Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Abuse, Females and Testosterone Levels

Trauma, at any age, produces anatomical changes in the brain, and even if those changes do not have an obvious effect on behavior, they can still shape our deepest responses to anxiety.

“A NIMH study (discovered that) abused girls were found to have abnormally high levels of testosterone, increases in immune system abnormalities and abnormal changes in the regulation of heart rate under stress.”

Source: Lui, Aimee. Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders.

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Feeling like a "failed anorexic"

Recovery from anorexia comes with a deep sense of shame, because it feels somehow like a failure. Caroline Knapp has referred to this as “the post-anorexic riddle of identity, a sense of wild shapelessness.”

Aimee Lui writes accurately that;
“Eating disorders sabotage identity… You’ve failed to reduce yourself to a perfect object…

“For years you’ll move along just fine, gaining weight, gaining confidence, gaining all the trappings of a thriving life, and then, unexpectedly, a shadow of your past will resurface in the face of a long-lost friend or a moment on revived anxiety, and your bright new self will cringe, yearning for that old mask of perfection.”

Sheila Reindl has valuable insight into this area as well:
“We all have to integrate the light with the dark… the noble and ignoble aspects of ourselves. That’s a normal developmental task. It’s just harder for people with eating disorders.”

Source: Lui, Aimee. Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders.

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Anorexia and Bulemia

According to Shelia Reindl, “With anorexia, the act of losing weight serves as a metaphor for feeling that one is emotionally invisible… (it’s a) disciplined emptiness. So, for her, the message is that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

“The bulimic, on the other hand, binges and purges in secret – hiding the beast she knows is in there. The issues of shame are stronger. I think that’s why, when anorexics hit a bulimic patch in recovery or difficulties later in life, they often want to go back to the anorexia. It feels cleaner and tidier – they didn’t have to deal with all these messy feelings and conflicts.”

Reindl’s research has demonstrated that the most enduring obstacle to healing in the aftermath of anorexia and bulimia is vulnerability to a sense of not being enough, not having enough, feeling empty, unlovable, unworthy.”

Lui, Aimee. Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders.

Can You Inherit Anorexia?

“Researchers often say that genetics load the gun of eating disorders, and environment pulls the trigger.”

Aimee Lui believes that genetics make the gun, environment loads it, and that an experience of unbearable trauma is what actually pulls the trigger.

Source: Lui, Aimee. Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Childhood trauma and emotional maturity

Adults often underestimate what children experience, the extent of their reactions and what they need to know.

Childhood trauma can disrupt child or adolescent development, interfering with the growth of emotional maturity. Repeated exposure to trauma can affect a child's brain and nervous system.

Children suffer a dual response:
- The impact of the trauma on themselves
- The emotional distress of a child's caregiver

Adult support is a strong protective factor. Impacted adults may make at-risk children more vulnerable.


Common trauma responses in children include impaired concentration, difficulty in learning new things, aggression, recklessness, reduced inhibitions, somatic complaints and school refusal.

It is normal for a child who has experienced trauma to:
- Be hypervigilant and constantly alert
- Be jumpy and startled easily by loud sounds and sudden noises
- Feel exhausted
- Have a worsening of chronic medical problems
- Have difficulty concentrating
- Exhibit poor judgment
- Exhibit denial of emotions or lack memory of events

Sometimes children revert to a younger developmental stage (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, clinging). Teenagers might respond by taking on the role of a parent, acting as an adult and taking charge of the situation. Or, the teen might try to escape in sex, drugs and alcohol.

Children who are traumatized can develop depression, anxiety, mood disorders and/or behavior disorders.

Source: Traumatic Stress in Children, NRCFCPPP, January 8, 2008

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