Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma

Characteristics Of Narcissistic Parents

narcissistic parents

effects of narcissistic parents on child

narcissistic parents

Typically, the narcissistic parent views his/her child as a kind of possession whose sole purpose is to continuously fulfil his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) emotional needs.

In order to keep the child in this role (i.e. the role of existing solely to meet the parent’s emotional needs), the narcissistic parent may exert power over the child in highly manipulative and controlling ways.

Because such parents are so possessive of the child, as the child grows older and starts to become more independent (especially during early adolescence), the narcissistic parent may feel threatened that his/her hitherto exclusive relationship with the child is becoming increasingly precarious. Indeed, if the child begins to show signs of no longer fulfilling the role that the narcissistic parent has assigned to him/her, such parents may become deeply resentful of the child and start to punish him/her through emotional abuse (including directing intense rage toward the child).

The narcissistic parent essentially EXPLOITS their child, capitalizing on the fact that the child is biologically programmed to be dependent upon him/her (but especially the mother); as already alluded to, this enables such parents to exert enormous power and control over the child, a power which they ruthlessly abuse. Such parents feel little or no empathy (though pretends to have) for their child and are have scant regard for the child’s personal boundaries.

 

Narcissistic abuse tends to be covert in the sense that it takes place in the privacy of the family home ; in public, the narcissistic parent tends to be extremely careful to present as good an image as possible (in an attempt to maintain the illusion of being superior to others), perhaps trying to act ‘the perfect parent’ to keep up appearances (as already implied, narcissists are exceptionally concerned about how others perceive them)’

The child of the narcissistic parent is doomed to failure in as far that whatever s/he does in order attempt to meet the parent’s emotional needs, it will never be enough as, in this regard, the narcissist is impossible to satisfy.

Unfortunately, when growing up with a narcissistic parent, the child is highly unlikely to realize that the parent is suffering from a serious disorder that results in highly dysfunctional parenting. This is because most children just accept their family circumstances as ‘normal’ given that they have no point of comparison (in most cases).

Even more sadly, if and when they do realize how dysfunctional their family environment was whilst they were growing up, perhaps in early to mid-adulthood, they may have already suffered a great deal of psychological damage which may well require extensive therapy to alleviate.

 

What Are The Main Characteristics Of The Narcissistic Parent?

 

Narcissistic parents may also display the following characteristics :

 

   – extreme possessiveness of child (in the sense of owning, controlling and using the child)

   – uses emotional blackmail

   – uses the technique of gaslighting’  (i.e. they deny your reality e.g. by constantly telling you that your experience of your childhood was not as you claim / believe / perceived it to be) to the extent that you may even begin to question own sanity)

   – blow all criticism way out of proportion / exceptionally thin skinned

   – can be sadistic / relish psychologically crushing the child with devastating verbal abuse / enjoy being cruel to the child and the feeling of power / omnipotence this may provide

   – makes frequent use of ‘triangulation’ e.g. encroaches upon the child’s friendships to use to his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) advantage, including turning them against the child if necessary)

   – lacks capacity to love in any meaningful way the child (though may ‘act loving’)

   – cares deeply about what others think so will present image of ‘perfect mother / father’ to the outside world (e.g makes sure the child is immaculately turned out to ‘prove’ to others what a ‘good’ parent s/he is.

   – withdraws any pretence of ‘love’ / approval as soon child fails to please (especially by giving the child the ‘silent treatment’ ) 

   – controls the child by instilling feelings of shame and guilt into him / her

   – possesses a conscious or unconscious belief that child exists solely to fulfil his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) needs

   – narcissistic parentification : the narcissist ‘parentifies’ child / uses child as an ’emotional caretaker)

   – creates an atmosphere in which the child is constantly anxious / fearful / hypervigilant

   – only wants the child to succeed in a way which benefits him/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent), NOT on his/her (i.e the child’s) own terms

 – wants to keep the child dependent and needy so may derive satisfaction from him/her (i.e. the child) being emotionally upset as this puts the child in a weak position, makes him/her (i.e. the child) easier to manipulate and provides the narcissistic parent with the opportunity to display false concern. S/he (i.e. the narcissistic parent) is motivated NOT by the desire to alleviate the child’s suffering, but by the wholly egocentric wish to demonstrate what a ‘good parent’ s/he is – as such, s/he may toy with the child’s emotions, alternating between ensuring s/he (i.e. the child) becomes emotionally upset and then acting as his/her ’emotional rescuer.’

   – does not respect the child’s personal boundaries / right to privacy / may insist the child divulges highly sensitive information only to use this information against them at a later date

   – becomes jealous and resentful if the child tries to become independent and successful (in a way which does not benefit the parent)

 

 

Characteristics Of Narcissistic Parents 1

 

Potential Long-Term Harm Narcissistic Parents May Do To Their Children :

 

The harmful emotional impact such parents may have on their children can be profound ; as an adult, the former abused child may suffer from a whole multitude of serious problems, including :

   – complex PTSD

   – inability to trust others

   – emotional detachment

   – self-sabotage  / self-defeating personality

   – invasive thoughts of emotional abuse

   – anxious attachment (constantly fearful people don’t like us or will suddenly ‘turn on’ us as we believe we are, in our very essence, in some indefinable but undeniable way despicable and others will surely ‘sense’ this, too – ‘it’s simply a matter of time,’ we tell ourselves)

   – avoidant attachment

   – equation of intimate relationships with making oneself unsafe and vulnerable ; this may cause us to become self-protectively aggressive

   – slowed down emotional development / arrested emotional development

   – narcissistic personality disorder

   – borderline personality disorder

   – anxiety

   – depression (frequently due to repressed anger which can, in turn, lead to physical illness)

   – desperation to achieve high goals (in frantic attempt to bolster profoundly undermined self-esteem).

   – self-blame and a perpetual feeling of being ‘a bad person’ (connected to the narcissistic parent’s focus on the child’s ‘faults’ / ‘failings’ and ‘failure’ to meet his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) impossibly demanding needs)

   – emotionally enmeshed relationship with the narcissistic parent and consequent profound uncertainty as to own identity and personal boundaries caused by the parent’s view of the child as an extension of him/herself (i.e. of the narcissistic parent’s self).

 

How Destructive Narcissists May ‘Parentify’ Their Children :

Narcissistic Parentification :

Parents who suffer from a destructive narcissist pattern (DNP) of behaviour frequently ‘parentify’ their children whereby a kind of role reversal occurs and the child is expected to act as the parent’s parent (although this may well occur on an unconscious level rather than it coming about due to a parent’s conscious decision making).

Such parents are likely to:

– use their children to feed their constant need for positive attention

– use their children to feed their insatiable need for admiration

– need to be made to feel they are particularly special/important/superior to others

– lack empathy

– regard children as an extension of themselves rather than individuals with their own needs/interests/desires

– have shallow emotions (except for fear and anxiety)

– behave in a grandiose manner

– exploit others (including own children)

– be emotionally abusive towards own children

– expect emotional support from their children, even when child obviously far too young to provide it

– expect the child to bolster and endorse his/her sense of special entitlement

Such parents lack the capacity to nurture the child and put his/her needs above their own – it tends to be more a case of what they can ‘get out of’ their children rather than what they can give them.

Also, these parents lack empathy when it comes to their children’s feelings, whilst always expecting the child to fully sympathize and empathize with their own.

Furthermore, such parents lack patience when their children are demanding and incapable of holding their children in unconditional positive regard.

Additionally, DNP parents will find it very hard to relate to/tune into the child’s own rich emotional life.

Such parents, too, tend to set their children extremely high and exacting standards of behaviour which are impossible to meet and then become very angry when the children inevitably ‘fall short’.

EFFECTS OF SUCH DNP BEHAVIOUR ON THE CHILD :

Being treated in such a way over a long period of time will frequently have a profound long-term effect upon the child. Indeed, without therapy, such effects can last for an entire lifetime.

As a result of this treatment, in adulthood the now grown child may :

-constantly expect others to manipulate him/her and, therefore, have a cynical and distrustful attitude towards them

– have a high level of anxiety about the possibility of being trapped by,and enmeshed in, the emotional needs of others

– paradoxically feeling responsible for the needs of others and ashamed and guilty that they are unable to fulfil them

In order to prevent him/herself being manipulated by others and being caught up in their needs the adult child who was brought up by the DNP parent is also likely to develop certain DEFENSE MECHANISMS. These defense mechanisms are likely to include :

– DEFIANCE

– REBELLION

– WITHDRAWAL

– APPARENT INSENSITIVITY

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) DEFIANCE – this occurs when the individual does not want to do whatever it is that others are trying to get him/her to do. It occurs because painful memories of being manipulated as a child are triggered (either on a conscious or unconscious level) and the individual desperately needs to avoid being treated in such a way again.

2) REBELLION – whereas ‘defiance’ relates to the attitude that the individual adopts, ‘rebellion’ relates to the ation they take.

Rebellion can be a healthy way to establish independence from parents but it can also be destructive if it becomes a kind of indiscriminate, reflexive, knee-jerk reaction to everything (including things that it would be in the person’s own interest to comply with).

3) WITHDRAWAL – an individual brought up by an DNP parent may constantly feel compelled to withdraw from :

– intimacy with others

– disapproval from others

– the needs of others to be ‘nurtured’

– the emotional intensity of others

– the emergence of own strong emotions

– criticism from others

Withdrawal can be emotional or physical.

It is used as a defense mechanism in order to protect the individual who was brought up by the DNP parent from those behaviours which trigger memories of how s/he was treated as a child which would cause intolerable levels of anxiety.

Unfortunately, because such defense mechanisms are automatic, they are very likely to occur even when the other individual poses no objective psychological threat and has no intention of exploiting them.

In this way, opportunities to form satisfying relationships are frequently missed.

4) SEEMING INSENSITIVITY – the individual who was brought up by the DNP parent may well, underneath, be a very sensitive person but s/he covers this up to protect him/herself due to his/her fear of being emotionally overwhelmed and manipulated by others. This can mean his/her inability to fulfil the emotional needs of others actually leaves him/her with a constant sense of guilt.

Furthermore, his/her defense mechanisms may lead him/her to be viewed by others as hard to understand and get to know, as well as cold, distant and aloof.

Sadly and paradoxically, however, the individual, deep down, may well yearn for love and affection, validation, admiration and have a strong desire to be free of his/her profound and pervasive fear of emotional intimacy.

 

 

How To Reduce Harm Done By The Narcissistic Parent

In order to minimize the psychological harm caused to children by narcissistic parents, EARLY, EFFECTIVE, THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTION IS OF FUNDAMENTAL IMPORTANCE.

Psychotherapists frequently stress the importance of drawing clear boundaries with narcissistic parents, limiting contact with them or cutting off contact altogether (with the support , ideally, of a therapist who has expertise in this area). They also frequently advise that truly narcissistic parents have a mental illness which will make it extremely difficult for us to change them and that, therefore, our energies should be focused on our own recovery.

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

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What Are The Differences Between BPD And Complex PTSD? : A Study

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difference between complex ptsd and bpd

bpd-versus-complex-ptsd

Because there is a considerable overlap in symptoms between those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic disorder (complex PTSD) , those with the latter condition can be misdiagnosed as suffering from the former condition (you can read my article about this by clicking here).

In order to help clarify the differences between the two conditions and help show how they are distinct from one another, this article is about a research study which sought to delineate these two very serious psychiatric conditions.

What Are The Differences In Symptoms Between Those Suffering From Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And Those Suffering From Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD)?

A study into the different symptoms displayed by sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) involving the study of two hundred at eighty adult women who had experienced abuse during their childhoods and published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology in 2014 compared the symptoms of those suffering from BPD with those suffering from complex PTSD.

bpd-versus-complex-ptsd

 

The following results from the study were obtained :

SYMPTOMS SHARED APPROXIMATELY EQUALLY BETWEEN THOSE SUFFERING FROM BPD AND THOSE SUFFERING FROM COMPLEX PTSD :

Some symptoms were found to be shared approximately equally between those suffering from  borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD). The symptoms that fell into this category were as follows :

  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (ANGER) i.e. frequent feelings of intense rage that the individual cannot control (regulate)
  • VERY LOW FEELINGS OF SELF-WORTH
  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (SENSITIVE) i.e. feelings of hypersensitivity that cannot be controlled (regulated)
  • INTENSE FEELINGS OF GUILT
  • INTERPERSONAL DETACHMENT / ALONENESS i.e. feeling cut-off and alienated from others, isolated and apart
  • FEELINGS OF EMPTINESS

However, some symptoms were found to be significantly more prevalent amongst those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) than amongst those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) as shown below :

SYMPTOMS THAT WERE FOUND TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE PREVALENT AMONGST THOSE SUFFERING FROM BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD) THAN AMONGST THOSE SUFFERING FROM COMPLEX POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (COMPLEX PTSD) :

 

RETURN TO BPD AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA MAIN ARTICLE

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What Are The Differences Between BPD And Complex PTSD? : A Study 2    What Are The Differences Between BPD And Complex PTSD? : A Study 3

 

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

 

 

 

 

Trauma Release Exercises

ptsd-holistic-treatment

WHY WE SHOULD ENVY GAZELLES :

The human stress/fear response evolved millions of years ago in our ancestors to allow them to survive – it is commonly known as the ‘tight  or flight’ response. If we saw a tiger, it was necessary to feel fear as this fear motivated us to freeze and then to run away when it was safe to do so. Modern day humans have inherited this mechanism.

One of the areas of the brain that becomes highly active when we experience fear, and gives rise to the fight/flight response, is called the AMYGDALA. This area of the brain is also stimulated in other animals, such as gazelles, when they perceive danger.

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Let’s imagine that a group (I don’t know the collective term for them – herd?) of gazelles is calmly grazing when they become aware that a tiger is preparing to launch a ferocious and potentially lethal attack. What is their response?

Well, what happens on a physiological level is that the sighting of the tiger instantaneously triggers intense activity in their brains’ amygdala and their ‘fight/flight’ response is triggered. This causes them to experience feelings of panic and terror which in turn leads them to flee the tiger as fast as they are able (which, given they are gazelles. is very fast indeed – they don’t hang around!

Once the danger has passed, however, the activity in their amygdala quickly returns to normal and, therefore, they are able to return to calmly grazing.

The gazelle, then, is easily able to ‘switch on’ their amygdala but, just as easily, ‘switch it off’ again when its activity is no longer required.

Sadly, we poor humans are not nearly as good at doing this. Because we have language, which allows us to carry out internal monologues, we also have imagination and are able to dwell on the past and contemplate the future; because of this, we are able to constantly torment ourselves with worries, regrets, concerns, fears and so on. In this way, especially if we suffer from anxiety, we can find ourselves constantly feeling we are trapped in the ‘fight or flight’ response – our amygdala become permanently over-stimulated, even though we do not wish it to be and it is not in our survival interests that they are; indeed, being is such a state of permanent anxiety and fear imperils our survival (e.g we might smoke and drink more, or, in extreme circumstances, attempt suicide).

Vital Importance Of Understanding The Role Of The Body In Trauma Therapy

We have seen how the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma increases our risk of developing both serious psychological and physical problems as adults – e.g. see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

Probably the best known expert working in the field of understanding how the body and our experience of the crippling effects of severe trauma are inextricably linked is former Harvard Professor, Bessel van der Kolk.

Bessel van der Kolk stresses the crucial importance of treating the effects of severe trauma in a HOLISTIC manner ; in other words, therapeutic approaches for trauma need to not only focus on the physical brain (e.g. by treating the individual with psychoactive medications) and the mind (e.g. by providing cognitive therapy), but also by providing therapy for  the BODY (i.e. somatic interventions).

Bessel van der Kolk, who has devoted the majority of his adult life to the study of the effects of trauma and ways of treating it, contends that what lies at the heart of trauma-related conditions (e.g. PTSD and complex PTSD) is a THWARTED ‘FIGHT OR FLIGHT’ RESPONSE.

What Is Meant By A Thwarted ‘Fight Or Flight’ Response’?

When the fight/flight response is activated as a result of threat, a massive surge of extra energy is stimulated in the body. However, when this response is thwarted, and, therefore, is unable to run its course, and is left incomplete, the extra energy that has been generated is not ‘burned off’ and remains ‘trapped’ in the nervous system.

Therefore, although the threat has passed, the extra energy that remains locked in the nervous system, in latent form, even though no real threat continues to exist.

What Is The Effect Upon The Person Of This ‘Thwarted Fight/Flight’ Response And Of The Resultant, Trapped, Excess Energy?

There are two possible responses :

  1. HYPERVIGILANCE / EXTREME REACTIVITY / HYPERAROUSAL
  2. DISSOCIATION / CHRONIC FREEZE RESPONSE

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

HYPERVIGILANCE / EXTREME REACTIVITY / HYPERAROUSAL :

This trapped, excess energy can make the nervous system highly volatile and reactive, as well as cause the individual to experience chronic feelings of intense anxiety, hypervigilance, and a sense of mental and physical pressure to discharge it in response to the slightest of provocations.

S/he, therefore , may become prone to  over-react, greatly, to perceived threats (even though, objectively speaking, these so-called ‘threats’ pose no danger and would not alarm, or create much anxiety in, an ‘ordinary’ person), such as by becoming extremely angry / aggressive or intensely afraid (causing ‘flight’ type behavior).

In other words, the trapped energy is liable to ‘leak out’ at the smallest opportunity, triggering inappropriate, maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviors.

DISSOCIATION / CHRONIC FREEZE RESPONSE :

However, if the individual cannot dispel the trapped energy effectively through ‘fight/flight responses (e.g. such a situation may be true of an abused child who lives in a household in which s/he is helpless and can neither ‘fight back’ nor run away and escape the threatening environment), s/he may enter a dissociative / chronic freeze state.

WHAT KIND OF THERAPIES MAY EFFECTIVELY HELP TO ADDRESS THESE PHYSIOLOGICALLY-BASED PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH TRAUMA?

A traumatized  individual may cycle between periods of hypervigilance and dissociation (as described above) and may seek to ameliorate his/her condition, and to gain a sense of temporary release, by indulging in dangerous and risky activities (e.g. reckless driving), thus stimulating adrenaline and cortisol production and ‘burning off’ some of the trapped energy or by attempting to blot out his/her pain through the use of alcohol and/or drugs. This, of course, is not a good, long-term strategy.

Bessel van der Kolk asserts that it is imperative that the traumatized individual escapes such a cycle by being helped to live more fully in the present and in the ‘here and now’ and to understand, on a deep level, that the danger which traumatized him/her is now over and that s/he is now safe.

Unfortunately, whilst the body fails to release its trapped energy, keeping the person highly susceptible to his/her far too easily triggered,  fight/flight, trauma-related responses (i.e. hypervigilance and dissociation), this is not possible, Bessel van der Kolk contends.

In connection with his theories, Bessel van der Kolk emphasizes the importance of treating the effects of trauma holistically (i.e. treating the mind, brain and body – see above). Therapies he recommends include :

EXCESSIVE AND CHRONIC TENSION IN THE PSOAS (‘Fight or Flight’) MUSCLE :

A main location in the body where muscular tension accumulates is called the PSOAS muscle (sometimes also referred to as the ‘fight or flightmuscle ; it connects the lumber spine to the legs.

It is sometimes called the fight/flight muscle because when we feel threatened, anxious or fearful, or in response to significant loss, it becomes energized in preparation to assist us with the actions of running away or fighting.

And, if, during childhood, we have frequently been in the fight/flight state this muscle may have become perpetually tensed up to the extent we have habituated to this feeling of tension to such a degree that we no longer register it as abnormal; notwithstanding this, it is an indication that we are still being adversely affected by painful emotions linked to our traumatic childhood (if only on an unconscious level).

TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES  (TRE) :

Neurogenic Tremors : Why Shaking With Fear Is Good For Us

One very important finding in relation to this is that traumatic experiences can lead to chronic excess tension in the skeletal muscles. And, because the body and the mind are so intimately connected, this, in turn, can make us hypersensitive to stress to such a degree that we may find even very minor stressors create in us feelings of overwhelming anxiety.

Indeed, as the role of the body in how traumatic experiences affect us (especially if we are suffering from PTSD) becomes better understood there is a concomitant increase in interest in supplementing psychological therapies to treat responses to trauma with somatic (physical) therapies.

Neurogenic Tremors :

Tremors are a natural, automatic / instinctual response to anxiety, fear, panic attacks, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any shock to the nervous system. This response has evolved because, when the nervous system becomes out of balance, it helps to return the body and emotions back into a state of equilibrium; it achieves this by reducing our level of arousal and shutting down the ‘fight or flight’response.

Furthermore, tremors are a way of dissipating the excess energy residing in the body that accumulated during the state of high arousal. In this way, tremors can help us escape from the unpleasant symptoms (both physical and mental) that may have arisen due to trauma.

In technical terms, tremors help to reduce over-activity in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis ( a complex neuroendocrine system whose functions include regulating our response to stress, our emotions and bodily, energy storage and release) and are called neurogenic tremors. 

Applications To Therapy :

Levine :

Tremors (or shaking or trembling) help to deactivate and calm the nervous system. Such deactivation signals to the brain that danger and threat has passed ; this, in turn, allows us to relax again : our muscles are able to release the excess of energy they have stored up whilst in fight / flight mode which, in turn, permits chronic tension patterns that have developed in the body to be eradicated.

People who have suffered trauma and have developed PTSD have often been ‘locked into’ the fight/flight response for a protracted period of time and have suppressed their feelings of anxiety (often with the ‘help’ of alcohol or drugs) because they believe, on a conscious or unconscious level, that showing and expressing one’s feelings ‘a sign of weakness.’

And, because of this erroneous belief, such individuals tend to be averse to physical displays of distress (such as trembling and crying). The price to be paid for such suppression is that the excess energy stored in the body becomes trapped, ensuring that the person habitually remains in an uncomfortable state of bodily tension and associated mental distress.

Based on the ideas presented above, Dr Peter Levine, a leading expert on the effects of trauma, has developed a therapy that he has called somatic experiencing which helps the client to release the pernicious, pent-up energy that was generated by their traumatic experience and, thus, alleviate their physical and mental suffering incurred.

Bercelli,

Bercelli, PhD, devised six trauma release exercises designed to alleviate stored muscular tension. The idea is that the tension is released by a ‘muscular shaking process’ known as ‘neurogenic tremors’ and its purpose is rid us of our deep-seated, chronic, early life trauma-related bodily tension. For more about trauma release exercises, you may wish to visit this link (click here).

RESOURCES :

RELATED BOOK (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) by Bessel van der Kolk :

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

‘Amygdala Hijack’ And BPD

amygdala hijack

One of the main, and most problematic, symptoms that those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) suffer from is the experiencing of disproportionately intense emotional responses when under stress and an inability to control them or efficiently recover and calm down once such tempestuous emotions have been aroused. This very serious symptom of BPD is also often referred to as emotional dysregulation.

The main theory as to why such problems managing emotions occur is that damage has been done to the development of the brain region known as the amygdala in early life due to chronic trauma and, consequently, this area of the brain having been overloaded and overwhelmed by emotions such as fear and anxiety during early development causing a longterm malfunction which can extend well into adulthood or even endure for the BPD sufferer’s entire lifespan (in the absence of effective therapy).

The damage done to the development of the amygdala means that, as adults, when under stress, BPD sufferers are frequently likely to experience what is sometimes referred to as an emotional highjack or, as in the title of this article, an amygdala hijack.

What Is ‘Amygdala Hijack’ And How Does It Prevent Emotional Calm?

When external stimuli are sufficiently stressful, the amygdala ‘shuts down’ the prefrontal cortex (the prefrontal cortex is responsible planning, decision making and intellectual abilities).

In this way, when a certain threshold of stress is passed (and this threshold in far lower in BPD sufferers than the average person’s) the amygdala (responsible for generating emotions, particularly negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and aggression) essentially ‘takes over’ and ‘overrides’ the prefrontal cortex.

amygdala hijack

Above : under sufficient stress the prefrontal cortex (the seat of rational thought) is shut down, leaving the amygdala (the seat of intense, negative emotions like anxiety, fear and aggression) to ‘run riot.’

As such, the prefrontal cortex ‘goes offline’ leaving the BPD sufferer flooded with negative emotional responses and unable to reason, by logic or rational thought processes, his/her way out of them.

When the amygdala is ‘highjacked’ in this way, there are three main signs. These are :

1) An intense emotional reaction to the event (or external stimuli)

2) The onset of this intense emotional reaction is sudden

3) It is not until the BPD sufferer has calmed down and the prefrontal cortex comes ‘back online’  (which takes far longer for him/her than it would for the average person) that s/he realizes his/her response (whilst under ‘amygdala highjacking’) was inappropriate, often giving rise to feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, remorse and regret.

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

 

 

 

 

Effects Of Trauma Should Be Addressed Rather Than Its Events

treating-effects-trauma

addressing effects of trauma

According to J Fisher, PhD, Assistant Educational Director of The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and author of the book Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors, it is of greater importance to address the effects of a person’s traumatic past rather than its specific events. Why should this be?

Sigmund Freud, often referred to as the ‘father of psychoanalysis’, originally treated his patients by helping them to remember, and piece together, their childhood traumatic experiences, the memory of which had been largely repressed.

Effects Of Trauma Should Be Addressed Rather Than Its Events 4

The idea was that by talking about what had happened to them during childhood, and bringing their traumatic memories into conscious awareness, they would be able to develop a coherent narrative relating to their adverse experiences which would, in turn, alleviate their psychological distress and the symptoms pertaining to their early life trauma.

This kind of therapy is usually referred to as talk therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

Above : Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

However, various researchers (e.g. Herman, 1992) have highlighted the fact that many therapists who have adopted this approach to treating their traumatized patients / clients have found that these same patients / clients are made worse rather than better by this ‘talking cure’ strategy.

Specifically, it had been found that patients / clients, when treated in such a way, can become flooded and overwhelmed by the myriad implicit memories this form of therapy is prone, inadvertently, to trigger. To read my article about trauma and implicit (also referred to as non-declarative) memories, click here.

In her book, Fisher takes the view that, rather than bringing into conscious awareness the ‘full narrative’ of our childhood trauma and replaying it in its raw form until we can ‘face-up’ to it, it is more important to learn how to deal with the effects /symptoms of the trauma, such as learning to feel safe,  secure and relaxed in the here and now and to ameliorate present feelings of fear and panic.

Fisher recommends the following cutting-edge therapies for addressing the effects of trauma : mindfulness a based therapies, internal family systems therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy.

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

Childhood Trauma May Accelerate Ageing Process And Reduce Life Expectancy

 

accelerated aging and childhood trauma

Research conducted by Puterman (University of Columbia, Canada), a specialist in stress and ageing, suggests that those of us who suffered significant trauma and consequential chronic feelings of stress as children may :

a) be more prone to disease and illness as adults

b) live shorter than average lives

 

Why Might This Be?

According to Puterman, this may be due to the adverse effects the stress of our childhoods had on our body’s cells.

More specifically, Puterman suggests that early, protracted exposure to stress may shorten our telomeres (telomeres are located on the end of our chromosomes).

Childhood Trauma May Accelerate Ageing Process And Reduce Life Expectancy 5

Above : Telomeres under the microscope.

 

Childhood Trauma May Accelerate Ageing Process And Reduce Life Expectancy 6

Above : Childhood trauma may prematurely age telomeres.

 

Why Do Shortened Telomeres Matter?

Telomeres serve to protect our chromosomes and, if shortened by early life stress, do not perform their task so effectively ; this may lead to the cells in our body ageing and dying prematurely, Puterman suggests.

Puterman is careful to point out, however,  that experiencing stressful events in childhood does not necessarily cause the shortening of telomeres in any simple, direct way, but, rather, the greater the number of traumas we suffer, the greater their duration and the greater their intensity, the higher our risk is that our telomeres will incur damage.

Puterman’s research findings also suggested (based on the study of 4,600 individuals) that social and psychological stressful events that occur during childhood have a more damaging effect on telomeres than do stressors relating to the particular family’s financial situation.

 

Other Ways Childhood Trauma Adversely Impacts Upon Our Physical Health :

We know, too, that those who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more likely than average to :

 

All of the above, of course, may significantly undermine our physical health, and, even, ultimately, lead to terminal disease and illness.

 

RELATED POST :

TO READ MY POST ENTITLED : ‘How Childhood Trauma Can Reduce Our Life Expectancy BY 19 Years‘, CLICK HERE.

 

eBook :

Childhood Trauma May Accelerate Ageing Process And Reduce Life Expectancy 7

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download (other titles available). Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 8

Major symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD)click here to read about the difference between these two conditions – are fear, anxiety and even terror induced by :

– situations related to the traumatic experience

– people related to the traumatic experience

– places related to the traumatic experience

– activities related to the traumatic experience

Prolonged Exposure Therapy Involves Two Specific Types Of Exposure To Trauma-Related Phenomena :

a) In Vivo Exposure

b) Imaginal Exposure

In Vivo Exposure :

Prolonged exposure therapy works by encouraging the individual with PTSD / cPTSD, in a supportive manner, very gradually, to confront these situations / people / places / activities whilst, at the same time, feeling safe, secure and calm. Because this part of the therapy involves exposure to ‘real life’ situations / people / places / activities it is called in vivo exposure.

This is so important because avoiding these situations / people / places / activities, whilst reducing the individual’s anxiety in the short-term, in the longer-term simply perpetuates, and, potentially, intensifies, his/her fear of these things.

Imaginal Exposure:

The therapy also involves the PTSD / cPTSD sufferer talking over details and memories of the traumatic experience in a safe environment and whilst in a relaxed frame of mind (the therapist can help to induce a relaxed frame of mind by teaching the patient/client breathing exercises and/or physical relaxation techniques; hypnosis can also be used to help induce a state of relaxation). Because this part of the therapy ‘only’ involves mental exposure to the trauma (i.e. thinking about it in one’s mind), it is called imaginal exposure and can help alleviate intense emotions connected to the original trauma (e.g. fear and anger).

Both in vivo and imaginal exposure to the trauma-related stimuli are forms of desensitizing and habituating the patient / client to them, thus reducing his/her symptoms of PTSD / cPTSD.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 9

How Effective Is Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and research into the treatment of PTSD suggests it is the most effective treatment currently available.

What Is The Duration Of The Treatment?

The length of time a patient / client spends in treatment varies in accordance with his/her needs and his/her therapist’s particular approach. However, the usual duration of the treatment is between two and four months, comprising weekly sessions of approximately ninety minutes each.

On top of this, the patient / client will need to undertake some therapeutic exercises/activities in his/her own time, set by the therapist as ‘ homework assignments’. These assignments will include listening to recordings of imaginal exposure therapy sessions.

RESOURCES :

The National Center For PTSD has developed a PROLONGED EXPOSURE APP, or PE APP. Click here for further information and download instructions.

eBook :

 

Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 10

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Other titles available. Click here for further information.
 

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

 

 

 

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