A new and profoundly important paradigm for understanding overwhelming emotional pain has emerged over the last few years, with the potential to change the way we conceptualize human suffering across the whole spectrum of mental health difficulties. It is an evidence-based synthesis of findings from trauma studies, attachment theory and neuroscience, which offers new hope for recovery. It also presents a powerful challenge to the biomedical model of psychiatry in that it is based on scientific evidence that substantiates and attests to what many individuals with first-hand experience of mental health problems have always known — that the bad things that happen to you can drive you mad.
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study revolutionizes the way we think about the body and mind.
The ACE Study settles the question of whether we are shaped by genetics or the environment: we are shaped by both. Nature Versus Nurture: Where We Are in 2017
The ACE study proves that child abuse causes enduring neurological damage that can affect a person’s health and quality of life throughout the lifespan.
The body of a frightened child floods with hormones and prepares to fight, run, or die.
In less than an instant, the amygdala sends an alarm to the hippocampus, which tells the adrenal glands to release adrenaline.
Adrenaline increases heart rate and breathing, oxygen goes to the muscles and brain, which increases hearing and sharpens eyesight.
Adrenaline wears off and cortisol takes over; cortisol is a longer acting stress hormone designed keep the body alert.
If a child fears for his life, he may freeze and go numb.
For a prey animal in the wild, numbing is a blessing.
For abuse survivors, it means gaps in memory
During the fight, flight or freeze response the brain inhibits the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for retrieving memories.
The memory is there but the brain can’t retrieve it.
A chronically abused child lives in fear which damages the structure and
functioning of a the brain. Harvard University
The toll of chronic fear on physical health includes:
- Immune system dysfunction
- Endocrine system dysfunction
- Autonomic nervous system alterations
- Sleep/wake cycle disruption
- Eating disorders
The toll of chronic fear on emotional health includes
- Difficulty forming attachments
- Learned helplessness
- Phobic anxiety
- Mood swings
- Obsessive-compulsive thoughts
- Dissociation from self
It takes nine months for the fetus to become a baby that can survive beyond
Between birth and the age of two, we have no words; for the first ten years of our lives, we are helplessly dependent on our parents and communities for our physical and psychological well being.
Child abuse is a betrayal of unconditional trust.
You don’t just ‘get over it’.
People with dissociative disorders report the highest occurrence of abuse and childhood neglect among all psychiatric disorders. This suggests dissociation is the ultimate reaction to significant trauma. Links between Trauma, PTSD, and Dissociative Disorders
A 2018 review found changes in the structure of the brain in people with DID. These changes are complex and include decreased limbic activity, increased frontal lobe activity, and changes in communication between these two regions.
One must accept what happened and make peace with it.
Acceptance means seeing what might have been and grieving the loss.
Acceptance means letting go of the idea that I brought it on myself, that I am shameful and not good enough, and it means not letting the dismissive arrogance I sometimes encounter gnaw at my soul.
Acceptance means holding abusers accountable for the messes they make.
Acceptance means believing the abuse will end.
I am not completely there.
How do I accept the evil of child abuse when the abuse never ends?
For now, broken but better is the best I can do.
Get Your ACE Score
(C)Rob Goldstein 2019
‘Child Abuse Lasts Forever” (C) Rob Goldstein 2019
All other graphics were found online and are used here for educational purposes.