The infographic below illustrates different types of child abuse together with some of the effects of such abuse :
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
At the heart of research into the effects of childhood trauma is the study of how ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACEs) impact on mental health. As would be expected, the more ACEs, and the more serious they are, the greater the damage is to the individual’s psychological well-being and the more likely that same individual will experience problems related to the trauma in adult life, such as depression, anxiety, poor anger management, poor emotional control and so on.
But what exactly counts
When childhood trauma remains unresolved (ie. it has not yet been worked through and processed with the help of psychotherapy), alcoholism may result (together, frequently, with aggressive behaviour).
Indeed, it has been suggested that unresolved traumatic events are actually the MAIN CAUSE of alcoholism in later life. The trauma may have its roots in:
– the child having been rejected by the parent/s
– too much responsibility having been placed upon the child
As would be expected,
It is possible that even just one, short-lived, traumatic event experienced in childhood, particularly in very early childhood, can prove so overwhelming that it leads to intense emotional suffering. Much research has been conducted upon this, and, to use just one example, a study by Pincus has demonstrated that just about all violent adult criminals have, as children, undergone extreme psychological trauma leading to such intense emotional suffering which has a dramatic impact on their
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
Many research studies (eg Arnold, 1995) have demonstrated a link between having been abused as a child and self-harm. In one study,84% of individuals who self-harmed reported that childhood trauma had contributed to their condition.
The following are examples:
-compulsive skin picking
-interfering with wound healing
-swallowing foreign objects
-pulling off nails
Whilst it sounds counter-intuitive, self-harm is fundamentally
The following statistics relate to the UK. However, it should be pointed out that childhood trauma and abuse tends to be under-reported and under-recorded so the figures presented should only be taken as a guide. The statistics were gained by interviews with a large sample of young adults.
– a quarter of young adults were severely maltreated in childhood
– at present, there are approx. 50,000 children officially deemed to be at risk.
-approx. 15% of young adults have been severely
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
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.
So: brain chemistry can be affected by environmental
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
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
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.
CBT is widely used by therapists to treat survivors of
In my last post I mentioned it might be useful to look at some coping mechanisms one may wish to make use of in the recovery stage from childhood trauma and it is to some of these that I now turn.
There are two main types of coping mechanisms:
1) Those which are helpful in the short-term, but unhealthy in the long-term.
2) Those which are useful in the long-term (but can take more effort and discipline).
Examples of the first include: drinking
When we are children, if someone treats us badly, we attempt to understand why. But in trying to understand, the child’s logic is very often flawed and s/he falsely deduces s/he is to blame for it. The child’s flawed logic may flow similarly to this:
‘Someone is hurting me…punishment only happens to bad children…that means I must be bad…therefore I am to blame for this happening…it is my own fault, there’s something wrong with me.’ THIS
DEVELOPMENT OF BELIEF SYSTEMS IN CHILDHOOD:
We develop our most fundamental belief systems in childhood. If a child is brought up with love, affection and security s/he tends to build up positive beliefs. For example:
– people should not treat me badly
– I am a decent and likeable person
– I have rights
– I deserve respect
However, negative belief systems often develop in children who have been abused. For example:
– people cannot be trusted
– I am vulnerable