This sample psychology essay explores how injuries suffered during childhood can have lasting repercussions that can require significant treatment. Childhood trauma is a primary cause of the development of personality disorders in teens and adults. This type of writing is suitable for essay assignments in a variety of hard or soft science courses or for publication.
Childhood trauma abstract
Childhood trauma is a major contributor to the development of personality disorders and mental illness later in life including:
- Dissociative identity disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Complex post-traumatic stress disorder
Articles by C. Spring, K. Lieb, and J. Herman will be used to provide definitions and study data linking DID, BPD, and complex PTSD respectively. It is clearly concluded that childhood trauma is a primary contributor to and predictor of psychological disorders later in life. Childhood trauma has been shown to affect the victim throughout his or her entire life. The development of serious psychological disorders has been linked to early life traumatic events.
In particular, borderline personality disorder (BPD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS) and dissociative identity disorder (DID) and the physiological malformations of the brain that are associated with those disorders are distinctly more common in those with traumatic childhoods. These disorders will be identified and evidence presented to demonstrate that childhood trauma is directly responsible for these deviations from typical development.
Origins of trauma in children
Early life trauma can come from any number of sources including:
- Emotional abuse
Circumscribed traumatic events like disasters or accidents are not as clearly linked to these kinds of prevailing psychological disorders, so the focus of this discussion will be on prolonged and repeated trauma (Herman, 1992, pg. 377.) In particular, abuse that disrupts the child-caregiver relationship is strongly tied to the development of complex PTSD, BPD, and DID. Each disorder is seen more often in certain kinds of abuse, but all are associated strongly with prolonged childhood trauma.
Complex PTSD in young survivors
Complex PTSD is one of the most common disorders to be seen in adults with early life trauma. This disorder differs from simple PTSD in veterans in that it manifests multiple forms of psychological disturbance. Rather than demonstrating one dominant symptom, sufferers of complex PTSD face multiple symptoms such as heightened distress and disruptions in their behavior, cognition, and relationships.
These symptoms do not always represent with consistent intensity but are often more persistent as a whole than is seen in sufferers of simple PTSD.Victims of complex PTSD also undergo profound personality shifts that demonstrate as a disconnect from their identity.
Victims of complex PTSD also undergo profound personality shifts that demonstrate as a disconnect from their identity. Finally, someone suffering from complex PTSD is likely to be vulnerable to further abuse and will often inflict it on him or herself as well as allowing it from others. This disorder develops specifically because of an inability to feel safe during the developmental years that results in an inability to feel calm as an adult.
The constant anxiety creates a hyperactive but deteriorated mental state. It also manifests with typical physiological indicators of stress including:
- Digestive distress
- General achiness
- Stiffness of joints
- Difficulty breathing
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Borderline personality disorder in childhood trauma victims
Borderline personality disorder is also a fairly common psychological disorder and one that is almost universally linked to prolonged early-life trauma. Psychologists understand the need for parental attachment and the impact it plays on childhood development. Children who are neglected and abused don’t build the necessary identity through parental care.
The indicators of BPD are dramatic and obvious. Those suffering from it tend to be significantly unstable in their interactions with other people as well as their behavior when alone. Impulse control and ability to discern moral decisions are significantly deteriorated in those with BPD and they are often destructive toward themselves and their relationships with others, if not outright violent.
Relationship burdens on children
Casual contact with a sufferer of BPD might be deceptive because many are able to appear stable, but the rapid and unpredictable mood and behavior shifts are common. Neglect and abuse, particularly sexual, are seen in almost all who are diagnosed with BPD. The lack of attachments during developmental years results in an inability to form or value attachments later in life.
While reduced hippocampal volume is a brain deformation associated with PTSD as well as BPD, BPD also presents with a reduced amygdala volume which is possibly the cause of the notably increased aggression and reduced emotional stability of those with BPD (Lieb et al., 2004, pgs. 453-455).
Dissociative identity disorder in abused children
A surprisingly common childhood personality development disorder that affects many with a history of childhood trauma is dissociative identity disorder. Like BPD, it affects roughly 2% of the population. This disorder is also associated with prolonged childhood trauma with particular emphasis laid on the interference with attachment forming skills. It is more difficult to correctly diagnose than PTSD or BPD because it lacks the physiological deformation that sets BPD apart and the personality changes can be subtle.
What makes it unique is the complete separation of the different behavioral states. While a person with PTSD or BPD might have dramatically different behavior from one moment to the next, they maintain the same identity and are aware of themselves throughout, even if their decision making paradigm changes. A person with DID will not be aware of their alternate identity’s choices and actions (Spring, 2011, pgs. 44-45).
Across the board, childhood trauma is a major contributor to serious psychological disorders. The damage was done to a child’s sense of security, contentment with his or herself, and ability to form relationships with others is profound and irreversible. In some cases, it is not even manageable. The effects of childhood trauma can manifest in several different ways, but whether it presents as PTSD, BPD, or DID, the physiological and psychological results of prolonged trauma can be traced back to early life harm and neglect. Though this issue may never be fully understood, it is a good candidate for continued study and ongoing research paper writing.
Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5(3), 377-391. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://184.108.40.206/NR/rdonlyres/D4D172A3-372C-4EC9-B27C-16CC2FF079C7/119065/49SCJE_EVI_00DBHOH_BILL9236_1_A15599_CooperLegalBa.pdf
Lieb, K., Zanarini, M. C., Schmahl, C., Linehan, M. M., & Bohus, M. (2004). Borderline personality disorder. The Lancet, 364, 453-461. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.tara4bpd.org/pdf/LancetReview.pdf
Spring, C. (2011). A guide to working with dissociative identity disorder. Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, x, 44-46. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.tasc-online.org.uk/pods-online/briefguidetoworkingwithdid.pdf