I don’t know about you, but as I was reading through the symptoms for PTSD (in yesterday’s post), it struck me repeatedly how many of them describe many of the typical states associated with serious depression, anxiety, and even a couple of personality disorders.
Of course, this isn’t a surprise, because that’s exactly the theory that J. Douglas Bremner put forward (backed up with a huge amount of scientific studies and citations) in his book: Does stress damage the brain? Understanding trauma-related disorders from a mind-body perspective.
To sum it up, depression, anxiety, PTSD itself and some personality disorders including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) are all just reactions to extreme stress, both acute and chronic.
Childhood can also be very traumatic
When people have been through a ‘Twin Towers’ type of experience, or some other obviously traumatic event like war, physical assault, or being stuck down a pit for 2 weeks, then the PTSD component of their subsequent mental issues and problems are much easier to catch and define: they are CLEARLY having a reaction to a trauma.
But here’s where the ball has been dropped: when people experience chronically traumatic experiences in childhood which are not overtly dramatic, and often not even recognised by the person themselves as ‘abuse’, they can still develop a stress response to the trauma they experienced, across the range of PTSD symptoms defined above.
At the milder end of the range, they’ll develop depression and / or anxiety. At the other end of the range, and particularly if the abuse or neglect occurred in early childhood, they have a much greater risk of developing a full-blow personality disorder, like Borderline Personality Disorder, or DID.
"100% of patients with DID met criteria for PTSD"
Let me give you some stats to back up what I’m saying. In Bremner’s book, he cites research showing that: “100% of patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder met criteria for PTSD.”
And this, from the APA website: “Research such as that by Allan Schore and others indicates that there has been abuse and / or neglect in almost every case where this is the development of a borderline personality. In fact, 91 percent of people with BPD report having been abused, and 92 percent report a history of neglect.”
When it comes to depression and anxiety, it becomes harder to make the links with PTSD because often, the problems in the family home – and the trauma experienced by the child - were more subtle.
They weren’t hit, but they were ignored. The basic physical needs may have been met – and they may even have grown up in the lap of luxury – but their emotional needs were completely neglected. Often, their parents were too emotionally immature themselves to have the time or inclination to really interact with their child.
Whenever they had a big problem or challenge come up, they were left to deal with it by themselves; they were repeatedly blamed or criticized for not being ‘good enough; they were mocked, ridiculed and publicly shamed. The good they did was taken for granted, and the ‘bad’ they did was magnified and harped-on.
There’s much more to say about this (isn’t there always…) but this segues in with many of the things I’ve already written about the epidemic of narcissism that I’ve already written about in a few other places, notably HERE and HERE. (Check out the Mind section of the JEMI Knowledge Base for a whole bunch of articles on personality disorders.)
But for now, let’s sum it up like this:
If you have:
What trauma are you reacting to?
The key to overcoming these conditions is to first work out what underlying trauma you’re reacting to (and even with ‘acute’ trauma, the people who go on to develop PTSD and its associated issues had usually experienced some form of ‘chronic’ trauma in childhood. Not everyone who goes through an acute traumatic experience develops PTSD et al.)
Once you have that part figured out (and remember that the verbal abuse and childhood neglect that you experienced as a child may be so ‘normal’ to you that you still haven’t identified it as being the source of the problem…) then you can try a number of things to alleviate the physical symptoms.
You can also work backwards, ie, use the energy medicine and energy psychology techniques I’m going to share with you in the next post to start defusing your physiological responses to stress. But if the ‘trigger’ for the stress is still occurring – your elderly mum is still phoning you up and screaming abuse at you, you’re still experiencing rage fits from the boss, your sibling is still writing you the most horrible, soul-destroying, hyper-critical emails – then clearly, the success of these techniques will be limited.