Healing From Childhood Trauma And Aces
If youve grown up with adverse childhood experiences, these experiences likely had a tremendous impact on you, but they dont have to define you.
There are many ways to make sense of your past and personal challenges and become empowered to create meaningful change in your life, including:
Relationship Ptsd: What Causes It
PTSD is an extreme anxiety disorder caused by experiencing a life-threatening event or situation. It’s characterized by intrusive memories, an avoidance of things that could remind a person of the trauma, moodiness, and hyperarousal, Aaron Tendler, MD, chief medical officer of Brainsway, a mental health tech company, tells Health. “These four clusters of symptoms persist over at least one month and impair patients’ ability to function normally in daily life,” he says.
An abusive relationship can lead to PTSD, Dr. Tendler says, because the traumatic events that took place during the relationship can cause the symptoms to stay present during the relationship, as well as long after the relationship has ended. “When these symptoms are present for a period of time, it can be diagnosed as PTSD,” Dr. Tendler explains.
What Is Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma is a term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to describe sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that happens while the victim is in the military. MST can happen to both men and women, but female service members are at higher risk of MST. MST can also lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder , and substance abuse. Studies show that 1 in 4 or 5 women in the military experiences MST.
MST can happen during war, peace, or training. It can happen between people of the same sex or different sexes. If youve experienced MST, you may feel fear, shame, anger, embarrassment, or guilt. You may have trouble trusting people. You may even have physical symptoms like headaches, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, or gynecological problems.
When youre actively serving, it can be difficult to report or talk about MST. The Department of Defense has two ways for you to report assault if you are on active duty:
- Restricted reporting lets you confidentially report the assault to someone and get medical treatment and counseling, but it wont trigger an actual investigation. This is intended to make it easier to report an assault and to give you time to heal mentally and physically. You can decide later if you want the military to begin a criminal investigation.
- Unrestricted reporting means that you will still receive medical treatment and counseling, but the assault will be reported through your chain of command. It will trigger an investigation.
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Childhood Trauma And The Risk Of Future Trauma
While traumatic events can happen to anyone, youre more likely to be traumatized by an event if youre already under a heavy stress load, have recently suffered a series of losses, or have been traumatized beforeespecially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood. Childhood trauma can result from anything that disrupts a childs sense of safety, including:
- An unstable or unsafe environment
- Domestic violence
Experiencing trauma in childhood can result in a severe and long-lasting effect. When childhood trauma is not resolved, a sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma. However, even if your trauma happened many years ago, there are steps you can take to overcome the pain, learn to trust and connect to others again, and regain your sense of emotional balance.
Additional File : Table S1
Mean CTQ total scores and subscales scores . Table S2. The Impact of Childhood Maltreatment on Revictimization: Bivariate and Multivariate Negative Binomial Regression Model . Table S3. Predicting PTSD Symptoms: Bivariate and Multivariate Negative Binomial Regression for the Prediction of PTSD Severity .
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What Are The Signs Of Ptsd
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. “They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares they may feel sadness, fear or anger and they may feel detached or estranged from other people,” Dr. Tendler says. Those with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.
Depression is a common co-occurring diagnosis in people with PTSD. In fact, researchers have found that people who have or have had a PTSD diagnosis are three to five times more likely to have a depressive disorder.
A Pattern Of Behavior Over Time
Emotional abuse is rarely a single event. Instead, it occurs over time as a pattern of behavior thats sustained & repetitive. This particular characteristic of emotional abuse helps explain why its so complicated and so dangerous.
Even if youre the most observant person in the world, emotional abuse can be so gradual that you dont realize whats happening until youre deeply entangled in its web. As a result, the abuse can go unchecked as the relationship progresses, building for months, years, even decades, especially if the abuse is more covert. In such instances, the targets self-esteem is steadily eroded and their self-doubt becomes so paralyzing that they often have only a vague sense that something is wrong.
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Specific Goals When Healing From Toxic Family Dynamics
The bouncing back process for Complex trauma is different from therapy for simple PTSD, general depression, or anxiety.
Because of the complicated issues around a personal sense of safety and stability, being exposed to traumatic materials before you are ready can lead to re-traumatization, and reinforce the cycle of hopelessness. Themes such as safety, mourning, and reconnection are some of the key themes specific to the process of bouncing back from toxic family dynamics. The following are some of the healing goals that are essential:
- Locating or developing an internal sense of safety
- Processing the impact of the toxic family dynamics and the emotions that follow without being overwhelmed.
- Building connection with self, the body, and emotions- through mindfulness and other mind-body techniques
- Expanding the window of tolerance for various emotions, so you are not constantly in either a state of hyper-arousal or under-arousal
- Finding ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed, without resorting to avoidance or compensatory behaviours
- Learning to experience connection with others as enriching rather than tiring or threatening
- Becoming aware of and finding ways to preserve your energetic boundaries
- Neurologically regulating the nervous system in order to cope with day-to-day stressors and triggers
- Lessening the impact of your internalized shame, and the voice of the inner critic.
Signs You Have Ptsd From Emotional Abuse
Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse?
Sometimes the lines may seem blurry for those who are in the middle of it allâ¦
But hereâs the truthâ¦
You can get PTSD from emotional abuse, domestic violence, and abusive relationships.
Many people who go through emotional abuse beat themselves up for feeling the way they feel.
Because the wounds are not visible.
You canât see the damage, but you sure as heck can feel it.
So today Iâm going to show you 5 signs that may mean you have PTSD from emotional abuse.
But first, letâs talk about how you can get PTSD from emotional abuseâ¦
What kinds of emotional abuse cause PTSD?
Hereâs a listâ¦
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Abuse Trauma And Mental Health
Abuse, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, can have long-term effects on your mental health. Trauma can affect how you feel about yourself and how you relate to others. Women who have gone through abuse or other trauma have a higher risk of developing a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder . Trauma and abuse are never your fault. You can get help to heal the physical, mental, and emotional scars of trauma and abuse.
What Treatments Are There
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence the organisation that produces guidelines on best practice in health care has not yet developed recommendations specifically for complex PTSD. They caution that the existing guidelines for PTSD weren’t developed for this kind of diagnosis.
You may find standard treatments for PTSD helpful, but many people with complex PTSD need more long-term, intensive support to recover. As part of your treatment you should also be offered support for other problems you experience, such as depression, drug and alcohol use or dissociation. The treatment you are offered may depend on what’s available in your local area.
See our treatment for PTSD page for more about the treatments available, which may be useful for complex PTSD. Or visit our page on self-care for PTSD for tips on how to look after yourself when you have complex PTSD.
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Toxic Family Dynamics And The Intense Highly Sensitive And Gifted
Being the parent of a sensitive and emotionally gifted child has its own rewards. However, parents need to be very mature and highly aware. Many do not have all that it takes. Most of the time, parents do not exploit or abuse their sensitive children on purpose their limited understanding or experience simply gets the best of them.
The families of emotionally intense children typically end up addressing the situation in one of two ways they allow themselves to love the child, however painstakingly, or they reject the child for his or her strangeness. In an experiment conducted by Andrew Solomon, involving interviews with over 400 families, it was observed that in the case of having atypical children, would-be good parents were extraordinary, going the extra mile if the need arose, and the would-be bad parents were downright abusive. He concluded that having an exceptional child exaggerates parental tendencies.
Complex trauma caused by a toxic family dynamic is detrimental because it is usually invisible. On the surface, we look just fine. We were provided with all the material things we needed clothing, food etc. But the way that we feel inside does not coincide with what our appearance portrays. There is sometimes pressure to keep up the illusion of a normal happy child from a normal happy family. Our parents and society tell us we are well, but the fact that we did not feel this way growing up makes us confused.
Sign 4 You Feel Emotionally Numb Lifeless Or Out Of Reality
The fourth sign that you might have PTSD from emotional abuse is if you feel emotionally numb, lifeless, or âout of reality.
Have you ever felt that feeling where you feel like youâre not even living your life?
Like youâre just observing your lifeâ¦maybe like a movie or a videogame?
This happens when your brain gets completely overloaded and it pretty much just shuts down.
You feel numb, lifeless, and reality doesnât seem real anymore.
What this is technically called is âdissociationâ.
This overwhelmed and overloaded feeling is an extremely common sign of PTSD.
Maybe you feel like this on a daily basis.
You might be exposed to abusive environments every single day that make you feel this overwhelmed feeling.
If you do, it not only means that youâre in an extremely toxic and dangerous environmentâ¦but that you need to get yourself out of there as soon as humanly possible.
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What Treatments Are Available
There are many different psychological treatments and types of psychotherapy for patients suffering from PTSD from emotional abuse. These treatments are proven to be effective in helping patients find ways to manage and cope with the effects of PTSD and its accompanying symptoms.
Some of the regularly used treatment options for individuals struggling with PTSD include:
Sign 3 You Have Uncontrollable Thoughts Nightmares Or Flashbacks About The Emotional Abuse
The third sign that you might have PTSD from emotional abuse is if youâre having uncontrollable thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks about the abuse youâve been through.
Are you constantly thinking about certain past abusive events that happened?
Re-living the screaming, yelling, or name calling?
This can happen in a few different ways.
You can simply just not be able to stop replaying the event in your mind, you just go over it again and again and againâ¦
And every time you think about it you feel more fear, anger, sadness, and guilt.
Or you could be reliving the abuse through flashbacks during the day, or night terrors at night.
If youâre experiencing any of these things then there is a high chance that you have PTSD from emotional abuse.
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How Trauma In Early Childhood Affects The Brain And Development
Early life experiences impact brain development and lay the foundation of a persons future, helping shape the makeup of their emotions, personality, and overall health and well-being.
When a child experiences a traumatic event or toxic stress defined as exposure to frequent/prolonged adversity the bodys stress response can disrupt brain development. This can lead to underdeveloped neural connections in the parts of the brain required for successful learning and appropriate behavior in school and the workplace.
When a childs brain experiences toxic stress, it releases a hormone that
MRI studies show that there is less gray matter in the prefrontal cortex in people who have experienced ACEs, which can explain why many individuals with ACEs may have difficulty regulating emotion, struggle with impulse control, and engage in potentially unsafe behaviors.
Early childhood trauma can increase a persons risk of stress-related disease throughout the course of their life. indicates that the risk of developing chronic illness is higher the more ACEs a person experiences.
Helplessness And Toxic Shame
Due to enduring ongoing or repeated abuse, the survivor can develop a sense of hopelessness that nothing will ever be OK. They can feel so profoundly damaged, they see no hope for anything to get better. When faced with long periods of abuse, it does feel like there is no hope of anything changing. And even when the abuse or trauma stops, the survivor can continue on having these deep core level beliefs of hopelessness. This is intensified by the terribly life-impacting symptoms of complex PTSD that keep the survivor stuck with the trauma, with little hope of this easing.
Toxic shame is a common issue survivors of complex trauma endure. Often the perpetrators of the abuse make the survivor feel they deserved it, or they were the reason for it. Often survivors are made to feel they dont deserve to be treated any better.
Sexual abuse can create a whole added layer of toxic shame, which requires very specific and compassionate therapy, if this is accessible. Often, sexual abuse survivors who are repeatedly enduring this heinous abuse can develop feelings of being dirty, damaged and disgusting when their bodies are violated in this way.
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How Can A Gp Help
- Build a trusting therapeutic relationship
- Dont push to talk about the details of trauma as this can re-traumatise the patient and leave the patient feeling vulnerable and destabilised
- Dont over-estimate the patients capacity to tolerate emotions and encourage them to engage in treatment to develop skills to manage their intense emotions
- Psycho-education regarding the effects of childhood trauma on the brain can help the patient understand why they feel such intense emotions
- Normalise and give hope
Provide them with practical techniques to build emotional stability. These can include:
- Understanding anger
Educate the patient on the neurobiology of trauma
It can be helpful to explain the neurobiology of trauma to patients to help them understand why they have such intense reactions to everyday experiences which dont affect others in the same way.
Tell them about the three complex sections of the brain
- The brainstem involved with instinctive responses, controlling bodily functions such as heart rate, and breathing
- The limbic system involved in non-verbal emotional experience, feelings and gut memories, and traumatic memory
- The neocortex involved with reasoning, problem-solving, verbal expression, and memory for events and facts
Refer them to a specialist for further treatment
What Causes Ptsd In A Child
A traumatic event that triggers PTSD may be:
Something that happened to the child
Something that happened to someone close to the child
Something the child saw
A child or teen may suffer from PTSD after one of these traumatic events:
Bad accidents, such as car or train wrecks
Invasive medical procedures, especially for children younger than age 6
Natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes
Manmade tragedies, such as bombings
Violent personal attacks, such as a mugging, rape, torture, or kidnapping
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Section : Dont Rush Yourself Healing Can Take Some Time
Be patient and empathetic with yourself as you heal. Remind yourself that its okay to feel confused, scared, tense, angry or any other emotions that come up.
These feelings are a normal part of the healing process and there is no rush to get past them. They are yours and its okay to sit with them and experience them. Having and experiencing painful feelings doesnt make you anything except courageous.
Any Abusive Behavior That Isnt Physical
Pretty broad, right? Emotional abuse is difficult to comprehend because it encompasses so much. Just take a look at the non-exhaustive list below of behaviors that are potentially emotionally abusive:
- Threatening harm
- Forced isolation
We specify potentially abusive behaviors because some of the behaviors on this list could occur in a healthy context as well. Lets take sarcasm and infantilizing speech, for example. Many people consider sarcasm a key component of a good sense of humor. Many people would also agree that using infantilizing speech as terms of endearment is harmless, for example referring to a significant other as baby. However, in the context of emotional abuse where the intent is malicious, these behaviors can be extremely cutting, especially when disguised as affection or an innocent remark. For example, someone who repeatedly tells his or her significant other My baby is so smart in a way thats meant to mock their partners intelligence using sarcasm as well as infantilizing speech to make them feel small is a form of emotional abuse.
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