G3.11: A patient with DID says the voices are not like schizophrenia.

More severe dissociative disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, MPD) have occurred in some cases of extreme childhood trauma. A strong alter character may develop in the child’s mind that takes over during scary times as a defense strategy. The protective personality may cope with the harsh situation and leave the core personality not only protected from coping with the negative event, but also may leave the memory of the event suppressed from the core personality’s memories. The child or adult may be left with no memories of what happened while the alter personality was in charge.

A person with the condition describes “multiplicity” as being like a bus that has a variety of passengers who may take over driving occasionally, and go and do things without asking, and the bus may not remember it. The “host” or main personality is not the bus driver but is the whole bus.

The full description is in the book, Living with Your Selves, by Sandra J. Hocking and Company;  (G3.34), some of the author’s alters helped write parts of the book. The author would like people to understand that the condition can be coped with and that it isn’t possession by any external force. The alters were all protectors at some stage of the host’s difficult life.

The main difference between DID and less severe forms of dissociative disorders is that memory is suppressed in DID in order to protect the core child personality from whatever trauma is or was going on in the child/former child’s life.

My own feelings of disconnection as a child or as an over-worked adult have never included missing blocks of time or forgetting whole days, which can be symptoms of DID.

Seeing bad memories from above as if watching oneself from the ceiling can be a symptom of milder forms of dissociation. Conversations that you aren’t part of or other voices taking place inside the head may be symptoms of DID. Sandra Hocking mentions that hearing voices externally from inanimate objects like a bicycle would be a symptom of a different type of mental health problem and she encourages talking to someone (other than the bicycle) if any odd voices are being heard.

Recent research has shown that the “voices” that people with schizophrenia symptoms “hear” are actually their own internal sub-vocalizations – their own inner thoughts – but that some disconnection occurred in the brain that seems to make them unable to recognize the “voice” or “voices” as their own thoughts or memories.

Hearing voices may be a symptom that is due to many possible reasons rather than being due to “schizophrenia” – it may be more of a set of symptoms that all resemble “schizophrenia-like symptoms.” Several different nutrient deficiencies may cause a symptoms of “hearing voices“. If a person was deficient in all of the nutrients, which is not uncommon in malnutrition, then supplementing only one of the nutrients would be unlikely to show much improvement in the schizophrenia-like symptoms even though it might have been helping somewhat. All of the nutrients are important for health.

  • The voices heard by patients with these symptoms have been found to be the patient’s own internal monologue but the patient no longer recognizes the voices as their own thoughts or memories from their past.  See:  “When People With Schizophrenia Hear Voices, They’re Really Hearing Their Own Subvocal Speech, Unlike most people, they just can’t tell it’s themselves.By Eliezer Sternberg  (G3.35)

G3.12: Nutrient deficiencies may be a physical and treatable cause symptoms of “hearing voices.”

  • Folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies can cause schizophrenia like symptoms; possibly due to an increase in levels of c-reactive protein. Folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are needed to breakdown c-reactive protein. (G3.36)
  • Genetic differences in metabolism can affect the risk of deficiency in folate and vitamin B12. Genetic screening for methylation cycle differences can help clarify whether extra supplements of the more bioactive methylated forms would be more helpful than standard supplements.
  • And a zinc deficiency and/or copper excess is more common for patients with schizophrenia; so pyroluria, a condition also thought to be due to genetic differences may be an issue. (G3.37)
  • A zinc deficiency prenatally may be linked to schizophrenia later in life: (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1491625) (G3.38)
  • Vitamin D deficiency is more common in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. (G3.39)

Health isn’t easy on a good day for someone of average age and average metabolism. Seeking help from mental health counselors and other healthcare professionals can help provide care for a variety of topics that may not fit easily in visit with the family physician.

A specialist in research explains the oxidative stress chemical process in the background section of a review paper regarding the possible connection between psychiatric disorders and oxidative stress. (G3.110) The short story on the chemistry is about balance between the waste produced when burning energy for use in metabolism and antioxidants available to neutralize the oxidizing chemicals produced as waste. The oxidizing waste chemicals are smaller parts of what was once the larger molecule of sugar, glucose. We do need to be able to use the stored energy from glucose, so having plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables in the diet gives the balance of antioxidants necessary to neutralize the “free radical” waste products. They are like the ions of calcium or magnesium in the way they are “free” to donate or take energy from other molecules, which may leave them in disrepair.

An excerpt gives a summary of oxidative stress and the potential link to psychiatric disorders, (G3.110)

Hence, oxidative stress can be considered as a state where the level of oxidants [hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, nitric oxide, etc.] produced by biological reactions exceeds the oxidants scavenging capacity of the cells. These oxidants modify cellular macromolecules [proteins, DNA, lipids] and alter cellular functions [19] resulting in apoptosis or necrosis [2022].” (Apoptosis or necrosis = cell death)

“The brain with its extensive capacity to consume large amounts of oxygen and production of free radicals, is considered especially sensitive to oxidative damage [12, 23]. Therefore, it is not surprising that oxidative stress is implicated in several disorders of the brain including neurodegenerative disorders [2326], psychiatric ailments [27], and anxiety [28]. This association is largely due to the high vulnerability of brain to oxidative load [27].

Read more: Oxidative Stress and Psychological Disorders, (G3.110).

  • The topic of psychiatric disorders, TRP channels, oxidative stress, infertility and pre-eclampsia is more complex than I’ve led you to believe in this overview and this page is already long so the discussion will be continued on a separate page focused more on TRP channels – they are an exciting topic, see G. Pre-eclampsia &TRP Channels.

So speak nicely to yourself, you might be listening. And it turns out that words can hurt after all, not just sticks and stones. A book called What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter, goes into more detail about the emotional impact that can occur due to how and what we think to ourselves. How we phrase our thoughts and goals can affect our success and enjoyment in life, that seems like a no-brainer, but maybe not to the nervous toddler who is still trying to stand up in the adult sized shoes – a little wobbly but trying. (G3.111)

The glossary section G. Fear & the Inner Child has more information and resources about early childhood experiences and emotional development and the possible creative benefits of dissociation. The section G. Autoimmune Disease & Vitamin D continues the medical discussion of oxidative stress, magnesium deficiency, and why an Epsom salt foot soak or bath might help an autoimmune condition in addition to improving a bad mood and soothing a muscle cramp and sore back – one stop shopping, now that is efficiency.

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

Crisis Hotlines and Resources:

  • U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday. (I.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
  • National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.”  (I.samhsa.org)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (I.RAINN.org)
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway: a variety of toll-free hotline numbers for concerns involving the safety of children. (I.20)
  • Power and Control and Equality Wheels  The following training materials are for helping victims of domestic violence and batterers learn how to recognize problem behaviors but emotional manipulation or abuse of power and control can occur in many types of relationships not just between couples.The Power and Control Wheel (I.21) was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP). (I.22) Manipulative behaviors are grouped into eight categories in the model. An additional Equality Wheel (I.23) was developed to help guide batterers and victims of emotional or physical abuse towards healthier ways to interact. It is grouped into eight equivalent categories with examples of healthier ways to interact with each other. Problems frequently can involve communication issues by both people in a relationship.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

G3.4: Social contact would help protect against oxidative stress.

People and other species are social creatures whose survival may have been dependent on being part of a group rather than being isolated. Loneliness has been associated with increased inflammation and a reduced resistance to infection by viral diseases. Genetic changes have been found to occur in isolated individuals that lead to the increased inflammatory response in comparison to individuals who have more social support. Genes can be temporarily turned on or off depending on the environment.

Our instincts have developed to trust that being part of a group increases our chance of survival. Having a role that fulfills a valued purpose for the group is associated with an increased sense of happiness. Read more: A Better Kind of Happiness, by Will Storr, (G3.9).

Fitting into groups well can require social skills that need to be nurtured from birth. Infants learn body language at an early age by interacting with a parent who responds to the baby’s cues. If the baby smiles the mother smiles back and the baby learns to smile more readily. If the baby has a mother that doesn’t notice body language though, then the infant may stop smiling as often.

Infants and children depend on their caregivers for everything and try to please with their smiles, eye contact, or baby coos. If the infant isn’t receiving eye contact in return however they may stop trying or are scolded they may learn to look away and to avoid eye contact.

Children ideally need emotional support in order to develop trust in themselves and in others. Parents who have limited skills in understanding and accepting their own emotions may not be able to teach their children what they don’t understand themselves. Children who have some role model in their lives who understands emotional skills may cope better than children who don’t.

The topic is discussed in more detail in the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD, (New Harbinger Pub., Inc., 2015, Oakland, CA) (G3.10) (This book is not a twelve step book and is not affiliated with the Adult Children of Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Parents twelve step group.) On page eight the author discusses the importance of emotional connection for humans and other mammals for responding less negatively to stress. Stephen Porges published work in 2011 suggesting that mammals evolved a way in which we can get additional soothing during fear situations when we are in touch physically or possibly even mentally – thinking about them during times of need. It involves vagus nerve pathways that can be inhibited to reduce the fight, flight, or freeze stress reaction. (G3.10)

So a sense of connection to others can help reduce the negative inflammatory effects of the stress response. Some stress can be healthy to help get us moving to meet whatever challenge has occurred. Stress may become more overwhelming however if the person is isolated or never learned social skills or developed enough trust in others to ask for help or seek out help.

Children in situations with emotionally immature caregivers may learn that people around them can’t be trusted or that trying doesn’t lead to success so why bother trying – they can learn a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and not even try to seek help because they are unfamiliar with finding strength or support from others.

In the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson (G3.10) four different types of emotionally immature caregivers are described and how growing up with them might affect children. Solutions are also provided in the form of techniques for how, as an adult, a person might overcome the lessons they learned as a child once they discover that emotions aren’t dangerous things to never be discussed or worse –  that one might be punished for exhibiting them.

Some emotionally immature people may feel threatened by strong emotions and may react negatively to children who are simply being children. The child in that situation learns to not trust themselves and may not learn that emotions are normal rather than upsetting or frightening.

Severe childhood trauma can lead to changes in the brain that cause ongoing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A new strategy for treating PTSD has been developed which involves electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve called Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS).  

The excerpt summary from the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents (G3.10) regarding the research by Stephen Porges suggests that the vagal nerve is the nerve pathway that naturally is stimulated when social contact is sought by mammals who are enduring a stressful situation. (G3.11) (G3.12)

Whether you are a parent or a teen or an adult learning more about emotional maturity and immaturity can help understand your own emotions and others. Whatever we grow up with will seem normal to us and as adults we tend to seek out similar relationships to those we were familiar with as children – but sometimes what seems normal to some people isn’t normal for everyone else and there is no need to continue living in abusive situations just because it seemed like a normal part of life as a child.

Lack of emotional skills may increase the risk of acting inappropriately when under severe stress. People need the support of people to help reduce negative effects of stress and increase a sense of connection and purpose. People need to learn emotional skills from people who have emotional skills  – or sometimes from a book, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson: (G3.10)

  • Attachment Theory and parenting styles are discussed in section 8. Trust is learned early.

The descriptions in this section suggest the inconsistent parenting of the Disorganized style or a parent that switches between Avoidant and Anxious-Resistant styles. A more trusting  Secure style can be achieved with the help of Cognitive Therapy techniques and practice; but it is a lot of work to change core values, or more realistically – attempt to modify slightly, core values that remain from early childhood. Art Therapy or EMDR therapy can help access nonverbal feelings and events that may have occurred during the preverbal years of childhood. Dialectical Behavior Therapy can help when there are cognitive and physical issues underlying mood symptoms.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

References:

Formaldehyde: Health risks, and Environmental and Dietary sources.

I mentioned in my last post, (a long time ago – I’ve been busy spring cleaning), that I would discuss oxidative stress next – some background information first:

(“Formaldehyde is a cause of oxidative stress.” LMGTFY: 1,450,000 results.)

Formaldehyde:  formaldehyde is a chemical that can be produced within the body as part of metabolism, it is toxic however and the body would continue to break it down further for removal from the body in conditions of normal health. Formaldehyde is found in the environment from a variety of sources and is produced in the body or in food products as a metabolite (a chemical produced from the digestion/metabolism of a larger chemical) of some alternative sweeteners (G.48) and other dietary sources including fruit juices and artificial and natural flavorings. ((G.49, (p476, G.50)) (G.56)  “Formalin” is chemically very similar and may cause similar health symptoms. (G.42(G.25Formalin is used to induce pain in lab animals for experimental purposes and it was determined that the pain was due to activation of the TRPA1 channels. (G.86)

Environmental and dietary sources of formaldehyde include, (G.56):

  1. First and second hand smoke, (G.44); The formaldehyde content of some types of E-Cigarette preparations used for “vaping” instead of smoking the volatile gases have been found to vary significantly. Skipping to the last point on this list may provide the explanation – fruit flavoring based on fruit juice and essential oils from fruit and other artificial “flavorings” are frequently chemicals from a group of chemicals called aldehydes. They can break down over time into smaller chemicals which can include formaldehyde or other toxic types of aldehydes. (G.49) So if you are “vaping” in order to avoid toxins in cigarette smoke then it may be advisable to skip the “chocolate or fruit flavoring” and use an E-Cigarette product that just has the natural tobacco flavor instead. (Yes, tobacco is an herb and it has a flavor and nicotine can have some health benefits, however formaldehyde does not. The nicotine patch provides a steady dose of nicotine without any volatile toxins.)
  2. Poorly ventilated air or smog; (G.45)
  3. Vinyl and PVC plastic products off-gas formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals at levels that can make a sensitive person feel ill. (G.45). A poorly ventilated room would increase the risk of the gases accumulating to more toxic levels. The wax refinishing treatments used to clean and shine vinyl flooring are also sources of formaldehyde and other toxic gases. One re-waxing session can produce as much volatile chemicals from the chemical products that are used to strip off the old layer of wax polish and add a new layer, as the vinyl floor itself would off-gas throughout all the years of its installation. So making a choice about which type of flooring to install is also making a choice about the  type of cleaning products that will be needed to maintain the floor. (G.46) A Cleaning Product Fact Sheet is available from the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board: (G.47). Types of flooring and other building materials are discussed in extensive detail in a review article regarding sources of Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment: (G.45).
  4. Metabolites of the breakdown of the alternative sweetener aspartame and Neotame include menthol and formaldehyde. (G.48)  
  5. Older packages of fruit juice also may contain formaldehyde in amounts that can continue to increase as the product ages. The formaldehyde is produced as other chemicals become unstable over time and metabolically breakdown into a variety of smaller chemicals which include formaldehyde. The food preservative method of ionizing radiation has been found to increase the chemical breakdown of larger aldehydes in apple juice into formaldehyde and other chemicals with toxic properties. (p476, G.50)
  6. Before leaving the topic of formaldehyde, the symptoms of toxicity with workplace exposure to formaldehyde have been reported to include allergic type symptoms including: “sneezing/airways-related symptoms, itching and watery eyes.” (G.51) Formaldehyde exposure may also be a cause of systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54), possibly even with symptoms of rash occurring on the eyelids.(G.55) A diet designed to avoid formaldehyde intake may be helpful for alleviating the eczema like rash. (G.52)

A summary, in reverse order;

Formaldehyde might be accumulating from several sources, (G.56):

  • Workplace exposure; Workers more at risk might include health professionals, (G.51); and hair stylists or nail salon technicians, (G.58); and funeral directors may be more at risk for developing the paralyzing chronic disease ALS, (G.59); some industries such as the garment and textile industry may have formaldehyde exposure, (G.63);
  • Aseptically packaged juices, the amount may collect in older packages as the product ages, ionizing radiation methods of food preservation have been found to increase the amount of toxic aldehydes including formaldehyde and therefore is not a recommended technique for the juice industry, (p476, G.50);
  • Nutrasweet (aspartame) and Neotame, alternative sweeteners. (G..48)
  • Vinyl flooring, cleaning products, and other PVC type of plastic products. (G.45, G.46, G.47);
  • Poorly ventilated air or smog. (G.45); *Note, lighting large numbers of decorative candles may be increasing volatile chemicals in your air supply. Also air fresheners and cleaning products may contain chemicals that break down into formaldehyde. (G.60) Lifestyle choices besides smoking cigarettes can negatively affect health. Try a fern for air freshening instead; give it a nickname and you might get some emotional benefits in addition to other physical health benefits. Plants can be useful household decorations because some types can clean the air of formaldehyde and other toxins. The original research was by a NASA scientist for use in keeping the air fresh in living environments for astronauts. For the most effective air cleaning ability, the plant does need to be watered and misted as its particular type requires, because the chemical removal of formaldehyde from the air is dependent on the roots and leaves access to water. (G.61); a mechanical problem with the furnace or water heater and ventilation system may be leaking toxic chemicals into the building’s air supply; increased efficiency of insulation and other building materials have created rooms and buildings that are too good at preventing air circulation, which makes maintenance and cleaning of ventilation systems and fans important – otherwise everyone working or living in the space might start feeling some symptoms of “sick building syndrome.” (G.62)
  • Smoking cigarettes or other products, and flavorings in “vaped” E-Cigarettes may also be a source of formaldehyde. (G.44, G.49)

Fact Sheets regarding Formaldehyde, Environmental Safety and Health:

  • The Centers for Disease Control provides a fact sheet for further guidance regarding risks and precautions regarding formaldehyde: What You Should Know About Formaldehyde, (G.57)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency provides a fact sheet on sick building syndrome: Fact Sheet: Sick Building Syndrome, (G.62)
  • The Cleaning Products Fact Sheet, by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board provides guidance regarding safer cleaning products: (G.47)
  • The National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk includes research on occupations that may be at risk for formaldehyde exposure and provides a list of organizations that might have more information or other help to offer. (G.63)

Sick Building Syndrome: Symptoms that may occur due to breathing air that contains too much formaldehyde may include sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes, and nosebleeds according to the fact sheet by the Centers for Disease Control. (G.57) So if everyone working in a building, or many workers or family members are all experiencing allergies or a slight cold that just doesn’t seem to want to go away – then bad air may be a problem. See the fact sheet on Sick Building Syndrome by the EPA for more information. (G.62)

Eczema: The eczema symptoms reported in medical research may occur with more chronic long-term exposure to formaldehyde and/or in individuals who also have more difficulties metabolically with detoxifiying formaldehyde – we don’t know all the answers. I have personally experienced skin rashes off and on all my life and was startled to develop it on my eyelids in my more recent past – and then was more startled, or more relieved to learn of the possible cause – formaldehyde exposure (G.55) and systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54) Poor air quality was a problem at the time in part due to water heater mechanical problems, and also first and secondhand smoke were contaminants in my air supply – I cleaned up and changed habits somewhat and my eyelid rash got better – yeah science! To me that seems like an example of effective self care and effective use of evidence-based medical research even if I had to read it on my own.

Other health risks include cancer and neurological conditions: The link between cancer and formaldehyde may be less strong than for neurological disorders such as ALS in funeral home directors, (G.59), or autism in a child whose mother had prenatal exposure to formaldehyde, (G.56), however research has found some cancers associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde. The National Cancer Institute also has a fact sheet on the topic of formaldehyde and it includes a convenient list of addresses and websites for organizations that might have more information for workers concerned about exposure risks such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,. (G.64) See the National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk for more information and resources regarding formaldehyde and occupational safety: (G.63)

Houseplants can help offices as well as astronauts:

If you are looking for a hair salon that is likely to have less formaldehyde and other volatile toxins in the air then look for one with lots of healthy ferns and other tropical low light houseplants. (G.61) If you are a hair salon or other business owner interested in improving the air quality in your establishment with the help of ferns and other houseplants, then hire a staff member who knows and loves plants because they do require some consistent care that can vary quite a bit depending on the type of plant – or buy the book by the NASA research scientist and have an employee learn how to care for your indoor air-cleaning garden.

The scientist, B. C. Wolverton, organized what he learned to help astronauts in an easy to use plant guide that lists the species of plants which were found most effective at cleaning air. The book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office, includes guidance for caring for each species and also lists them by the types of volatile chemicals that they were able to remove from the air. (G.66)

Large urban areas may have office plant services available where a greenhouse or florist shop supplies and maintains lovely office plants for a subscription or rental type of payment. An employee of the plant business has a route of subscribing businesses to visit each week in order to water, mist, and trim plants of any dead leaves, even a healthy plant will look sad if it is covered in a layer of dust and has a few dead leaves. Plants that are sick are simply returned to the greenhouse for care or recycling and the empty spot is filled with a replacement by the plant business employee.

Ambius is an example of an office-plant company with service locations available in many urban areas in both Canada and the United States. See the Ambius website for more information and service locations: Ambius.com.

Disclaimer

References:

People may need people and a sense of purpose for health and happiness

People and other species are social creatures whose survival may have been dependent on being part of a group rather than being isolated. Loneliness has been associated with increased inflammation and a reduced resistance to infection by viral diseases. Genetic changes have been found to occur in isolated individuals that lead to the increased inflammatory response in comparison to individuals who have more social support. Our instincts have developed to trust that being part of a group increases our chance of survival. Having a role that fulfills a valued purpose for the group is associated with an increased sense of happiness.

Fitting into groups well can take social skills that need to be nurtured from birth. Infants learn body language at an early age by interacting with a parent who responds to the baby’s cues. If the baby smiles the mother smiles back and the baby learns to smile more readily. If the baby has a mother that doesn’t notice body language though, then the infant may stop smiling as often. Infants and children depend on their caregivers for everything and try to please with their smiles, eye contact, or baby coos. If the infant isn’t receiving eye contact in return however they may stop trying or are scolded they may learn to look away and to avoid eye contact.

Children ideally need emotional support in order to develop trust in themselves and in others. Parents who have limited skills in understanding and accepting their own emotions may not be able to teach their children what they don’t understand themselves. Children who have some role model in their lives who understands emotional skills may cope better than children who don’t.

The topic is discussed in more detail in the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD, (New Harbinger Pub., Inc., 2015, Oaklnad, CA) [1] (This book is not a twelve step book and is not affiliated with the Adult Children of Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Parents twelve step group.) An excerpt from page 108:

“Why is emotional connection so crucial?

According to neuroscientist Stephen Porges (2011), mammals have evolved a unique coping instinct in which they are calmed by proximity or engagement with others. Instead of just having the involuntary stress reactions of fight, flight, or freeze, like reptiles do, mammals can calm their heart rate and reduce the physical costs of stress by seeking reassuring contact with others of their kind. Certain vagus nerve pathways in mammals have evolved to allow stress hormones and heart rate to be reduced by confronting in such forms as physical closeness, touch, soothing sounds, and even eye contact. These calming effects conserve valuable energy and also create pleasurable social bonds that promote strong groups.

For all mammals, including humans, something magical happens when this desire to seek comfort switches on. The danger might not go away, but individuals can stay relatively calm as long as they feel tied into their herd, pack, or circle of loved ones. Most mammals have stressful lives, but thanks to their instinct for engaging with others, calming comfort and restored energy are just a friendly contact away. This gives mammals a tremendous advantage over other animals when it comes to dealing with stress in an energy-efficient way, since they don’t have to go into fight, flight, or freeze every time they sense a threat.” [1]

So a sense of connection to others can help reduce the negative inflammatory effects of the stress response. Some stress can be healthy to help get us moving to meet whatever challenge has occurred. Stress may become more overwhelming however if the person is isolated or never learned social skills or trust enough to ask for help or seek out help. Children in situations with emotionally immature caregivers may learn that people around them can’t be trusted or that trying doesn’t lead to success so why bother trying — they can learn  a sense of helplessness and hopelessness rather than finding strength from others.

The book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson [1] describes  four different types of emotionally immature caregivers, how growing up with them might affect children and how the children might overcome the lessons they learned later in life as adults who only just discovered that emotions aren’t dangerous things to never be discussed or worse that one might be punished for exhibiting. Some emotionally immature people may feel threatened by strong emotions and may react negatively to children who are simply being children. The child in that situation learns to not trust themselves and may not learn that emotions are normal rather than upsetting or frightening.

Severe childhood trauma can lead to changes in the brain that cause ongoing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A new strategy for treating PTSD has been developed which involves electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve called Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS).  Which the excerpt from the book [1]  suggests is the nerve pathway that naturally is stimulated when social contact is sought during a stressful situation.

Stress and trauma have been too readily available lately. More police officers were shot today in the U.S. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three are injured, one critically, and three officers were killed Sunday morning. The gunman was a former marine who drove there from his home in Missouri. The gunman was killed at the scene. Further information about his possible motives are not known at this time. Whether there were any accomplices is not known but it is believed he was a lone gunman and there has been no further shooting in the area.

My condolences and best wishes to the families, friends, and coworkers of the slain officers, may they rest in peace, and to the community of Baton Rouge

Emotionally immature parents may raise emotionally immature children who grow up to raise their own emotionally immature children. Help break the trauma cycle by reading the book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, by Lindsay C. Gibson [1]. Whether you are a parent or a teen or an adult learning more about emotional maturity and immaturity can help understand your own emotions and others. Whatever we grow up with will seem normal to us and as adults we tend to seek out similar relationships to those we were familiar with as children — but sometimes what seems normal to some people isn’t normal for everyone else and there is no need to continue living in abusive situations just because it seemed like a normal part of life as a child.

Lack of emotional skills may increase the risk of acting inappropriately when under severe stress. People need the support of people to help reduce negative effects of stress and increase a sense of connection and purpose. People need to learn emotional skills from people who have emotional skills  — or sometimes from a book. [1]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.