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childhood trauma

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Health

Mental Health and Childhood Sexual Abuse – Don’t Carry the Secret

Recently I saw something on Facebook that was very sad.  It was a video of a 50 plus year old man named Scott – also called “Spider,” who told the story of his life through written cards, in a fashion similar to Ben Breedlove’s “This is my story” about his heart condition. In the video, this tough looking man, confessed the trauma of his own sexual abuse and the damage it had done to him over the years – drug abuse, divorce, culminating in an arrest for beating his child’s sexual predator with a bat.

The story was naturally sad but is all too common.  In fact, statistics shows that 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18 and worse for girls with 1 in 3.  The other sad fact is that many, many children who are sexually abused don’t tell anyone.  Either they are threatened or ashamed – or both.  They carry the secret for much of their lives.

Trauma, abuse, neglect – biology didn’t account for its infliction on children.  As children, our brains develop best in a loving,
supportive environment with plenty of nutritional food and quality exercise so that our bodies become the best they can be.  Childhood Trauma - Mental HhealthAround the world we see the damage that poor nutrition, neglect and physical abuse can do to children.  What is not so obvious is the damage wreaked by sexual abuse – it is a hidden traumaSexual abuse is hidden by the child, hidden from the adults, hidden from other children, and sometimes even hidden by the child’s memory.

Secrets are always dark.  Carrying secrets can ruin a relationship or ruin a career.  Carrying secrets imposes a burden of stress on your body – your heart doesn’t work as well, your adrenal system gets burned out, your sleep is affected.  Carrying a secret like that can change a child’s brain.

Studies have shown that abuse or childhood trauma actually causes physical changes to the developing brain.  It can make the child unable to grow to what they would have been.

So what does this have to do with mental health?

The effects of childhood trauma are hard to predict.  Mental health is hard to identify – particularly the cause.  In some cases, we can easily point to the parents and say “Mom and Grandma have clinical depression; it is no surprise that the daughter has depression.”  Schizophrenia has been shown to be driven by over 100 genes and a child with one schizophrenic person has a 13 percent chance of developing the disorder.  Some people are “born” alcoholics in that they are missing an enzyme that allows them to process alcohol properly and will nearly always become addicted if they drink.

In other cases – we can’t identify the cause.  You have some cases of mental disorders that develop in people with perfect childhoods.  You have people with horrible experiences who are remarkably healthy – rare, but true.  In many cases though, someone with a history of child abuse will develop some mental disorder – but the type is very hard to predict.

In “Spider’s” case, he became a drug addict, had an anger problem and felt that he had to prove he could “conquer” women (his own words), leading to the destruction of his family.  Likely he suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, and possibly Mental Health - Child AbusePost-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Telling the “secret”, not carrying the weight may, just may have kept him from his self-destructive behavior.  Unfortunately, it may not have stopped his daughter from being a victim, but it might have allowed him better tools than a bat to deal with her problem.

In severe cases, extreme trauma can actually cause the personality to “split,” in “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID), which was previously called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD).

(Photo-source: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/08/scott_spider_spideralamode_facebook_molest.php)

Sexual abuse has another problem – that children are often disbelieved which worsens the trauma.  Unlike physical abuse, unlike neglect, unlike starvation – there are no “obvious” signs.  There are signs, but you have to know what they are.  Children who have been sexually abused do exhibit signs:

•    changes in behavior or personality type – a normally outgoing child becomes withdrawn, a normally gregarious child becomes angry and sullen
•    bed wetting and nightmares (oddly the bed-wetting may be punished)
•    refusal to go to school, church, sports or club activities or to a certain friend’s house
•    sudden clinginess or a sudden desire to be left alone

Too often, adults don’t ask.  Too often, children don’t tell.  Sadly, sometimes adults won’t listen.  If you know of a child that has
sudden behavioral changes – ask.  If you are an adult, believe.  If you are a victim, tell.  Even at a late date, telling can change your life and resolve some of your “issues.” I think in the end, “Spider’s” main message was “tell your kids to tell.”

What does this have to do with mental health?

Sexual abuse can contribute to:

PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, Attachment Disorder… and many more.

History of Child Abuse – Free PDF

Melissa Lind

So What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

What is Borderline Personality DisorderWell, the official answer is “who the hell knows?”  However, there are a number of contributing factors.  Biology may be a part of it, but the big part seems to be childhood trauma. So, let me tell you about my childhood.

As a child, I was both sickly and smart, a combo that naturally lends itself to the receiving end of bullying.  And from kindergarten to 8th grade, it was a daily occurrence.  It took getting my growth spurt and shooting up to over six feet tall to stop that.  Of course, snapping and dragging a linebacker across the top of a chain-link fence was the real reason it stopped.  Whole lot of stiches involved when that happens.

“Don’t mess with Bruce!  He’s CRAZY!”

See kids?  Crazy can be a good label sometimes.

So did the bullying cause it?  Who knows?  But it certainly didn’t help.
Neither did “losing my virginity” at the age of nine, but that was a fairly short term thing and could’ve been chalked up to childhood experimentation, if it weren’t for the fact that I was nine and she was fifteen.  A lot of guys would just call that “lucky,” but I’m pretty sure the law calls it “sexual abuse.”

So did that cause it?  Who knows?  But it probably didn’t help, either.

Probably the most major culprit – and something people with Borderline Personality Disorder all seem to have in common – is childhood abandonment, or at least perceived abandonment.

We may have had a parent disappear from our lives at an early age.  We may have had a caregiver who was just never around.  I’m pretty sure that with me, it was because when I became “unmanageable” and rambunctious as a child, my mother would grow frustrated with me and say things like “I can’t handle you anymore!  I’m just gonna run away from home and never come back.”

She never did, of course, but at the age of five, I believed her.  And her getting in the car and starting it up without me (“If you don’t hurry up, I’m just gonna leave you here!  You’re making me late to work!”), well… that set the whole “run away from home” thing in concrete in my developing brain.

Now, is that what caused it?  Who knows? But it certainly didn’t help matters, and now any time any woman leaves me, regardless of whether we were right for each other or not, my initial reaction is one of abject terror.

Sigmund Freud - your momIf you’re reading this, Mom, I’m sorry.  I love you.  And I forgive you.  I knew and loved your mother, too.  You just passed it down the line.  You didn’t know any better.

But anyway… I’m not gonna pull a Sigmund Freud and say “blame it all on your mother,” because that may or may not be the case.  But something in your childhood probably set this off for you.

But in my next article, you’ll get some really shocking news.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

It turns out that I’m NOT bipolar – I have Borderline Personality Disorder

You Mean I’m NOT Bipolar?

It turns out that I’m NOT bipolar

Hello again, boys and girls!  I’m back, and I’ve got some news.  Take a look at the title of this article again and I’ll give you three guesses.

That’s right.  It turns out that I’m NOT bipolar.  Oh, don’t worry.  I’m still as crazy as I always was, and it’s the same kind of crazy, but different.
What do I mean by that?  Well, I still play on the old mood swing set – back and forth, back and forth – but it turns out that it’s not due to brain chemistry.  It’s just who I am.

Borderline Personality Disorder - Eternal ConflictYou want something to be depressed about?  Well, there you go.  Being told that my issues aren’t something that a couple of little pills each day can “fix,” being told that recovery is going to be a long, hard, and lonely road… well, that’s a much harder pill to swallow.

Thinking back, I can see why it was so easy to diagnose me with Bipolar Disorder.  I had the high highs and the low lows, but here’s the major difference: when I have a mood swing, there is ALWAYS a reason.  I’m never just sitting around, happy as a clam, then BOOM!  Here comes the despair.  It was always some event, or some lack of event, that set the old swing in motion.

If you’re bipolar, circumstances don’t always change the mood, though the mood can certainly change the circumstances.  Not for me.
Always a reason.  Sometimes, a legitimate one, but not always.  Sometimes, I make the reason.  If you’re Bipolar, the mood swings just happen.

That’s not the case with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Eww… just the sound of it is bad.  Personality disorder.  The words slip from the tongue like a big, fat slug.  It’s not chemistry.  It’s who I am.  There’s not a problem with my brain, but a problem with me as a person.  Talk about depressing.

But when you get right down to it, it’s all still faulty wiring.  It’s just that my wiring wasn’t messed up by God, it was messed up by other people.  It wasn’t messed up at birth, but shortly thereafter.

Well… the jury is still out on what causes Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
There may be a genetic component, but most likely, it’s caused by some childhood trauma.  And trust me, I’ve got plenty. We’ll talk about that next time.

Your brother in arms,

Bruce

Read more from Bruce Anderson here: How I Became the Freak in the Corner

(A page that tells his story from the beginning and has links to several of his articles)

More about BPD here: Borderline Videos”