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
Childhood Trauma May Damage Development Of Certain Brain Structures, Including Prefrontal Cortex :
We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that severe and chronic psychological and emotional trauma in early life may adversely affect the physical development of various structures in the brain, including the prefrontal cortex. In individuals who have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) following childhood trauma, such impairment to the brain is thought to be particularly likely.
What Is The Prefrontal Cortex And What Is Its Function?
The prefrontal cortex is a brain region located in the front of the skull (see diagram below) and its main functions include :
- complex planning and decision making
- self-control in the context of social behavior
- setting and achieving goals
- impulse control
ABOVE : Position of frontal cortex in the brain
Evidence For Damage To The Prefrontal Cortex In Individuals Diagnosed With BPD:
MRI Studies : have shown that individuals with BPD have reduced volume in the brain’s frontal lobe and left orbitofrontal cortex (although further studies are required in order to ascertain if this link is causal).
fMRI Studies : have shown thatBPD sufferers experience abnormal
THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX :
First, I will describe the main functions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex ; they are as follows :
- modulates feelings of fear associated with threat (eg calms us down if a raised alarm turns out to be a false alarm)
- controls the intensity of our emotions (so we are neither inappropriately under-emotionally aroused nor inappropriately over-emotionally aroused)
- helps us to plan and control impulsive, ‘knee-jerk’ reactions
- helps us to become mentally attuned to others and to empathize with them
- provides us with a moral awareness and ethical framework
- provides us with insight into the workings of our own minds
- helps us behave rationally
- helps us to think logically
- helps us maintain a healthy balance between hyperarousal (too much arousal) and hypoarousal (too little arousal).
How Early Trauma Adversely Affects The Development Of The Prefrontal Cortex :
Even in emotionally and mentally ‘healthy’ individuals, the prefrontal cortex does not become fully developed until the age of about 25 years; this is a major reason why the behaviour of someone aged, say, eighteen, is often more erratic and ill-considered than that of a person aged, for example, twenty-six years. (It follows from this that a strong argument can be put forward
Hypnosis And The Amygdala :
We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that significant and protracted childhood trauma can lead to physical damage being done to the development of a brain region known as the amygala, locking it into a state of over-activity.
This damage can lead to severe psychological and behavioral problems in our adult live, such as:
– an inability to control our emotions
– easily triggered outbursts of aggression/rage
– severe, debilitating anxiety
We know that those who suffer significant childhood trauma are more likely to suffer from emotional dysregulation (i.e. problems controlling their emotions) in adulthood compared to those who had a relatively stable upbringing. This is especially true, of course, if they develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a result of their childhood experiences (BPD is strongly associated with childhood trauma and one of its main symptoms is emotional dysregulation.
It is theorized (and there is much evidence building up which supports the theory) that one main reason childhood trauma causes the person who suffered it to develop problems controlling his/her emotions in later life is that the experience of significant childhood trauma can lead to damage of the brain structure called the amygdala which is responsible for our emotional reactions to events. (It is also thought that the experience of childhood trauma can also damage other