Tag Archives: Stress chemicals

The Hole in Half of Us

Brousblog1a Perry brains X-secThe Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) study since 1994 shows that  50% of Americans have some degree of failed attachment in childhood.  These are rigorous psychiatric studies of the general public which have nothing to do with “addicts.”  It’s not just about “them.”  [FN1]

It’s about “the hole in me” inside half of us.  Secure attachment is necessary for the neurons in a baby’s brain to develop. “The hole” is caused by any problematic bonding with the mother.  That means “parts of my brain are dark” — the neurons just don’t fire. (Above left: normal 3 year old. Right: major attachment disorder)

No coincidence, 50% of Americans also abuse not only alcohol and drugs (including prescriptions) but also tobacco, food, gambling, internet porn, sex…  Those of us who’d never “use” anything, often become work-aholics.  All these, abused, often cause premature death.

Until we treat the underlying childhood trauma, says Dr. Vincent J. Felitti, nothing will change and people will keep dying early. That’s the point of his 2003 “The Origins of Addiction: Evidence from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” published here last week:  click here.  [FN2]

“My point is that there is a Public Health Paradox,” Dr. Felitti wrote in transmitting his article, “wherein some of our most difficult public health problems are actually unconsciously attempted solutions, at the individual patient level, to problems that are unrecognized because they are lost in time and then protected by shame, by secrecy, and by major social taboos against exploring certain realms of human experience…

“Needless to say, vacuous cautionary advice doesn’t do much, coming from people who have no idea what has gone on.  Thus, ‘Obesity is bad for you,’ but it’s sexually protective; ‘Smoking is bad for you,’ but nicotine has been known for almost a century to have potent anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, appetite suppressant, and anger suppressant activity.  Moreover, those occur within 15-20 seconds of inhalation, whereas the risks, which are certainly real, occur in 15-20 years.”

“The current public health approach of repeated cautionary warnings has demonstrated its limitations,” as Dr. Felitti put it in his 2003 piece, “perhaps because the cautions do not respect the individual when they exhort change without understanding.”

Treat ACES  vs Early Death

BrousBlog7a ACE pyramidDr. Felitti is elegant and to the point: unless we treat Adverse Childhood Experiences per se, people will find something, somehow, anyhow, to numb the emotional pain of childhood trauma.  Details on the ACE pyramid. [FN3]

“People with attachment-based developmental trauma can start to feel so threatened that they get into a fight-flight alarm state, and the higher parts of the brain shut down first,” neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry, MD told a 2013 UCLA conference.

“First the stress chemicals shut down their cortex (thinking brain).  It’s instinct; they can’t control it.  Now they physically can not think. Ask them to think and you only make them more anxious.

“Next the more primitive emotional brain (limbic brain) goes. They have attachment trauma so people seem threatening; they don’t get reward from emotional or relational interaction. Their own emotions feel like a threat to them.

“Now the only part of the brain left functioning is the most primitive: the brain stem and diencephalon cerebellum (reptilian brain).  Here they can get rewards, but only from sweet/salty/fatty foods, drugs, sex — only the strongest sources of opiates can sooth these lower brain parts.

“They know cognitively it’s wrong to steal from Grandma, they may even love Grandma, but the brain is state-dependent.  At that moment, cognitive thinking or emotional-relational consequences, just can’t relieve their anxiety.  They are in such distress in the lower parts of the brain that they need the food, drugs, etc.  too badly.

“You can get to the point where you can’t even reach the lower part of the brain.  If you’re so ramped up and anxious, the only thing you want is to relieve the distress, and the only thing that can do it is to drink.  Alcohol will reduce anxiety, and make us more vulnerable to other unhealthy forms of reward pleasure.”

The problem is that the emotional pain from ACE is buried inaccessibly deep in our neural structures since our brains first developed, so we don’t even know it’s there.

“If you want a person to use relational reward, or cortical thought -– first the lowest parts of the brain have got to be regulated,” Perry concludes.  “We must regulate people, before we can possibly persuade them with a cognitive argument or compel them with an emotional affect.”

Perry has proven in thousands of clinical trials that the only way to do this is to treat the underlying childhood issues. [FN4]

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  George, C., Kaplan, N., Main, Mary, “An Adult Attachment Interview,” Unpublished MS, University of California at Berkeley, 1994;  and Ainsworth, Mary D.S., Blehar, M.C., et al, “Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the  Strange Situation,” Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1978

FN2  Felitti, Vincent J. , MD, “The Origins of Addiction: Evidence from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” English version of the article published in Germany as:
Felitti VJ, “Ursprünge des Suchtverhaltens – Evidenzen aus einer Studie zu belastenden Kindheitserfahrungen,” Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie, 2003; 52:547-559.

FN3 ACE Study Pyramid, www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm; and “Adverse Childhood Experiences by Vince Felitti, MD,” 13 min video, Academy on Violence and Abuse, 2006: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

FN4  Perry, Bruce D., MD, PhD, “Born for Love: The Effects of Empathy on the Developing Brain,” Annual Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference “How People Change,” UCLA, Los Angeles, March 8, 2013 (unpublished).  See also Perry, B.D. and Hambrick, E. (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 17 (3) 38-43, at: http://childtrauma.org/nmt-model/references/

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Love Theory

BrousBlog6c General Theory“A General Theory of Love,” after Einstein’s “General Theory of Relativity,” is by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon, three MDs and professors of psychiatry.  They’re men on a mission to break the truth about the brain to America.  It was passed to me with the promo that it has the latest science on how to re-program painful mental patterns like a broken heart.  [FN1]

Emotions, they report,  are imprinted in the infant brain via what they call “limbic resonance” and create how and whom we love, which creates who we are.  See Part 2: Limbic Resonance.

I never meant to get into brain science.  But once I read “General Theory of Love” or GTL as we dubbed it, I saw that what I didn’t know was killing me.  It became obvious that I had brain trauma from infancy and I was walking around mis-attuned to people from deep in my brain stem.

GTL also demonstrated that no matter how much “lonely pain” I had after my divorce, romance was only getting me into deeper kimche because my mis-attuned brain kept “finding” mis-attuned men.  It showed why my men couldn’t relate; it also showed that I couldn’t, either.

The doctors  conclude (no surprise)  that truly good, attuned therapy is the only way to get our brains re-tuned — at the  expense of five to ten years’ time and the price of a college education.

But I’d just been through therapy —  it only made me feel much worse.  They explain that, too: most therapists are poorly attuned to their clients!   One must take pains to locate the select few who can manage.  In fact, GTL is a wake-up call by three top shrinks to alert the public that therapy is failing us.

Now we have: my brain is fried; romance only creates more pain; most therapists are clueless; and every time I see my best friend, I have to look at what a suicide in the family does to survivors.  I faced No Exit from the emotional pain.

That left me two choices: become a nun or research the brain.  I sang and listened to Schubert’s song “The Young Nun” quite a bit to test-drive the impulse, but my body wasn’t buying it.  On to brain science.

War on Emotions

Triune Brain1 McCleanGTL starts with a bang: American society has declared war on emotions and that’s a tragedy, they state, because emotions, led by love, are what allow mammals to survive, humans included.

“Traditional versions of the mind hold that Passion is a troublesome remnant from humanity’s savage past, and the intellectual subjugation of emotion is civilization’s triumph,” says the Preface.  But the last ten years’ brain science discoveries show instead that “the brain’s ancient emotional architecture…is nothing less than the key to our lives.”

“Modern America plows emotions under, a costly practice that obstructs happiness and misleads people about the nature and significance of their lives.  That… is more damaging than one might suppose” they write.  “Science has discovered emotionality’s deeper purpose: emotions allow two human beings to receive the contents of each others minds…

“Emotions have a biological function — they do something for an animal that helps it to live.”

The authors show the importance of emotions with the “triune brain” model, posited by neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean, MD in the 1960s and proven by subsequent brain scan techniques.  Mammals have three distinct brain regions with different physiologies and functions almost as different as those of the lungs and kidneys. Even the neurons in each region are different. [FN2]

Take the three in archeological order of appearance.  At the top of the spinal chord sits the reptilian brain stem.  It provides raw survival instincts, basic functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and digestion, and also appears in the most primitive reptiles.

Triune Brain2 w. functionsNext, mammals uniquely have developed the limbic brain, which provides emotions, something entirely new with the advent of mammals; it wraps around the brain stem.  It allows mammals to carry and care for their young (rather than hatch and eat them as do reptiles).   (I’m not familiar with www.bible.ca but they do a great cartoon.)

For this the limbic brain gives rise to love, nurturing, joy, etc., which release “feel good” opiates into the bloodstream so we do more of that.  It also provides hatred, fear, anger, etc., which release “feel bad” stress chemicals, so we know when we’re being hurt instead of loved.  Hopefully.

Wrapped around all that is the third and late-comer frontal cortex, best developed in primates, which allows thought, language, future planning, willpower etc.  During development, every mammalian fetus recapitulates this three-lobe brain phylogeny.

“A body animated only by the reptilian brain stem is no more human than a severed toe.  Reptiles don’t have an emotional life,” GTL notes.  “The advent of the mammalian limbic lobe, uniquely, allows mammals to care for their own, have emotions, and risk and lose life for another.”

“Emotions are good?  I can’t think them away?  These societal voices in my head telling me to ‘just stuff it and grow up’ are wrong and maybe damaging?  That’s a relief,” I thought.  “But I’ve sure got a lot of ’em and they’re a mess; now what?”

Stovepiped Brain

Stovepiped Brain Lizard Aardvark Monkey MedleyThere’s the rub. Unfortunately, this “Lizard-Squirrel-Monkey Medley”  is “stove-piped together” to optimize our survival long enough to reproduce, but “can often make for lousy quality of life,” as Dr. Ron Siegel puts it.  Our brain is “fragmented, in-harmonious, and to some degree composed of players with competing interests” agrees GTL. [FN3]

The limbic brain “hasn’t changed much in size or function from primitive mammals to man, and is pre-historic relative to the frontal cortex,”  GTL continues.  All three lobes “interdigitate like… like dusk and dawn,” but light and dark are not the same.  “The cleavage between reason and passion is an ancient theme but no anachronism; it has endured because it speaks to the deep human experience of a divided mind.”

The frontal cortex only imagines that the other two take orders and obey logic.  “Not so” says GTL.  “Words, good ideas, and logic mean nothing to at least two brains out of three.  Much of one’s mind does not take orders.”  In reality the lower two lobes regulate the thinking cortex “unseen, unbidden, and largely uncontrolled…

Real Masters are Sleeping elephant-rider”We say ‘I will’ and ‘I will not,’,” they quote novelist Gene Wolfe, “and imagine ourselves our own masters, when the truth is our true masters are sleeping.  When one wakes within us, we are ridden like beasts.’ ”

Cripes, my heart won’t obey my head because it lives in a different country!  “Frontal” (head) can’t tell Limbus (heart) to “just shape up” because Limbus doesn’t speak Frontal.  My thinking cortex tells me not to run out into the street for my next romance and get hit by a truck, but my emotions ride me like a beast.  So it’s baked into my physiology to keep running out into the street to be hit and eaten by reptiles in trucks.  I’m really screwed.

Moreover, we need love to live and without love, we die, GTL continues.  Here my anxiety went through the roof.  I sure did feel like I was going to die without love, and soon; that was the whole nature of my roiling emotional pain.  But I’m not finding any cozy mammals; I keep meeting reptiles who treat me like prey, so my doctors tell me to stay on Isolation Row.

How am I going to survive out here alone in the wilds without love?

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME:  The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.”  Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Lewis, Thomas, MD; Amini, Fari, MD; Lannon, Richard, MD; “A General Theory of Love”,  Random House, New York, 2000.  See Dr. Lannon interviews at: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
Preface excerpts at:  www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lewis-love.html
On therapy:  www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1503539.Thomas_Lewis

FN2  MacLean, Paul, MD,  The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, Springer, 1990, 704 pgs.  MacLean formulated his model in the 1960s as the head of the section on the limbic system at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

FN3  Siegel, Ronald D., PhD, “The Neurobiology of Mindfulness,” NICABM, April 15, 2011, available at http://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-2011-new/  reports:
“Basically our brain evolved over a series of evolutionary accidents.
We have what’s often called the reptilian brain, which is the brain stem and disassociated structures. You could think of that as the “lizard brain.”
Then, on top of that is the mammalian brain, which involves our limbic system, all of our different emotional response systems, which we actually share with most of the other mammals, and of which a principle feature is our fight-or-flight system that responds to danger.
Then, we have the primate, or monkey brain that’s sitting on top of that. Here are all the higher cortical structures, so heavily developed in humans compared to the other animals, which allow for judgment, thought, and prediction.
So, this combination is sometimes called the Lizard Squirrel Monkey Brain Medley, and that’s what we have inherited.
And these different structures don’t always work so well together.
As we know, how many of us haven’t experienced ourselves at three in the morning suddenly awake because some combinations of these three brains are terribly activated, worrying about something, with lots of psycho-physiological arousal, when there’s actually nothing at all we can do about it. There’s no adaptive purpose to it, but, were up, and we’re aroused. And we have countless other examples where we experience ourselves being stressed, even though, rationally, we know it doesn’t really make any sense to be stressed.”

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The Greatest Study Never Told

#1 in my news blog series; original post August 30, 2013

BrousBlog7a ACE pyramid I’d heard of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study — but never asked why does their logo pyramid top with “Early Death? [FN1]  Then last week I stumbled onto a highly-informative website, ACEsConnection.com, social media site for the ACE Study, which has the story and then some. [FN2]

In the ACE Study, 17,337 middle class adults at an average San Diego HMO were asked during 1995-97  if they’d had bad childhood experiences, physical or emotional.  Results were shocking.  Two-thirds (64-67%) had one or more types of child trauma, and 38-42% had two or more types.  In 2016, the same survey in inner city Nashville showed that 71% had four or more types and 51% had six or more.  I believe a true national average would show some 50% of Americans suffer childhood trauma. [FN3]  Check your ACE Score here.

The ACE Study then compared ACE scores to whether subjects developed serious bio-medical conditions as adults – and found a major correlation.  As the ACE Pyramid shows, Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to impaired thinking, unhealthy behavior, disease, disability, and early death.

“Adverse childhood exposures showed a graded relationship to … adult diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease,” study co-directors Dr. Vincent Felitti MD and Dr. Robert Anda MD reported in 1998. [FN4]

They also showed a “proportionate relationship between ACE score and the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases decades later in adult life.”  Emotional disorders?  They found “depression, suicidality, chronic anxiety, amnesia, and hallucinations were directly proportionate” to ACE  trauma.

“It’s not about ‘them’ – it’s about us,” said Dr. Anda of these huge percentages and widespread lethal results.  ACEs are “the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population,” says Dr. Felitti.

The ACE Study began in 1995 at Kaiser Permanente, the largest  HMO in California, jointly with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  But this rigorous research hasn’t woken up medicine and psychiatry, despite the fact that Felitti, Anda et. al. have published over 75 medical articles on it.  [FN5]

You’ve likely never heard of this, ‘tho we all should know about 20 years of official study on 17,337 citizens.  I never heard of it even as a Kaiser Permanente client in 2010-11.  So ACEsConnection is going to the grass roots, some states are doing ACE surveys, and social service agencies are training staff  in “Trauma-Informed Care.”

Dr. Felitti never dreamed of any of this.  He was an internist who fell into it all by accident. Kaiser had an obesity clinic, it was failing, and Dr. Felitti wanted to know why.  Suddenly, by interviewing people who quit, this data jumped into his lap.

Vincent Felitti

Now instead of retiring to the Bahamas after a long career, Dr. Felitti travels the world making speeches like “Why the Most Significant Factor Predicting Chronic Disease May Be Childhood Trauma” [FN6]

He insists that “contrary to conventional belief, time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.” One does not “just get over” this, “not even 50 years later,” he says, without serious efforts and treatment.  [FN7]

Baby Casey: the Attachment Disorder ACE

This is not an academic issue.  Fifty percent of the American population has some degree of attachment disorder (see Blogs #1-4), and attachment disorder is a major component of many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).

Baby Casey fr video crop2On ACEsConnection.com, created by journalist Jane Stevens, the first thing I saw was a video of a baby in a Polish orphanage that turned me inside out (click here & scroll down page). [FN8]

This is what the physical pain of attachment failure looks like. Left alone for months in the Warsaw facility, Baby Casey did not get the “face time,” physical holding, emotional attunement, or any of the interactions required for an infant’s brain to grow. Humans from birth require a constant stream of “emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical inputs” from another loving human, says trauma specialist Mary Jo Barrett — just as we require air, food, and liquid.” [FN9]

A child left without this input stream learns that its own hard-wired biological needs are terrifying.   “I learn that what I experienced internally and expressed externally with a cry, was met by a response that didn’t make any sense,” says neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Siegel. “I learned: it doesn’t matter what I’m feeling, because people don’t get what I need.  Ultimately, I’ll become disconnected, not only from other people, but even from my own internal bodily self. ”[FN10]

Babies are also hard-wired to be flooded with stress chemicals when those needs are not met, Dr. Bruce Perry explains. And the flood can go on for decades. [FN11]

The emotional pain and terror are so intense that the child will do anything to distract itself from those needs. “In states of distress I can only comfort myself in ways that are maladaptive – I bite myself, rock myself perpetually, so I’m distracting myself from my needs,” Siegel says.

The fight-or-flight stress chemicals flood the bloodstream at a level which feels so terrifying, that the baby would rather pass out — or even die — than to feel it. “The baby thinks it’s going to die,” as Dr. Nancy Verrier puts it. [FN12]  I saw this video and said, “That baby’s trying to knock herself out.”

Turning Gold into Lead

BrousBlog7c Gold into LeadLeft unhealed, all those stress chemicals and panic feelings begin to physically destroy  body parts.

“The ACE Study findings suggest certain adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the US,” the CDC reports. “As the number of ACE increase, risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

Ischemic heart disease
Cancer
Chronic lung disease
Liver disease
Skeletal fractures
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Depression
Fetal death
Early initiation of smoking
Illicit drug use
Multiple sexual partners
Risk for intimate partner violence
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Unintended pregnancies
Abortion
Suicide attempts…”

“The odds of having cancer before 50 among women increased twofold for those who had 2+ ACEs versus those with no ACEs,” confirmed a 2012 study of over 6,000 Britons born in 1958, “Childhood adversity as a risk for cancer: findings from the 1958 British birth cohort study,” published by the British Medical Council.

“This is the largest study of its type which has ever been done to examine the effect of ACE on physical health, over the course of a lifetime,” Dr. Felitti says. All 17,337 participants will be followed up for life.

“We’re asking, ‘How do you get from Here [slide above] to Here.’  From a newborn infant with total potential — to a man who is broken, bio-medically, psychologically and emotionally.

“We found that ACEs are remarkably common – what is uncommon is their recognition, or their acknowledgment. They are well-concealed by time, by shame, by secrecy, and by social taboo. They turn out to be strong predictors of what happens later in life in health risks, disease, and premature mortality. The combination of their high prevalence, and their great power, makes ACEs the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population.”  [FN13]

“In no way could you dismiss this as a marginalized population,” Dr. Felitti says of his 17,337 patients. Most of them are white middle class; 47% had attended college; they all had jobs and health insurance; they were at Kaiser.

“ACE are the risk factors which underlie the 10 most common causes of death in the U.S. With an ACE score of zero, you have a very medically uninteresting population – no internist has a chance of making a living with that group,” he notes.

“Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller says: ‘The truth about our childhood is stored up in our bodies, and lives in the depths of our souls.  Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perceptions can be shamed and confused, or our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, some day, our body will present its bill.’

“In this study, we are looking at it literally. The cost of this is truly enormous. Whoever would have thought that pediatrics is the breeding ground for internal medicine,” Dr. Felitti concludes.

Feel like you might have an ACE or two up your sleeve?

You can go to http://acestudy.org/faqs and take the ACE Survey, to see how many ACEs you might have. If you feel really awful, go to your family doctor, bring him this report, and tell him you want to see a specialist because you are a normal human responding to abnormal experiences. If you do not have health coverage, no matter what your age, you can contact the nearest children’s hospital or the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s local office and ask for help. At www.nationalcac.org/locator.html, I used my zip code and found four places right near my home, just so I could report to you that they probably have facilities to help near you.

To read more, join ACEsConnection.com, the community of practice “private Facebook” network designed to prevent ACEs & further trauma and to increase resilience. Just sign up, fill out your profile, and go to “My Page” to start adding information about what you’re doing or thinking about these issues. If you’re looking for others doing what you want to do, join a group, or start a group and invite people to join. I joined, and I formed a Southern California ACEs group; here’s my SoCal ACEs page: http://www.acesconnection.com/profile/399727599840151624

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Excerpts from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all  are posted here most Fridays, unless current events beg an interruption. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes
FN1 CDC ACE Study pyramid: http://www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm

FN2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “ACE Study DVD Pre-View movie,” 3-minute version: http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/ace-study-co-founders-tell-story-on-dvd-here-s-an-intro

FN3  Dr. Felitti reports   67% of participants had one or more types of ACEs, and 42% had two or more types of ACEs. The CDC website states that 64% had one or more types of ACEs, and 38% had two or more types of ACEs; http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/prevalence.html    These percentages varied depending on when readings were taken as more subjects joined the study in the second “wave.”
Note: all these refer to “types” of ACEs. Thus, if 38-42% of the middle class Kaiser population had at two or more types of ACEs, each likely suffered multiple incidents of that type, be it abuse, neglect, or more.
In less privileged populations, far higher percentages suffer two or more types of ACEs as shown in Nashville, TN by The Family Center in 2016: http://www.familycentertn.org/our-impact

FN4  “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” by Vincent J Felitti MD, Robert F Anda MD, et al,  American Journal of Preventative Medicine, May 1998, Vol 14, Issue 4, p 245–258
http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797%2898%2900017-8/fulltext#back-BIB65

FN5  Felitti, Vincent, MD, “Adverse Childhood Experiences” www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

FN6  Felitti, Vincent, MD, official speaker biography at www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/vincent-felitti

FN7  Stevens, Jane, “The Adverse Childhood Experience Study” — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic”  also published by Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-ellen-stevens/the-adverse-childhood-exp_1_b_1943647.html

FN8  Brooks, John, “Video of Baby Casey in the Orphanage,” Warsaw, Poland, 1991, from Brooks, John, “The Girl Behind the Door: An Adoptive Father’s Lessons Learned About Attachment Disorder,” at http://parentingandattachment.com/the-girl-behind-the-door/.  Baby Casey video at http://acestoohigh.com/2013/08/02/the-early-heartbreaking-rages-of-a-baby-with-attachment-disorder/. Original video at http://parentingandattachment.com/meet-my-casey/.

FN9  Barrett, Mary Jo, MSW, “How to Treat the Patient Without Further Trauma,” NICABM webinar June 29, 2011, NICABM.com.  She is a professor at the University of Chicago; founder and director of the Center for Contextual Change; co-author of “Systemic Treatment of Incest;” and co-editor of “Treating Incest: A Multiple Systems Perspective.”

FN10  Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Early childhood and the developing brain,” “All in the Mind,” ABC Radio National, Australia.

FN11  Perry, Bruce, MD, PhD, “Born for Love: The Effects of Empathy on the Developing Brain,” speech at conference “How People Change: Relationship & Neuroplasticity in Psychotherapy,” UCLA Extension, Los Angeles, March 8, 2013. See also “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010

FN12 Verrier, Nancy, PhD, “Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up,” self-published, Lafayette, CA, 1993

FN13 Op Cit Footnote 3, Felitti 13 minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

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This Is Gonna Hurt – It’ll Be Worth It

#2 in my ongoing book series; original post July 26, 2013

brousblog2a Mordor w.Frodo“Don’t Try This At Home” takes you along on the journey to the center of my brain, tripping down what felt like my old New York City apartment building’s incinerator shoot, blind and alone, after the first professionals I saw called the wrong shots. I discovered, with no desire to do any of this, the realities of Attachment Disorder in a world half sick with it – unbeknownst to all but a few of the 3.5 billion folks involved.

Some 50% of Americans have some form of Attachment Disorder, also the average worldwide. This story is meant not to depress you, but to inspire the 50% of us in this reality to recognize it, respect ourselves and our injuries, and seek serious healing – because it can happen. This mess can even turn out to be a blessing; but you won’t believe such an ending could come about until much, much later.

So bad news first, then good.

The bad news is way bad: this is really gonna hurt.  Healing is impossible without feeling the boatload of emotional pain hiding frozen inside us.

Attachment Disorder often involves “developmental” injury to the brain stem in the womb or before age 5, which no one involved ever knew happened. We just walk around all our lives feeling hyper-sensitive to feelings. I couldn’t believe how bad it hurt when I first got in touch with this “baby pain.” When I say pain in my chest or gut, we’re talking knife-stabbing level pain. Some days it felt like crawling across Mordor, except on my belly, butt naked.  Frodo at least had clothes.

The emotional pain is so bad, that the brain stem actually knocked us out into oblivion whenever it was first experienced, to protect us from feeling it as a helpless kid in the first place. It’s the same biological mechanism that takes charge when we see a mouse pass out as the cat picks it up, often called “freeze,” or technically, “dissociation.”

brousblog2b PterydactylIt’s a raw instinct of fight or flight, and when that’s impossible, freeze, which goes back to the advent of bony fish. The fish doesn’t have time to debate “should I freeze now?”  It just passes out.

Trick is, we’ve got to un-freeze the frozen pain from those early months and years, and feel it – to release or “discharge” the stored-up stress energy deep in our muscles and viscera. And feeling our feelings, I learned, bad as they felt, can never kill us. It doesn’t even harm us in the slightest. In fact, afterward we feel better, though it might take a while.

It’s when we refuse to feel this stuff that it silently eats at us from the inside, first emotionally, then by generating enough stress chemicals to physically destroy body parts. That’s what actually kills many of us.

Attachment Disorder stems from any disruption to an infant’s attachment to the mother, and unfortunately, babies are very easy to damage. It can start as soon as the sperm hits the egg, or at any time in the next 45 months, since a baby requires solid, calm attachment from conception to 36 months, for the brain to develop in a healthy way. Any stress to a mother carrying a baby is a warning sign. Recent studies show it is prevalent in underprivileged areas, orphanages, alcoholic homes, or any home where mom is under existential stress. Neuroscientists in a recent book call it the “hidden epidemic.” [FN3]

But Attachment Disorder also occurs “in the nicest families” due to factors as simple as a mom smoking while pregnant as did moms of many baby boomers. Unwanted pregnancies (however wealthy the home) are at high risk. Neonatal incubation and adoption deeply damage attachment; only recently have remedial treatments been introduced. Infant or childhood surgeries or any medical trauma are a red flag. Mothers who as kids had little air time with their own mom and thus are tone deaf to others’ emotional state, unwittingly pass the damage on to their infants.

Many health professionals today did not adequately study attachment during training, if at all. It goes unnoticed in schools, medical systems, and houses of worship, all the places where hurting people go for help.

This makes a chunk of our population an emotional health time bomb. It may account for much of our 50% divorce rate and the work productivity crisis draining our economy. The top trauma specialist for the Pentagon says it’s one reason Congress can’t seem to function. [FN4]

brousblog2c Death Valley Lots of RocksNo, I’m not sitting on the brink of Mordor  – but it is Death Valley.

The good news, however, is so good: healing is worth the fight.

As I move further into my own healing, I feel so much better than I ever have in my life. This may be difficult to believe until you experience it.

I sure didn’t feel this way when I first started contemplating all those layers of pain — but I got through it.

You will never trade how you lived before for how you’re going to be able to live now, the fullness of feeling everything wonderful you haven’t been able to feel all your life, freedom from all that raging anxiety deep inside, which kept you as frozen up as that conked-out mouse or fish.

Trauma specialists compare recovery from AD to a religious experience of God or a metaphysical awakening to enlightenment, the relief is that profound. [FN5]

Whatever the words, it’s a transformation which can make us feel so loved and full of life and relief that weeping for joy can become a bad habit. The feelings of sheer gratitude have put me on a first name basis with God, and He’s a really nice Man.

Since most of this book is going to tell you in graphic detail how bad it feels when we first discover Attachment Disorder and walk through the necessary early stages of pain and healing, there’s no reason not to believe me about the happy ending.

And I’ve even got clinical proof.  Never in my wildest imagination (and that’s saying something) did it occur to me to even address the various medical issues “we all develop” after 40. Just by addressing my emotional pain, feeling it, and finally releasing it, the oddest results began to materialize in my body.

During the first 18 months of this purely emotional program, my cholesterol dropped 35 points, my kidney disease numbers dropped way back into the “lots better than normal” range, a nearly crippled foot simply healed itself, and the list goes on. Just wait, it’s all in Chapter 14.

These days, my family doctor looks at my annual check-up lab results and asks “Do you plan to live forever?”

Meanwhile, my friends have to put up with hearing me repeatedly blurt out, wherever we go: “I can’t believe how much better I feel than the last time we were here!”

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This is from the Preface of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder – How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes
3. Lanius, Ruth A., MD, Vermetten, Eric, Pain, Claire, Editors, “The Impact of Early Life Trauma on  Health and Disease: The Hidden Epidemic,” Cambridge University Press, 2010.  “Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician,” American Academy of Pediatrics,  2012 (New York Times 1-7-12), and many more.
4. van der Kolk, Bessel, MD, “What Neuroscience Teaches Us About the Treatment of Trauma,”  June 6, 2012 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine  (NICABM). Dr. van der Kolk said the US Congress is “dissociated,” or they’d feel the simple human compassion to know that sending youth to war brings back a flood of PTSD suicides.  (To me that means more than 50% of Congress has attachment problems, which is why they made a career of trying to control others. )  See footnote 9 in http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma/
5. Levine, Peter A., “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” ‘Sounds True, Inc.,’ Boulder CO, 2005; ISBN 1-159179-247-9

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The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder

How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all

Brousblog1a Perry brains X-secAre parts of your brain dark?  Silly, you say.  Well, did you ever have a broken heart?  Closer to home?  Hey, I had such a successful global career that I didn’t know it for decades, but parts of my brain were dark, and my heart was ‘way far broken.  [3-Year-Old Child, Left: Normal; Right: attachment disorder [FN1]]

So goes attachment disorder – and it turns out maybe 50% or more of Americans have some brand of it.  No wonder we’ve got a 50% divorce rate and a government that can’t seem to function (not to mention the ratty odds in internet dating). [FN2]

Science has only recently demonstrated that unless kids (and other mammals) are given deep emotional connection (“attachment”) from birth by parents or others, infant neurological systems just don’t develop well.  The infant brain literally requires programming by an adult’s eyes and facial expressions to begin to program its own neurons.

When a mother doesn’t respond to her baby with strong positive emotions (she’s being battered, has stress at work, is unable to attune to others), the infant’s instincts read that as a survival threat.  This floods its bloodstream with fight/flight stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.  But a baby is helpless to use these to act in self defense.  If some adult doesn’t make the baby feel safe, stress chemicals overwhelm its brain and within 45 minutes the baby goes into clinical shock (dissociation). [FN3]

What began as emotional stress ends in physical brain damage.  We can now do brain scans showing that whole chunks of neurons in some brain regions don’t fire.  I felt this as “parts of my brain are dark.”  There is literally a “hole in me.”  You can see the black holes in the brain scans above.

The resulting attachment disorder causes intense emotional pain to be transmitted by the brain stem to the neurons around the heart and other viscera, producing, literally, a broken heart – and it hurts, big time.

This means a lot more of us do need to have our heads examined; we need help!  Yet, it is definitely not “all in our heads.”  Attachment disorder is a medical condition at the interface between the emotions and the body.

I performed with apparent success as an international business gal and opera singer (in several languages) for decades, without the faintest notion I might be shrink fodder.  Suddenly in 2007 I was in divorce from a 27-year marriage to my college sweetheart which left me bankrupt. I ran like hell, 3,000 miles from back east to California.  Then both my parents died and I had two bad rebound affairs – five life disasters in 18 months.

It felt like being hit by two cars, two trucks, and a jet airplane. I came to where my father died in 2008, and I couldn’t cry.

“You need to have your head examined,” me, myself, and I decided. I saw one therapist who listened helplessly, a second who said “grow up,” and then I read enough studies on the incompetence of psychotherapy to barf.

So I quit therapy in 2009 and opted for do-it-yourself.

Brousblog1b Flatten MeA friend gave me a book on grief and, heeding the ancient wisdom that forgiveness clears heart and mind, I began to write Grief Forgiveness letters to my ex, mom, and dad [FN4].  I drew myself a cartoon, “This is going to flatten you for a few days (to face all this pain),”  but then  I’ll be ready to re-marry.  No need to jump off my second floor balcony.

Grief, however, doesn’t do take-out orders.  I sobbed over my feelings towards my ex for 18 months, even held a funeral for my lost marriage. Yet after a week’s relief, intense “break-through” grief about my dad suddenly surfaced. Taking a breath, I had at it again, but the more grief I addressed, the more and deeper layers of emotional pain surfaced.

The feelings coming up, I gradually saw, were those of a younger and younger me. As I wrote forgiveness letters to my ex, I felt feelings from my twenties. As I wrote letters to my dad, I felt feelings from grade school; the voice of a five-year-old girl literally popped up speaking in my head at times.  (I’d sung Joan in Verdi’s opera “Joan of Arc” in 1996 but this was a stretch.)

Then as I wrote letters to my mom, I went back, and back, and back – but where was the bottom, with a mom?

Drilling the Grand Canyon

Drilling the Grand Canyon

There were so many deep layers, it felt like falling through miles of rock layers as deep as the endless striated walls of the Grand Canyon.  Some days I made jokes and friends took pix of me moving striped mountains.

Some days I began to feel emotional pain, with physical chest and gut pain, of an intensity resembling nothing so much as a 24 x 7 bone marrow transplant, no anesthesia, which went on for about three years.

It was all an accident. I didn’t mean to do it, a point I never tired of making later to astonished doctors and in prayer (God took it in stride).

But once I was falling through the layers of the Grand Canyon, there was no way to stop – short of alcohol or the like, which disgusted me – or suicide.

Jumping off my balcony often did seem quite attractive, it turned out.  Imagine my annoyance when I had to give up even that, after seeing suicide’s nasty effects on a friend whose spouse took that route.

I literally had No Exit and it stank – so down and down I went, down through the layers of flash-backs and pain until one 2011 morning at 2 am I found myself on the bedroom floor in a fetal position, clutching a large stuffed dog, and eyeing a soggy toothbrush with which I had not even been able to brush my teeth before crumpling.

The phrase “She’s not old enough to be dropped off at school” kept repeating in my skull. I crawled to the sink, but had to hang on to the stuffed animal to stand up and brush.

Somewhere in a textbook I had read about regression, the devolution of the mind back through childhood development stages.

With my extensive notes of the last few years, I staggered into yet a third therapist’s office a week later, presented the goods, and asked, “Do you think I’ve just accidentally regressed myself back to infancy?”  Upon examination, he leaned forward, eyes wide, and nodded solemnly, “Yes. Aren’t you scared?”

You said it, brother, but not nearly as scared as I was gonna be. Since the sperm hit the egg, I’d had traumatic attachment disorder, and bad.

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This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for her book as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about attachment disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Note I’m against false use of the terms “attachment disorder” or “attachment therapy” to excuse abuse of clients, as exposed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_therapy.  But it’s also a problem that the psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) only recognizes Radical Attachment Disorder (RAD).  RAD only affects a tiny percent of the population. But I believe other legitimate forms of attachment disorder affect 50% of Americans. I wasn’t RAD, but I had a bad case of legitimate attachment disorder. Since I wasn’t RAD, the DSM didn’t recognize my illness, so I got no treatment until I collapsed after age 50. That can’t be right.  “Attachment problems extending beyond RAD, are a real and appropriate concern for professionals,” concludes the 2006 Report on Attachment Therapy by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) which convened to study this problem.
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Footnotes
FN1 
Perry, Bruce, MD, “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010.  See also FN5
FN2  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has said that the US Congress is “dissociated,” or they’d feel the simple human compassion to know that sending youth to war brings back a flood of PTSD suicides.  (That means 50% of Congress has attachment problems, which is why they made a career of trying to control others. ) See van der Kolk, Bessel, MD, “What Neuroscience Teaches Us About the Treatment of Trauma,” June 6, 2012 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), footnote 9 in http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma/
FN3  Herman, Judith, “Trauma and Recovery,” Basic Books, New York, 1992
FN4   James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)
FN5  Brain scan source: Perry, BD and Pollard, D., “Altered brain development following global neglect in early childhood,” Society For Neuroscience: Proceedings from Annual Meeting,New Orleans, 1997  at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/earlybrain.pdf . The PDF says: “These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain. In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three year old with an average head size. The image on the right is from a three year old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has abnormal development of cortex. These images are from studies conducted by a team of researchers from the Child Trauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org) led by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., PhD. ”   This article also cites Perry, B.D., Pollard, R., Blakely, T., Baker, W. & Vigilante, D. (1995), “Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation and ‘use-dependent’ development of the brain: How states become traits,” http://www.childtrauma.org/ctamaterials/states_traits.asp Also in Infant Mental Health Journal, 16 (4), 271-291, 1995.

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