Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Infanticide And Mental Illness

infanticide

What Is Infanticide?

At the severest end of the spectrum of childhood maltreatment lies the extremely rare and tragic act of infanticide which is defined as the killing of the child in his or her first year of life. The main focus of this article will be to examine parental infanticide (i.e. cases in which the infant is killed by a parent) together with how mental illness is frequently associated with this deeply disturbing phenomenon.

How Common Is Infanticide?

Infanticide is extremely rare. In the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 350 to 700 acts of infanticide are committed each year which is the equivalent of between about one and two cases per day on average.

Five Categories Of Perpetrators Of Infanticide :

According to the researchers Meyer and Oberman, there exist five main categories of women who commit infanticide (the sample they used for their study was made up of females from the U.S.). These five categories are as follows : 1) Those who kill their baby during the twenty-four hours immediately following birth (this is technically known as neonaticide). The researchers also suggested that the females in this category can be further divided into two, more specific, sub-categories :
  • those who have kept their pregnancy a secret and do not want it discovered that they had ever had a baby.
  • those who are severely afflicted by the psychological states of denial, dissociation and depersonalization

2) Women who kill their infant, aided and abetted by a physically abusive partner.

3) Women who kill their infant indirectly through gross neglect.

4) Women who have lost control of ‘disciplining’ their infant to such an extreme degree that this has actually resulted in his/her death (e.g. angry and violent shaking of the infant in a fit of frustration and rage).

5) Deliberate infanticide which may be linked to severe mental illness in the mother such as :

  • postpartum depression
  • postpartum psychosis
  • schizophrenia (especially in cases in which the individual has discontinued their medication against medical advise).

N.B. However, it is worth reiterating

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Is Mental Illness Caused By Trauma?

Is Mental Illness Caused By Trauma?

Does Childhood Trauma Cause Mental Illness?

There exists a clear link between the experience of childhood trauma and the development of mental illness in later life ; in other words, the greater the experience of trauma during childhood, the more likely one will suffer from psychological difficulties in the future.

However, if we ask : ‘Is mental illness caused by trauma during childhood?‘ this is too complex a question to receive a simple answer. Whether or not it does so will depend upon numerous factors, the main ones of which are as follows :

  • the type of trauma (e.g. physical, sexual and emotional abuse)

  • the severity of the traumatic experience

  • whether the traumatic experience was a single event or was frequent / chronically ongoing (in general, chronically ongoing trauma is likely to damage psychologically the child more than ‘single event’ trauma)

  • the age / developmental stage of the child at the time of the traumatic event/s (in general, the younger the child at the time the trauma takes place, the more severe the adverse effects of the trauma on the child’s mental health are likely to be)

  • whether or not the harm inflicted upon the child was deliberatethe relationship to the child of the perpetrator of the harmful event/s (if the perpetrator is related to the child – e.g. one of the child’s parents – the more severe the psychological harm inflicted upon the child is likely to be),

  • the level of the child’s resilience

  • the level of psychological support the child receives to help him/her cope with / process the traumatic event/s

  • biological / genetic factors

  • societal / cultural factors

  • the child’s perception and interpretation of the potentially traumatic events

In conclusion, then, we can say that the degree to which an individual is adversely affected by traumatic childhood experiences will depend upon numerous, complex and interacting factors.

RIEF SELECTION OF RELATED ARTICLES (however, there are over 800 other free articles on this site related to childhood trauma in total):

Factors That Put The Child’s Mental Health At Risk

Six Vital Factors That Make Children More Resilient To Trauma

Twelve Examples Of Traumatic Childhood Experiences

Effects Of Severe And Long Lasting (Chronic) Childhood Trauma

The Adverse Childhood

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Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

Childhood Trauma And Self-Harm :

Three key elements to reducing our risk of harming ourselves are:

1) distracting our thoughts away from self-harm
2) reducing the intensity of our emotional arousal to levels which we are able to manage
3) dealing with internal critical ‘voices’ (ie thought processes).

However, as self-harming is often deeply ingrained, we cannot expect instantaneous results. It needs working at.

Let’s look at each of the 3 elements in turn:

1) DISTRACTION: these can be very simple things such

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Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

personal experience of ect

Childhood trauma can lead us to become severely clinically depressed as adults, and this happened to me. Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is only used as a last resort on people who are at high risk of suicide and/or are unable to function in even the most basic areas of life.

ECT is, in fact, misunderstood by the vast majority of people – many see it as barbaric and frightening. Such views, in large part, derive from the popular media (eg from films such as ‘One Flew Over the

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My Own Story : A Brief Overview.

childhood trauma story

My own childhood was highly chaotic and traumatic.

I started to suffer severe emotional problems very early on (for example, when I was 8 the teachers at the prep school I was at thought I had gone deaf, so I was taken to see my GP. It transpired, however, that there was nothing at all wrong with my ears, rather, the problem was psychological in origin: I had been ‘retreating into my own inner world’). Psychiatrists term this ‘dissociation’, which is a topic I refer

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Repression Of Traumatic Childhood Memories.

repression

Repression Of Traumatic Childhood Memories

Most of us are familiar with the idea that people who have experienced severe traumas sometimes REPRESS the memory of them (ie. bury them deep in the unconscious where they cannot be consciously recalled). This process is known as REPRESSION.

This is thought to be an automatic process (ie. not under conscious control) which operates as a defense mechanism (when people deliberately try to push disturbing thoughts/memories out of conscious awareness, the process is known as suppression).

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The Effect of Childhood Trauma on Genes and Susceptibility to Depression.

genes and depressin

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS ON DNA :

Recent studies have shown that childhood trauma can actually change the structure of DNA in the person who has suffered it and consequently alter how these genes work (it has been known for some time that how genes express themselves is influenced by their interaction with the environment).

Animal studies support this finding: in rats it has been shown that QUALITY OF MATERNAL CARE HAS A LARGE EFFECT ON GENES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STRESS RESPONSE IN OFFSPRING:

POOR MATERNAL CARE = ADVERSE EFFECT

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Serotonin And Childhood Trauma

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

As we have seen from other articles that I have previously published on this site, neurological problems resulting from childhood trauma can be reversed, and it is to the research into this exciting and fast developing area of study that I now turn.

Studies have shown that because SEROTONIN (a chemical, also known as a neurotransmitter, in the brain) can become depleted by childhood trauma, ANTI-DEPRESSANTS (e.g. Setraline) which increase the availability of serotonin in the brain can help to REVERSE the harmful effects of childhood trauma on it.

However, the beneficial effects of anti-depressant treatment is greatly increased if, in addition, the childhood trauma survivor’s ENVIRONMENT is also significantly improved, providing as many positive experiences as possible. Indeed, positive experiences can BENEFICIALLY AFFECT BRAIN CHEMISTRY (e.g. by increasing the availability of serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain), just as anti-depressants can.

serotonin

So: brain chemistry can be affected by environmental

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Challenging Our Negative Thoughts.

challenge negative thoughts

Challenging Negative Thoughts :

This article examines how we can use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge our negative thoughts.

When we have negative thoughts, it is important to ask ourselves:

‘What is the evidence to support this negative thought/belief?’ OFTEN, WILL WILL FIND THERE IS VERY LITTLE OR AT LEAST NOT THE COMPELLING EVIDENCE WE’D ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED.

It is important for us to get into the habit of challenging negative thoughts in this way because very often the negative thoughts come to

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Childhood Trauma.

WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY AND HOW CAN IT AID RECOVERY FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA ?

Put simply, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works on the basic observation that:

1) how we think about things and interpret events affects how we feel

2) how we behave affects how we feel

therefore:

3) by changing how we think about things, interpret events and behave will CHANGE HOW WE FEEL.

I have over-simplified here but those are the essential three points and my aim in this blog is not to present information in an over-complex way.

RESEARCH :

CBT is widely used by therapists to treat survivors of

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Overcoming Relationship Difficulties Caused by Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma and relationship difficulties

We have already seen that as survivors of childhood trauma we often find it very difficult to trust others. We may avoid close relationships in order to avoid the possibility of being hurt.

Whilst this can allow us to feel safe from harm, it can also lead to extreme loneliness.

Research shows that without good social support the childhood trauma survivor is much more likely to suffer emotional problems. Having just

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