This post is not just about children even though the article that is excerpted below is. It’s about just about anyone who has been labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis. Children grow up and become adults. When they acquire a psychiatric label it’s often for the same reason children get them: trauma. Without appropriate care and integration trauma changes both our bodies and minds for many years and sometimes for our entire lives. Right now the mental health system knows virtually nothing about how to care for people who have been traumatized and in fact often traumatizes them further.
Dr. Dugan has found that many children admitted to the Cambridge Hospital child psychiatric unit for angry behavior and misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder have had traumatic psychological experiences that are related to their anger and misbehavior. The children’s disclosure of these experiences is best elicited with a supportive free play unstructured interview, he believes, in which the child can establish a sense of trust and acceptance with the interviewer. Often the children have received a structured research symptom-based interview at another site before admission. According to Dr. Dugan, the structured interview’s emphasis upon factual questions, yes and no questions, and interview sessions held jointly with the children and their parents support the children’s failure to disclose traumatic events and family conflicts. He believes that the failure to appreciate the history of trauma and interpersonal conflict in the children’s lives, coupled with a need to explain the children’s anger, leads to a premature and erroneous diagnosis of child bipolar disorder. (read the rest)
I’m not a big fan of psychoanalysis, at least in most instances as it’s practiced, but any decently observant therapist of any kind should be able to notice the above fact.
Unfortunately, trauma broadly underlying the source of mental distress is true for adults as well who are labeled bipolar (and schizophrenic and depressed and anxious) and it’s rarely taken into consideration with adults either.
As a social worker and clinician working with “the seriously mentally ill” for many years, I never came upon someone who didn’t have fairly severe traumas in their histories. Mental illness in large part is a reaction to trauma. When we start listening to people rather than numbing them out and effectively silencing them with neurotoxic drugs we will start healing them.
It’s rather mind-boggling and sad that most people who work with these individuals can’t see the obvious staring right at them. We’ve all been brainwashed about what mental illness is and it often blinds us to the simple truth.
A schizophrenic is no longer schizophrenic…when he feels understood by someone else.
- Carl Jung
A few articles from Beyond Meds that explore the nature of trauma and what is often labeled mental illness:
PTSD versus a post traumatic response – So the second half of the title of this post refers to what I’m calling a post-traumatic response. I think that many so-called mental illnesses are the result of a post traumatic response. Because they do not all have the hallmark signs of PTSD, as currently clinically described, it’s worth making it clear that I absolutely think that what is labeled schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and other forms of anxiety, are often indeed also post traumatic responses. The reason I’m making a distinction is only because of the current clinical understanding of PTSD which is limited to ONE form of post traumatic response at this time which is characterized by extreme forms of anxiety.
Psychosis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Story as a Vehicle of Healing – “My descent into “madness” began when my mother died. Within days of her death I would experience the first eruption of what I now call unconscious content, manifest as intense, unexplainable fear. I didn’t know what to do with that kind of fear. It felt foreign and overwhelming to me so I pushed it away and pretended it wasn’t there.”
“Uneasy in good times and overwhelmed in bad. This is the legacy of childhood trauma.” – “Too many of us grew up in families wracked with pain. Emotional wounds accumulate in settings of neglect, abuse, bereavement, molestation, violence, and misery. As adults, these ancient injuries undermine our happiness. We often choose poorly in relationships, careers, and pastimes. Even if we don’t make gross mistakes, we lack the confidence to endorse our own choices. We feel uneasy in good times and overwhelmed in bad. This is the legacy of childhood trauma”
Not Crazy: you may not be mentally ill – a book on the trauma that is routinely misdiagnosed as illness and how the so called treatment of said illness, pharmacologically based psychiatry, is in turn another trauma. Psychiatric drugs too, are agents of trauma.
Trauma, Psychosis, and Spirituality: What’s the Connection? (part 2) – “It is not always clear what sort of experiences are best called “psychosis” and seen as bad, or what kinds of experiences are best called “spirituality” and seen as good. Instead it seems there is a realm of experience that is outside of our cultural norm, that we might call mystery, where people have experiences that are challenging, with a possibility of being seen as either bad or good, and of resulting in life outcomes that may be either bad or good in the conventional sense.”
There are many ways to heal from the insults of trauma and the path can vary greatly from individual to individual. See the drop-down menus at the top of the page for many ideas about how to start considering methods of self-care and other therapies too.