our memory network. The effect of this may include us experiencing various symptoms such as irrational beliefs, painful emotions, anxiety and fears, flashbacks, nightmares and phobias. It may well also cause blocked energy and greatly reduce our self-efficacy.

When we experience events that trigger memories of the trauma, images, sounds, physical sensations and beliefs which echo the original experience of the trauma cause our perception of current events to be distorted.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can unblock this traumatic information and thus allow us to healthily mentally integrate it with our other life experiences and our life story as a whole.

Trauma can occur in the form of SHOCK TRAUMA and DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA. Shock trauma consists of a sudden threat which is overwhelming and/or life threatening – it occurs as a single episode such as a violent attack, rape or a natural disaster. Developmental trauma, on the other hand, refers to a series of events which occur over a period of time. These events GRADUALLY ALTER THE PERSON’S NEUROLOGICAL SYSTEM to the point that it REMAINS IN THE TRAUMATIC STATE. This, in turn, can cause interruption in the child’s long-term psychological growth. Experiences which can lead to developmental trauma include : abandonment by parent, long term separation from parent, an unsafe environment, an unstable environment, neglect, serious illness, physical and/or sexual abuse or betrayal by a care giver.

The effects of developmental trauma include damaging the child’s sense of self. self-esteem, self-definition and self-confidence. Also, the child’s sense of safety and security in the world will be seriously undermined. This makes it far more likely that the individual will experience further trauma in life as an adult as his/her sense of fear and helplessness remain unresolved.

EMDR works by allowing the locked or ‘stuck’ traumatic information to be properly, mentally processed. This leads to the disturbing information becoming psychologically resolved and integrated.

HOW DOES EMDR ACTUALLY WORK?

EMDR is based on the idea that it is our memories which form the basis of our PERCEPTIONS, ATTITUDES and BEHAVIOURS. Because, as we have already established, traumatic memories fail to be properly processed they lead to these perceptions, attitudes and behaviours becoming DISTORTED and DYSFUNCTIONAL. In effect, the trauma is too large and too complex to be properly processed so it remains ‘STUCK’ and DYSFUNCTIONALLY STORED. This often leads to MALADAPTIVE ATTEMPTS TO PROCESS AND RESOLVE THE INFORMATION CONNECTED TO THE TRAUMA SUCH AS FLASHBACKS AND NIGHTMARES (Sharpio, 2001).

When this problem occurs it is EMDR which is being increasingly turned to allow effective processing and mental healing to occur. I will look in more detail at what EMDR involves in later posts.

 

WHAT DO EVALUATION STUDIES OF EMDR THERAPY SUGGEST ABOUT ITS EFFECTIVENESS?

A recent meta-analysis of evidence (ie an overview of a large number of particular, individual studies of EMDR) supported the claim that it is effective, as have other meta-analyses. However, some researchers have suggested that it is not the EYE MOVEMENT PART of the therapy which is of benefit, but only the act of repeatedly recalling traumatic memories which is the effective component (based on the idea that these repeated mental exposures, under close supervision and in a supportive and safe environment, of the traumatic memories alone facilitates their therapeutic reprocessing).

In response to this criticism, its exponents (and there are many professionals who are), regard the EYE MOVEMENT COMPONENT of the therapy as ESSENTIAL in giving rise to the NECESSARY NEUROLOGICAL CHANGES which allow the EFFECTIVE REPROCESSING OF THE TRAUMA; these proponents also emphasize that the therapy only requires short exposures to the traumatic memory/memories, thus giving it an advantage over therapies which utilize far more protracted exposures.

Research into EMDR is ongoing.

eBooks :

borderline personality disorder ebook

 

Both above eBooks available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

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

Research on Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Treatment for Trauma.

high-and -low- functioning-BPD

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation? :

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is normally abbreviated to TMS. Essentially, this treatment works by delivering short pulses of magnetic energy (which are generated by a hand held device that contains an electro-magnetic coil) to specific brain regions. It is a non-physically invasive therapy and the smallish, relatively simple device is merely guided over the relevant areas of the patient’s head by the doctor.

Research has already shown that the treatment can significantly reduce depressive symptoms in patients and early indicators are that it may also be of benefit to individuals suffering from the effects of trauma.

In order to help you visualize the simplicity of the procedure, imagine a hair-dryer being moved over the head – the only difference is that, rather than warm air being delivered,essentially painless, magnetic pulses are delivered instead.

HOW DOES TMS WORK?

I have already stated that the procedure is essentially painless (although some patients report that it has induced in them a headache) so the magnetic pulses are delivered whilst the patient is fully conscious. The procedure generally takes about twenty minutes. The magnetic pulses work by altering the way in which the brain cells communicate with each other (or, to put it more technically, the electrical firing between the brain’s neurons is altered) in the specific brain regions at which the treatment is directed. Research into the treatment has so far suggested that it may:

– reduce symptoms of depression
– reduce symptoms of anxiety – reduce the intensity of intrusive traumatic thoughts – help to reduce social anxiety by reducing avoidance behaviours

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF TMS :

Unfortunately, TMS cannot be administered to those individuals who have been fitted with a pacemaker (or, for that matter, have had any other metal implanted in their body). Also, it cannot be administered to those who suffer from epilepsy in most cases.

In rare cases, TMS may induce seizures or manic episodes.

Anyone considering the treatment should discuss it with their doctor.

 

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

How Childhood Trauma Can Reduce Life Expectancy By 19 Years.

 

childhood trauma's effect on life expectancy

This article aims to briefly explain how childhood trauma can reduce life expectancy by 19 years but, also, why this need not be the case.

Childhood trauma clearly puts the child who experiences it under great stress; the more protracted and intense the traumas, and the more traumas the child suffers, all else being equal, the more stress is inflicted upon the child.

A recent study has shown that an especially traumatic childhood (in which the child experiences several types of trauma) may reduce life expectancy by about 19 years (from approximately 79 years for those who experienced no significant trauma, to about 60 years for those who experienced many significant traumas).

In the study, the traumas experienced included the following:

– witnessing domestic violence
– emotional/verbal abuse
– physical abuse
– parental alcohol/drug misuse
– parental imprisonment
– parental separation/divorce

childhood trauma reduces life expectancy

SPECIFIC DETAILS OF THE STUDY:

– those who had suffered 6 or more traumas, on average, lost about 19 years of life (dying, on average, at about 60 years, rather than at about 79 years, as was the average age of death of those who had suffered no significant trauma).

– those who had suffered 3 to 5 traumatic events lost, on average, 5.5 years of life, dying, on average, at 73.5 years.

-those who had suffered 2 traumatic events lost, on average, about 3 years of life, dying, on average, at about 76 years.

POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND LOWER LIFE EXPECTANCY:

One theory is that childhood trauma can lead to CELL DAMAGE (specifically, inflammation and premature aging of the cells). It is also thought that exposure to high and sustained stress in childhood can also DAMAGE DNA strands; this, in turn, can lead to increased risk of disease and premature death.

Furthermore, extreme stress in childhood (which makes it far more likely the child will go on to have a stressful adult life) leads to greater production in the body of ADRENALINE (a neurotransmitter which prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’) and also of CORTISOL (a stress hormone); these biochemical effects increase the individual’s likelihood of developing disease.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA LEADING TO HARMFUL ADULT BEHAVIOURS:

Because individuals who suffer childhood trauma tend to have much more stressful adult lives, as adults they are more likely to utilize coping strategies which are, in the long-term, damaging (these are known as MALADAPTIVE COPING STRATEGIES). They include:

– smoking
drinking alcohol to excess
– illicit drug use
– ‘comfort eating’ of junk food

All of these behaviours, linked to childhood trauma, can dramatically reduce life expectancy.

WHY NOT TO PANIC:

Although the study shows that there is an association (or correlation) between childhood trauma and lower life expectancy, this does NOT mean that childhood trauma directly and inevitably leads to losing years of life.

Rather, the link is indirect: childhood trauma tends to lead to more stress and harmful behaviours (as already outlined) and it is these which can lower life expectancy, NOT the childhood trauma in and of itself taken in isolation.

The good news that follows from this is that we are able to address our stress and harmful behaviours (such as excessive drinking, overeating etc) either through self-help or with the aid of professional therapy; therefore, the childhood trauma we experienced need NOT lead to a shorter life.

If you would like to view an infographic which illustrates the relationship between childhood trauma and heart disease in later life please click here.

 

eBooks :

CPTSD ebook.  borderline personality disorder ebook

Above ebooks now available on Amazon for instant download.

Click here for further details.

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

Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

A quick search of the internet reveals a very large range of therapies on offer which purport to treat BPD effectively. Indeed, the sheer range of putative treatments can seem confusing and overwhelming.

It is for this reason that I concentrate on just six treatments which research suggests are the most beneficial.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) MENTALIZATION-BASED THERAPY (MBT).

My previous post on BPD referred to how people suffering from it have difficulties with how they are attached to (ie how they relate to) PRIMARY CARE GIVERS (eg parents). This can manifest itself in ATTACHMENT DISORDERS (which I also looked at in my last post) making other relationships they develop in adult life very difficult, volatile, complex, painful and distressing.

MBT seeks to help the person understand the roots of these difficulties and how their feelings and behaviours may be impacting on their relationships which in turn makes these relationships problematic.

Research shows that outcomes of MBT treatment have so far been very encouraging.

As well as reducing relationship problems, the therapy has also been found to lessen the likelihood of suicidal ideation ( thoughts and plans about suicide) and hospitalizations. Also, it has been shown to improve day-to-day functioning.

2) SCHEMA THERAPY.

Schemas are deeply entrenched beliefs relating to both oneself and the world in general. In people with BPD, these schema can be extremely negative (inaccurately so) and very unhelpful (or, to use a more technical term, MALADAPTIVE) to the individual who holds them.

Very often, they stem from a negative mindset which developed during the individual’s early life, due to, in no small part, childhood trauma. It is worth repeating that these negative schema can be very deeply ingrained and colour the individual’s entire outlook on life.

Schema therapy seeks to change these maladaptive schema into more adaptive (helpful) ones.

Treatment can be very lengthy, but there is strong evidence that it can significantly reduce symptoms of BPD.

Research into this type of treatment remains ongoing and I will report on any significant developments.

3) TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY (TFP).

It is certainly worth first defining the psychotherapeutic idea of TRANSFERENCE:

it may be defined as: THE INAPPROPRIATE REPETITION IN THE PRESENT OF A RELATIONSHIP THAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THE PERSON’S CHILDHOOD.

For example, if our parents hurt, exploited or rejected us as children, in adult life we might feel that everyone we get to know will do the same, but without evidence that this will be the case (we are basing our view on a past relationship which is now not relevant).

The treatment aims to help individuals stop viewing present relationships in a rigid way determined by their painful past and show them that they could be misperceiving their present interactions with others ( including the therapist, as often individuals transfer the feelings they had for their parents as children -eg resentment- onto the therapist in the present).
Research, so far, has shown positive results and remains ongoing.

4) COGNITIVE THERAPY.

Cognitive therapy has long been known to be a very effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and it is now being increasingly used to treat BPD. Studies of its effectiveness in relation to this have, so far, been encouraging.

One advantage of cognitive therapy is that it often leads to very significant improvements over quite short treatment periods. I myself underwent cognitive therapy and found it very beneficial.

Cognitive therapy focuses on correcting faulty, distorted, negative thinking styles relating to how we view ourselves, the world and the future. I write in more detail about cognitive therapy in the EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA category of my blog.

5) DIALECTIC BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (DBT).

The studies on this therapy have , so far, given mixed results. It has been shown, though, in several pieces of research, to reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts in the individual undergoing treatment (the risk of suicide in people suffering from BPD without treatment is high).

Also, after a year of treatment, individuals report a more general improvement in their condition, but, unfortunately, often are still left with significant levels of distress. More studies are required, and, indeed, are being conducted to see if longer treatment periods yield better outcomes. I will report on any significant developments in this area.

DBT draws on psychotherapy, group therapy, meditation, elements of Buddhism and cognitive-behaviour therapy. More research needs to be conducted on the therapy to discover which of its varied components are the most effective in treating BPD. Again, I will report on significant developments.

6) MEDICATION.

Whilst there is, at the moment, no obvious, single medication to treat the whole range of BPD symptoms equally effectively, there are, nevertheless, established medications which can help with some of the symptoms the BPD sufferer might experience, such as anxiety and depression. This is, though, of course, the province of GPs and psychiatrists.

borderline personality disorder ebook.  CPTSD ebook

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

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

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