About Adoptee Rage

Statistics Identify large populations of Adoptees in prisons, mental hospitals and committed suicide.
Fifty years of scientific studies on child adoption resulting in psychological harm to the child and
poor outcomes for a child's future.
Medical and psychological attempts to heal the broken bonds of adoption, promote reunions of biological parents and adult children. The other half of attempting to repair a severed Identity is counselling therapy to rebuild the self.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Trauma Continuum In Adopted Children


The Trauma Continuum In Adopted Children



The Trauma Continuum

Trauma can take many forms and occur at any life stage. The impact of trauma is especially pronounced in childhood. For children, even seemingly minor events -- such as schoolyard bullying or an encounter with an aggressive dog -- can have profound effects. Infancy and childhood are the most critical developmental periods; the human brain completes 75% of its total development within the first six years of life.
A child's earliest experiences, even those beyond conscious recall, play a crucial role in his or her behaviors, attitude development, relationships, and sense of self in later life. A stable childhood can provide some protection against the effects of trauma, but no one is completely immune. Cataclysmic events, such as riots, natural disasters, and war, can traumatize entire groups of people, regardless of their past experience or current resilience. Diagnosis of a life-threatening illness can traumatize even the most self-confident individual.
Trauma must always be considered in the context of each person's individual perception. What may be traumatic to one individual may not be traumatic to another; it is the subjective perception of "threat" that determines the intensity of each person's reaction. In the field of trauma therapy, traumatic events are classified as degrees on a continuum: "big-T" trauma, "little-t" trauma, and cumulative trauma (also called chronic unremitting stress).

Big-T trauma is generally associated with discrete, identifiable events and usually involves distinct memories that the individual can recall. A person who has suffered rape, severe childhood abuse, or a catastrophic illness or injury; unexpectedly lost a relative or friend; or witnessed violence or war has experienced big-T trauma. In the short term, these traumas generally exert the most debilitating physical and psychological effects.

Common negative beliefs associated with big-T trauma:

"I should have done something."
"I am powerless."
"I can't protect myself."
"I am in danger."
"I am weak."

Little-t trauma and cumulative trauma, in contrast, are associated with continual or recurring situations and have more global and lasting effects on the individual. Little-t trauma stems from situations that may seem insignificant or only mildly distressing, but which can lead to extreme reactions. These may include physically uncomfortable experiences like dog bites, dental procedures, or minor automobile accidents, or emotionally painful experiences such as criticism or verbal abuse, repeated failures at
school or work, intermittent childhood neglect or isolation, or being bullied or teased.

Common negative beliefs associated with little-t trauma:

"I am insignificant."
"I am a failure."
"I am unlovable."
"I can't trust anyone."
"I am broken."
"I don't deserve to be happy."

For young people, little-t traumas may also include "empathic failures" on the part of caregivers. Continual dismissal of a child's feelings -- for example, with words like "you aren't hurt" or "don't be sad" -- represents a caregiver's failure to empathize, or perceive and understand the child's emotional state. When this occurs, there is no "relational home" for the child's feelings, no sense of the safety or security required for the child to express emotions and learn to regulate them.
The effects of cumulative trauma result from recurring situations or experiences. The constant pressures that contribute to cumulative trauma make it extremely resistant to treatment; it cannot be easily alleviated or temporarily managed through common stress-reduction techniques. As with other trauma, pain inflicted over time can become "frozen" into physical symptoms. Cumulative trauma can lead to a state of apathy, hopelessness, and even rage. Examples of cumulative trauma include extended exposure to frightening or stressful situations, homophobia/heterosexism, racism, sexism, classism, poverty, and neglect.

Common negative beliefs associated with cumulative trauma:

"The world is unsafe."
"I need to protect myself at all times."
"Nothing will ever change."
"There is no point in trying."

Immediate Effects of Trauma

Humans have evolved highly effective conscious and unconscious response patterns to manage stressful or threatening situations. The brain and body make up a complex interdependent system. Every sensory experience triggers a chain of electrochemical reactions throughout the body: thoughts and impulses in the brain release molecules (neurotransmitters) that transmit information to organs, muscles, and nerves, and then back to the brain in a continuous cycle, stimulating reflexes and reactions, voluntary movements, and thoughts. Most of the affected body systems, known collectively as the "autonomic nervous system," are automatic and operate beyond conscious control.
The autonomic nervous system has two complimentary divisions: the sympathetic nervous system, which activates our nerves, organs, and muscles into a heightened state of arousal and regulates the "fight or flight" mechanism, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's calming mechanisms (as well as the "freeze" response) and is designed to shut down body systems or return the body to baseline arousal levels. These two systems regulate our emotional and physiological states: they become activated and prepare us to respond when we are confronted by a threat, and calm us after the danger has passed.
However, under the pressure of trauma or chronic stress, both of these systems can malfunction, becoming hyperactive and over-functioning (experienced as anxiety, panic, or dissociation from negative sensations) or frozen and unresponsive (resulting in constant activation). The parts of the brain associated with emotions (particularly the "fear" centers, such as the hypothalamus and amygdala) and the parts that stimulate our conscious responses to danger (such as the limbic system and the reticular activating system) cease to function properly. When this happens, the brain cannot differentiate between threats that are real and threats that are simply perceived.
These malfunctions produce a chronic, underlying state of "dysregulation" or imbalance in the body, which may result in over-arousal and hypervigilence (in which a person seems to overreact to every situation) or sluggishness and dissociation (in which a person seems numb and disconnected in stressful or dangerous situations). This dysregulation of the brain and body systems perpetuates mental, emotional, and physical distress.

Long-Term Effects of Unresolved Trauma

The brain is the central processing organ for all sensory information and the primary regulator of all mental and emotional functions. It is divided into two hemispheres that regulate different mental attributes. The right hemisphere (or "right brain") regulates non-verbal information, visual-spacial perception, autobiographical details, abstract thinking, creativity, and intuition. The right brain deals with procedural memory, which is long-term memory of skills and procedures, such as driving a car or tying a shoe. The right brain is the locus of the unconscious, where self-awareness begins. The left hemisphere (or "left brain") is associated with logical, linear, analytical thinking. It is the primary center for linguistic and verbal functions and declarative memory, which is the conscious recall of information and events.
An important feature of trauma is how traumatic experiences become encoded in the brain as memories and throughout the body as sensory information. Big-T trauma is usually associated with specific large-scale events that elicit strong "affective sensations" (sensations accompanied by a strong compulsion to respond, such as the reflex of withdrawing one's hand from a hot object) as well as powerful visual images, called "snapshot memories."
Being both sensory and visual, the memories of big-T traumas are stored in both hemispheres of the brain, but primarily in the right hemisphere. Conversely, "little-t" traumas are not discrete events or situations, but rather continual attitudes and sensations that a person experiences over time (such as ongoing criticism or neglect). Little-t traumas are primarily recorded in the right hemisphere as "memory imprints" (such as negative self-concepts, negative beliefs, or feelings of isolation).
In a simplistic sense, in order for any traumatic experience to be processed, it must be felt by the right brain, then analyzed, interpreted, and understood by the left brain. Otherwise, a traumatized person may relive an event over and over again without examining it and coming to terms with what it means.
Many trauma therapies (discussed later in this article under "Trauma Therapy") concentrate on activating the traumatic memory through visualization (a right-brain function), discussing the memory and making sense of it through logical analysis (a left-brain function), and then acknowledging the body sensations and reactions (such as muscle tension and elevated breathing and heart rate) associated with the memory of the event. As the right and left hemispheres of the brain work together to process the traumatic experience, the individual develops the capacity to tolerate the associated upsetting thoughts and feelings, while understanding on a deeper level the meaning he or she has given to the experience.
Unresolved trauma can manifest in many ways, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks, intrusive memories (flashbacks), obsessive-compulsive behaviors (such as triple-checking the front door lock or the stove burners), addictions, self-injury, and a variety of physical symptoms (see sidebars below and at right).
Individuals may also suffer from repetition compulsions, which are unconscious, habitual reenactments of elements of a past traumatic experience (if not repetitions of the precise trauma itself). Repetition compulsions are frequently seen in the area of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. For example, a survivor of childhood abuse may unwittingly select an abusive partner in adult life, and adults who grew up witnessing domestic violence may demonstrate the same abusive behaviors toward others that were modeled to them in the past.
Growing up in an unsupportive or unstable environment can create negative inner models and beliefs that have a destructive effect on future feelings and behavior. Childhood trauma often results in an impaired ability to feel emotions (affective blunting), reduced thinking and reasoning capacity (cognitive deficits), poor behavioral self-regulation, and diminished ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships.
Cumulative trauma or chronic stress can freeze a person into rigid response patterns that cannot be adapted to new situations. Untreated trauma survivors may be sensitive to flashbacks and prone to exaggerated emotional responses, and may have difficulty dealing effectively with new stressful situations. These individuals lack resilience and display exaggerated responses to even relatively benign events -- they habitually react to "level-two" threats with a "level-ten" response.

Go to the above link to read the next topic within the category of Trauma Continuum.