Experiencing Trauma in our formative years can have detrimental consequences
Our childhood is a time of vulnerability – we rely on our parents or caregivers to help meet our physical and emotional needs. However, for those of us who experienced or witnessed domestic violence or abuse, our developmental growth and mental health can be impacted even into adulthood.
According to Alyssa Lalor, Program Director at South Pacific Private, trauma imprints in the areas of the brain devoted to survival. “Experiencing trauma, abuse and deprivation in our formative years, can have long-lasting consequences on us and our ability to have healthy relationships in our adult life,” she explains.
“The impact early childhood experiences, namely abuse, trauma and neglect in a less than nurturing environment (abandonment and enmeshment) can have on a person’s development have been well documented.” In fact, research shows that children who have adverse childhood experiences, including child abuse and family dysfunction, are more likely to experience frequent mental distress, compared to those who reported no adverse childhood experiences.
We may lose our capacity to detect unsafe or abusive behaviours and relationships as an adult, or we may find ourselves unintentionally re-enacting toxic relationships from the past (we could become verbally abusive towards a partner or find ourselves in a relationship with an abusive partner).
“As a child, making the best of the abusive situation was the only option and unfortunately for many of us this continues into our adult relationships,” explains Lalor.
“At South Pacific Private we see that a large proportion of adults who end up in toxic and or violent relationships have suffered abuse as a child, whether that was sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse and/or physical abuse.”
According to Dr Patrick Carnes and his work on trauma bonds, exploitative relationships create trauma bonds. These occur when a victim bonds with someone who is destructive to them, explains Lalor. “Adult survivors of childhood abuse and dysfunctional families often struggle with trauma bonds. We may find ourselves gravitating towards a person who is toxic, exploitive or destructive towards us.”
Lalor says it’s important for those of us who identify with this, and are struggling with our mental health or childhood trauma to seek help to start healing.
“At South Pacific Private, we unpack childhood trauma and try to resolve the underlying issues to help you set boundaries and establish healthy relationships.”
She says that treatment starts with raising awareness of how our behaviour, responses and coping mechanisms in adulthood may have been shaped by the trauma we experienced in our childhood.
“Using Pia Mellody’s Model of Developmental Immaturity, the theoretical underpinnings suggest that for those of us that have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect or less than nurturing in early childhood leads us to develop immaturely across five core issues. Those are self-esteem; boundaries; reality; dependency and moderation,” she says. “This leads to unmanageability in life (impulsivity, compulsivity, addictions and other mental health issues) which ultimately leads to difficulties being relational and issues being intimate.”
At South Pacific Private, our programs help to resolve the childhood trauma that causes the painful relationships that we experience in our adulthood. As part of the healing process, our psychiatrists, nursing team and therapists help develop a greater understanding of how complex trauma works and healthier coping strategies, while building self-worth and resilience.
To learn more about South Pacific Private’s comprehensive approach to trauma treatment, contact us now on 1800 063 332 or take one of our tailored self-assessments.
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