Sexual Harassment – Sexual Assault – Domestic Violence

Have you or someone you know being a victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence and are hurting and living in fear and pain as the result. My name is Paul Holcroft and I am an Australian and internationally trained hypnotherapist and I have worked with and helped many women and men who have been the victims of physical and psychological trauma… and I can help!

One area of trauma that is not often talked about is psychological abuse where the victim is constantly berated and demeaned until their self-esteem and self-confidence is eroded away, and eventually begins to believe they are worthless and unlovable. This is all part of the game for the controller, usually a psycho-narcissist, in turning the victim into a possession… a virtual slave.

There are many symptoms of these deep-seated traumas including:

  • Feeling down all the time, stressed or can’t stop worrying.
  • Cannot understand why certain things always happen to you or why you always attract the wrong partner into your life.
  • Living in constant fear
  • Finding when you are in particular situations… it re-triggers the emotions.
  • You may be carrying extra weight as a protection measure (you may not consciously be aware of this one but it is quite common).
  • Avoiding and fearful of being in social situations or places where you feel venerable.
  • Have turned to alcohol or drugs to mask and suppress the thoughts and feelings.
  • Have a problem with eating food (under-eating or over-eating).
  • Feeling sick all the time or worried about your health.
  • Worried about your sexuality, identity or relationships.
  • Feeling unlovable and unwanted… worthless.
  • Have lost trust or are having difficulties communicating with family or friends, perhaps because they don’t understand what you have been through… or worse don’t believe you.
  • Have feelings that perhaps you are to blame… it’s your fault… that you attracted it into your life by your behaviour or lack of behaviour.
  • Carrying guilt, anger or sadness about the event(s).

Physical and psychological trauma is a heavy burden to carry and the emotional stress from the event(s) can become emotional blockages in the body, which can cause a myriad of physical and mental health issues… but here is nothing inherently wrong with you… you are hurting… you are in pain and you need help and support.

And being the victim of physical and psychological abuse is not the only issue here… many people, especially children, become victims by merely witnessing the event(s).

Many times the event, especially a childhood trauma, is buried somewhere in the unconscious mind… it has been compartmentalized to protect you… and you are no longer consciously aware of it. When this happens, you tend to have physical ailments in the body, or your mind begins to act differently and you may start to develop disorders like anxiety, panic attacks, and depressive thoughts, OCD, ADD and ADHD.

But you don’t have to live with it… there is a way out!

Using techniques such as double disassociation, the rewind technique, uncommon psychotherapy, and Ericksonian hypnosis, I have helped many individuals break free of the cage trauma had them trapped in by releasing the emotional charge surrounding the event… the emotional charge that has kept the memory trapped in the amygdala… the flight or fight centre of the brain.

Your first step to healing is to call and have an obligation-free chat over coffee or tea to see if I can help. Call Brain Spa Health today on 0424 671 411 or message me to arrange a time.

What is Stress and What Causes It?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 90% of all illness and disease is due to stress.

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Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Signs of the body under stress include irritability, fatigue, high blood pressure, impaired sleeping and insomnia. The effects of stress can be emotional, psychological, and physical.

 

Constant stress, if not treated, can lead to changes in behaviour (emotional eating, smoking, increased alcohol consumption) and a precursor to anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and many chronic illnesses in the body.

 

When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and Cortisol, which activates the flight or fight centre of the brain (the amygdala) to rouse the body for emergency action.

 

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland and secreted during a stress response. As a part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, Cortisol also acts to suppress the body’s immune system.

 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter thought to play an important role in mood regulation. Stress-induced serotonin dysfunctions have been associated with anxiety, fear and depression-like symptoms.

 

Stress can kill the good bacteria and yeast that live in your intestines and keep your immunity and digestive health strong. More research is showing how stress impacts the function of your gut every day.

 

It slows transit, leading to constipation and the re-circulation of hormones like estrogen through your liver. It increases the overgrowth of bad bacteria. And it loosens the barriers between the cells that line the intestines, creating something called leaky gut that then leads to inflammation, food sensitivities and even autoimmune disease.

 

Studies have also shown that the activity of hundreds of genes responsible for enzymes that break down fats and detoxify prescription drugs, are negatively impacted by stress. Stress can also increase your toxin burden by increasing your desire for high fat, high sugar foods.

 

Stress is the body’s reaction to any stimuli that disturbs its equilibrium. When the equilibrium of various hormones is altered the effect of these changes can be detrimental to the immune system.

 

Stress affects the immune system in many ways. The immune system protects the body from viruses, bacteria, and anything that is different or that the body does not recognize. The immune system sees these as intruders and it sends messages to attack. The white blood cells, leukocytes, are very important to the immune system.

 

The white blood cells, leukocytes, are very important to the immune system. These leukocytes produce cytokines which fight infections.[47] But they also are the immune systems communicator in telling the brain that the body is ill.

 

When an individual is stressed or going through a stressful experience the immune system starts to produce natural killer cells and cytokines.[48] When levels of cytokines are higher they combat infections and therefore the brain gets communicated the body is ill and it produces symptoms as if the individual was ill.

 

These symptoms include fever, sleepiness, low energy levels, no appetite, and flu like symptoms. These symptoms mean the body is fighting the illness or virus. This is useful for when the body goes through the stress from an injury.

 

But unfortunately, the body has now evolved to do this process during stressful events such as taking exams, or even going through a life changing event such as a death of a family member or a divorce. That is why many times when individuals are stressed because of life changing events or situations such as those, they get these symptoms and believe they are sick when in reality it can be because the body is under stress.

 

Both negative and positive stressors (endurance sports) can lead to stress, the intensity and duration of stress changes depending on the circumstances and emotional condition of the person suffering from it. Some common categories and examples of stressors include:

 

Sensory input such as pain, bright light, noise, temperatures, or environmental issues such as a lack of control over environmental circumstances, such as food, air and/or water quality, housing, health, freedom, or mobility.

 

Social issues can also cause stress, such as struggles with difficult individuals, social defeat, relationship conflict, deception, or break ups, and major events such as birth and deaths, marriage, and divorce.

 

Life experiences such as poverty, unemployment, clinical depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, heavy drinking or insufficient sleep can also cause stress. Students and workers may face performance pressure stress from exams and project deadlines.

 

Adverse experiences during development like prenatal exposure to maternal stress, poor attachment (abandonment) histories and sexual abuse) are thought to contribute to deficits in the maturity of an individual’s stress response systems.

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Stages of Stress

Physiologists define stress as how the body reacts to a stressor (real or imagined) which is a stimulus that causes stress. Acute stressors affect an organism in the short term; chronic stressors over the longer term.

 

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), developed by Hans Selye, is a profile of how organisms respond to stress; GAS is characterized by three phases: a nonspecific mobilization phase, which promotes sympathetic nervous system activity; a resistance phase, during which the organism makes efforts to cope with the threat; and an exhaustion phase, which occurs if the organism fails to overcome the threat and depletes its physiological resources.

 

Stage One

Alarm is the first stage, which is divided into two phases: the shock phase and the anti-shock phase.

 

Shock phase: During this phase, the body can endure changes such as the stressor effect.

Anti-shock phase: When the threat or stressor is identified or realized, the body starts to respond (Cortisol) and is in a state of alarm (flight or fight).

 

Stage Two

Resistance is the second stage and increased secretion of glucocorticoids play a major role, intensifying the systemic response—they have lipolytic, catabolic and antianabolic effects: increased glucose, fat and amino acid/protein concentration in blood.

In high doses, Cortisol begins to act as a mineralocorticoid (the steroid hormone aldosterone which maintains salt level in the body) and brings the body to a state similar to hyperaldosteronism (excessive secretion of aldosterone).

 

If the stressor persists, it becomes necessary to attempt some means of coping with the stress. Although the body begins to try to adapt to the strains or demands of the environment, the body cannot keep this up indefinitely, so its resources are gradually depleted.

 

Stage Three

The third stage could be either exhaustion or recovery.

 

Recovery follows when the system’s compensation mechanisms have successfully overcome the stressor effect (or have completely eliminated the factor which caused the stress). The high glucose, fat and amino acid levels in blood prove useful for anabolic reactions, restoration of homeostasis and regeneration of cells.

 

Exhaustion is the alternative third stage in the GAS model. At this point, all of the body’s resources are eventually depleted and the body is unable to maintain normal function. The initial autonomic nervous system symptoms may reappear (sweating, raised heart rate, etc.).

 

If stage three is extended, long-term damage may result (prolonged vasoconstriction results in ischemia which in turn leads to cell necrosis), as the body’s immune system becomes exhausted, and bodily functions become impaired, resulting in decompensation.

 

The result can manifest itself in obvious illnesses, such as peptic ulcer and general trouble with the digestive system (e.g. occult bleeding, melena, constipation/obstipation), diabetes, or even cardiovascular problems (angina pectoris), along with clinical anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other mental illnesses.

 

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is defined as a state of prolonged tension from internal or external stressors, which may cause various physical manifestations – e.g., asthma, back pain, arrhythmias, fatigue, headaches, HTN, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and suppress the immune system.

 

Chronic stress takes a more significant toll on the body than acute stress does. It can raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contribute to infertility, and hasten the aging process.

 

People in distressed marriages have also been shown to have greater decreases in cellular immunity functioning over time when compared to those in happier marriages.

 

Furthermore, during chronic stress, Cortisol is over produced, causing fewer receptors to be produced on immune cells so that inflammation cannot be ended.

 

Chronic stress has been shown to increase the thickness of the artery walls, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.

 

Chronic stress also increases the production of Cortisol, leading to something called “Cortisol steal,” where fewer sex hormones are produced.

 

Chronic stress is seen to affect the parts of the brain where memories are processed through and stored. When people feel stressed, stress hormones get over-secreted, which affects the brain.

 

That is because stress releases Cortisol, and Cortisol causes metabolic activity throughout the body. Metabolic activity is raised in the hippocampus. High Cortisol levels can be tied to the deterioration of the hippocampus and decline of memory that many older adults start to experience with age.

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual’s ability to cope. As an effect of psychological trauma, PTSD is less frequent and more enduring than the more commonly seen acute stress response.

 

Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include intrusion, avoidance and hyper-arousal — re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through “flashbacks” or nightmares (intrusion), emotional numbing or avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hyper-vigilance.

 

Formal diagnostic criteria (both DSM-IV-TR and ICD-10) require that the symptoms last more than one month and cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

 

The areas of the brain affected in post-traumatic stress disorder are sensory input, memory formation and stress response mechanisms. The regions of the brain involved in memory processing that are implicated in PTSD include the hippocampus, amygdala and frontal cortex. While the heightened stress response is likely to involve the thalamus, hypothalamus and locus coeruleus.

 

Memory

Cortisol works with epinephrine (adrenaline) to create memories of short-term emotional events; this is the proposed mechanism for storage of flash bulb memories, and may originate as a means to remember what to avoid in the future. However, long-term exposure to Cortisol damages cells in the hippocampus; this damage results in impaired learning. Furthermore, it has been shown that Cortisol inhibits memory retrieval of already stored information.

 

Atrophy of the hippocampus in post traumatic stress disorder

There is consistent evidence from MRI volumetric studies that hippocampal volume is reduced in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This atrophy of the hippocampus is thought to represent decreased neuronal density. However, other studies suggest that hippocampal changes are explained by whole brain atrophy (partial or complete wasting away) and generalised white matter atrophy is exhibited by people with PTSD.

 

The psychiatric diagnosis post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was coined in the mid-1970s, in part through the efforts of anti-Vietnam War activists and the Vietnam Veterans against the War, and Chaim F. Shatan. The condition was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as posttraumatic stress disorder in 1980.

 

PTSD was considered a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma, and as such often associated with soldiers, police officers, and other emergency personnel.

 

The stressor may involve threat to life (or viewing the actual death of someone else), serious physical injury, or threat to physical or psychological integrity including sexual abuse, domestic violence, workplace and schoolyard bullying, or a serious accident.

 

In some cases, it can also be from profound psychological and emotional trauma, apart from any actual physical harm or threat. Often, however, the two are combined.

 

Depression

Many areas of the brain appear to be involved in depression including the frontal and temporal lobes and parts of the limbic system including the cingulate gyrus. However, it is not clear if the changes in these areas cause depression or if the disturbance occurs as a result of the etiology (branch of medical science concerned with the causes and origins of diseases) of psychiatric disorders.

 

In depression, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis undergoes upregulation with a down-regulation of its negative feedback controls and Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands; adrenal hypertrophy (excessive growth) can also occur.

 

Release of Cortisol into the circulation has a number of effects, including elevation of blood glucose. The negative feedback of Cortisol to the hypothalamus, pituitary and immune system is impaired. This leads to continual activation of the HPA axis and excess Cortisol release. Cortisol receptors become desensitized leading to increased activity of the pro-inflammatory immune mediators and disturbances in neurotransmitter transmission.

 

Serotonin transmission from both the caudal raphe nuclei and rostral raphe nuclei is reduced in patients with depression compared with non-depressed controls. Increasing the levels of serotonin in these pathways, by reducing serotonin reuptake and hence increasing serotonin function, is one of the therapeutic approaches to treating depression.

 

In depression the transmission of noradrenaline is reduced from both of the principal noradrenergic centres – the locus coeruleus and the caudal raphe nuclei. An increase in noradrenaline in the frontal/prefrontal cortex modulates the action of selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibition and improves mood. Increasing noradrenaline transmission to other areas of the frontal cortex modulates attention.

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How to Control and Reduce Stress

There are several ways of coping with stress such as controlling the source of stress or learning to set limits and to say “no” to some of the demands that bosses, partners or family members may make.

 

A way to control stress is first dealing with what is causing the stress… if it is something the individual has control over. Other methods to control stress and reduce it can be: to not procrastinate and leave tasks for last minute, do things you like, exercise, do breathing routines, go out with friends, and take a break. Having support from a loved one also helps a lot in reducing stress.

 

A person’s capacity to tolerate the source of stress may be increased by thinking about another topic such as a hobby, listening to relaxing music, spending time in nature, or participating in meditation or yoga classes.

 

Hypnotherapy is also a very powerful way to reduce stress build up in the body by teaching the body how to naturally handle and process stress.

 

-Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_(biology)

-Source: http://bodyecology.com/articles/top-5-sources-of-toxins.php

 

 

The Rewind Technique for PTSD is now Available in Port Macquarie

The Rewind Technique breaks new ground in the treatment of acute psychological trauma and PTSD – the invisible injury – and is a proven, natural, safe and effective treatment that is non-drugs based.

 

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. For a doctor or mental health professional to be able to make a diagnosis, the condition must be defined in DSM-IV or its international equivalent, the World Health Organization’s ICD-10.

 

In the previous version of DSM (DSM-III) a criterion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was for the sufferer to have faced a single major life-threatening event; this criterion was present because a) it was thought that PTSD could not be a result of “normal” events such as bereavement, business failure, interpersonal conflict, bullying, harassment, stalking, marital disharmony, working for the emergency services, etc, and b) most of the research on PTSD had been undertaken with people who had suffered a threat to life (eg combat veterans, especially from Vietnam, victims of accident, disaster, and acts of violence).

 

In DSM-IV the requirement was eased although most mental health practitioners continue to interpret diagnostic criterion A1 as applying only to a single major life-threatening event. There is growing recognition that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result from many types of emotionally shocking experience including an accumulation of small, individually non-life-threatening events in which case the resultant PTSD is referred to as Complex PTSD.

 

Who Can it Benefit?

Knowing why you suffer and being able to stop the suffering are two different things. People who are suffering from the following symptoms can expect success with the Rewind Technique:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Domestic Violence, Harassment and Stalking.
  • Sexual Abuse and Rape Victims.
  • Physical and Psychological Abuse.
  • Child Abuse (physical and psychological).
  • Natural Disasters.
  • Major Life-Threatening Event such as road, rail and aircraft accidents, physical assault, kidnapping, terror attack, hostage situations.
  • Loss of child through miscarriage, stillborn or at a young age.
  • Bereavement or Loss of a Loved One.
  • Interpersonal Conflict and Marital Disharmony.
  • School and Workplace Bullying- see http://innerhealthblog.com/bullying-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/
  • Acute Stress due to working for the emergency services.
  • Acute Anxiety and Panic Attacks.
  • Business Failure.

 

Is it Safe?

The Rewind technique is totally safe. No harm can come to people by using this technique, unlike some other talking therapies where the trauma can be embedded deeper.

 

It is also safe for the Rewind practitioner. In other treatments, the practitioner’s can become traumatised by hearing a traumatic account or by repeatedly hearing traumatic experiences. Using Rewind, they do not need to hear or know any of the details to perform the treatment.

 

In addition, Rewind is non voyeuristic. A person who has been raped, for example, can undergo the treatment without, if they so wish, having to talk to the counsellor about any of the intimate details of the experience.

 

The technique works by allowing the traumatised individual, whilst in a safe and relaxed state to reprocess the traumatic memory in question so that it becomes stored as a ordinary, albeit unpleasant, and non-threatening memory, rather than one that continually activates a terror response.

 

Rewind is safe for the client, and the practitioner, because unlike counselling or debriefing there is no risk of re-traumatising the victim or traumatising the counsellor during treatment.

 

Employers have a responsibility to protect the psychological as well as the physical well being of their employees. Just as with physical hazards, employers are required to assess the psychological workplace risks that their employees face. Failure to put the proper infrastructure in place can leave an employer as open for compensation claims as for someone injured at work.

 

How Does The Rewind Technique Work

 

The individual who has suffered the traumatic event is asked to revisit it, but, most importantly from a detached and safe distance, watching the events unfold mentally through a television screen providing an emotional distance between themselves and the event in question.

 

It’s a common assumption that your thoughts determine your feelings, but actually your amygdala produces emotion before your thinking brain gets a look in. Strong feelings need to be quicker than thought for basic survival. The acute trauma sufferer doesn’t recall the event as a memory… they re-experience it. Resolving acute trauma needs to work with the preverbal unconscious responses.

 

Rewind is not counselling and trying to get someone who is deeply traumatised to ‘talk about it’ may only make it worse as ‘getting back into the memory’ re-traumatises the person (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076399). It is essential to note that PTSD and trauma symptoms are not suitable for counselling; indeed talking therapies may embed the trauma further and possibly vicariously traumatise the counsellor.

For more information and to book a free initial consultation contact Paul Holcroft on 0424 671 411

Bullying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-PTSD

PTSD resulting from accident, disaster, war, terrorism, torture, kidnap, etc has been extensively studied and literature is available elsewhere. The first written reference to PTSD symptoms comes from the sixth century BC; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is nothing new – and neither is the willingness of some people to discredit and deny the existence of the disorder.

 

This section of Bully OnLine focuses on PTSD and Complex PTSD resulting from bullying, primarily in the workplace, however anyone suffering PTSD (however caused) will find this page enlightening.

 

Most of the information on this page and web site is relevant to other types of bullying, eg at school, in relationships (including domestic violence), by families, by neighbours or landlords, in the care of the elderly, in the armed services, etc.

 

Bullying is behind harassment, discrimination, prejudice and persecution, therefore targets of repeated sexual harassment or racial discrimination or religious or ethnic persecution will also identify with the symptoms. The insight about bullying on this web site is therefore also relevant to more serious issues including physical abuse, repeated verbal abuse, sexual abuse, violent crime, kidnap, abduction, rape, war, terrorism, torture, and denial and abuse of human rights. Those exploring Contact Experience may also find this page helpful.

PTSD, Complex PTSD and Bullying

It’s widely accepted that PTSD can result from a single, major, life-threatening event, as defined in DSM-IV. Now there is growing awareness that PTSD can also result from an accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents.

 

To differentiate the cause, the term “Complex PTSD” is used. The reason that Complex PTSD is not in DSM-IV is that the definition of PTSD in DSM-IV was derived using only people who had suffered a single major life-threatening incident such as Vietnam veterans and survivors of disasters.

 

Note: there has recently been a trend amongst some psychiatric professionals to label people suffering Complex PTSD as a exhibiting a personality disorder, especially Borderline Personality Disorder. This is not the case – PTSD, Complex or otherwise, is a psychiatric injury and nothing to do with personality disorders.

 

If there is an overlap, then Borderline Personality Disorder should be regarded as a psychiatric injury, not a personality disorder. If you encounter a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional who wants to label your Complex PTSD as a personality disorder, change to another, more competent professional.

 

It seems that Complex PTSD can potentially arise from any prolonged period of negative stress in which certain factors are present, which may include any of captivity, lack of means of escape, entrapment, repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, and – crucially – lack of control, loss of control and disempowerment.

 

It is the overwhelming nature of the events and the inability (helplessness, lack of knowledge, lack of support etc) of the person trying to deal with those events that leads to the development of Complex PTSD.

 

Situations which might give rise to Complex PTSD include bullying, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, stalking, long-term caring for a disabled relative, unresolved grief, exam stress over a period of years, mounting debt, contact experience, etc. Those working in regular traumatic situations, e.g. the emergency services, are also prone to developing Complex PTSD.

 

A key feature of Complex PTSD is the aspect of captivity. The individual experiencing trauma by degree is unable to escape the situation. Despite some people’s assertions to the contrary, situations of domestic abuse and workplace abuse can be extremely difficult to get out of.

 

In the latter case there are several reasons, including financial vulnerability (especially if you’re a single parent or main breadwinner – the rate of marital breakdown is approaching 50% in the UK), unavailability of jobs, ageism (many people who are bullied are over 40), partner unable to move, and kids settled in school and you are unable or unwilling to  move them. The real killer, though, is being unable to get a job reference – the bully will go to great lengths to blacken the person’s name, often for years, and it is this lack of reference more than anything else which prevents people escaping.

 

Until recently, little (or no) attention was paid to the psychological harm caused by bullying and harassment. Misperceptions (usually as a result of the observer’s lack of knowledge or lack of empathy) still abound: “It’s something you have to put up with” (like rape or repeated sexual abuse?) and “Bullying toughens you up” (ditto). Armed forces personnel faced threats of being labelled with “cowardice” and “lack of moral fibre” (LMF) if they gave in to the symptoms of PTSD.

 

In World War I, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot as “cowards” and “deserters” on the orders of General Haig in an act which today would be treated as a war crime – see separate page on this injustice.

 

In the UK at least 16 children kill themselves each year because they are being bullied at school. This figure is established in the book Bullycide: death at playtime. Each of these deaths is unnecessary, foreseeable, and preventable.

 

The UK has one of the highest adult suicide rates in Europe: around 5000 a year. The number of adults in the UK committing suicide because of bullying is unknown. Each year 19,000 children attempt suicide in the UK – one every half hour.

 

In the UK, suicide is the number one cause of death for 18-24-year-old males. Females also attempt suicide in large numbers but tend to use less successful means.

 

Since Andrea Adams first identified workplace bullying and gave it its name in 1988, recognition of adult bullying has grown steadily. Tim Field’s UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has logged over 8000 cases in seven years; in the majority of cases (over 80%), the caller is a white-collar worker who has become the prey of a serial bully whose behaviour profile suggests a disordered personality.

 

Callers refer to predecessors who have had stress breakdowns, taken early or ill-health retirement, or been dismissed on grounds of ill-health – all caused by the same individual. Sometimes callers refer to suicides of fellow employees.

 

Mapping the health effects of bullying onto PTSD and Complex PTSD
Repeated bullying, often over a period of years, results in symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How do the PTSD symptoms resulting from bullying meet the criteria in DSM-IV?

 

  1. The prolonged (chronic) negative stress resulting from bullying has lead to threat of loss of job, career, health, livelihood, often also resulting in threat to marriage and family life. The family are the unseen victims of bullying.

A.1.One of the key symptoms of prolonged negative stress is reactive depression; this causes the balance of the mind to be disturbed, leading first to thoughts of, then attempts at, and ultimately, suicide.
A.2.The target of bullying may be unaware that they are being bullied, and even when they do realise (there’s usually a moment of enlightenment as the person realises that the criticisms and tactics of control etc are invalid), they often cannot bring themselves to believe they are dealing with a disordered personality who lacks a conscience and does not share the same moral values as themselves. Naivety is the great enemy. The target of bullying is bewildered, confused, frightened, angry – and after enlightenment, very angry. For an answer to the question Why me? click here.

 

B.1. The target of bullying experiences regular intrusive violent visualisations and replays of events and conversations; often, the endings of these replays are altered in favour of the target.
B.2. Sleeplessness, nightmares and replays are a common feature of being bullied.
B.3. The events are constantly relived; night-time and sleep do not bring relief as it becomes impossible to switch the brain off. Such sleep as is achieved is non-restorative and people wake up as tired, and often more tired, than when they went to bed.
B.4. Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, e.g. receiving threatening letters from the bully, the employer, or personnel about disciplinary hearings etc.
B.5. Panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, trembling, ditto.
Criteria B4 and B5 manifest themselves as immediate physical and mental paralysis in response to any reminder of the bullying or prospect of having to take action against the bully.

 

  1. Physical numbness (toes, fingertips, lips) is common, as is emotional numbness (especially inability to feel joy). Sufferers report that their spark has gone out and, even years later, find they just cannot get motivated about anything.

C.1. the target of bullying tries harder and harder to avoid saying or doing anything which reminds them of the horror of the bullying.
C.2. Work, especially in the person’s chosen field becomes difficult, often impossible, to undertake; the place of work holds such horrific memories that it becomes impossible to set foot on the premises; many targets of bullying avoid the street where the workplace is located.
C.3. Almost all callers to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line report impaired memory; this may be partly due to suppressing horrific memories, and partly due to damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to learning and memory (see John O’Brien’s paper below)
C.4. the person becomes obsessed with resolving the bullying experience which takes over their life, eclipsing and excluding almost every other interest.
C.5. Feelings of withdrawal and isolation are common; the person just wants to be on their own and solitude is sought.
C.6. Emotional numbness, including inability to feel joy (anhedonia) and deadening of loving feelings towards others are commonly reported. One fears never being able to feel love again.
C.7. The target of bullying becomes very gloomy and senses a foreshortened career – usually with justification. Many targets of bullying ultimately give up their career; in the professions, severe psychiatric injury, severely impaired health, refusal by the bully and the employer to give a satisfactory reference, and many other reasons, conspire to bar the person from continuance in their chosen career.

 

D.1. Sleep becomes almost impossible, despite the constant fatigue; such sleep as is obtained tends to be unsatisfying, unrefreshing and non-restorative. On waking, the person often feels more tired than when they went to bed. Depressive feelings are worst early in the morning. Feelings of vulnerability may be heightened overnight.
D.2. The person has an extremely short fuse and is often permanently irritated, especially by small insignificant events. The person frequently visualises a violent solution, e.g. arranging an accident for, or murdering the bully; the resultant feelings of guilt tend to hinder progress in recovery.
D.3. Concentration is impaired to the point of precluding preparation for legal action, study, work, or search for work.
D.4. the person is on constant alert because their fight or flight mechanism has become permanently activated.
D.5. The person has become hyper sensitized and now unwittingly and inappropriately perceives almost any remark as critical.

 

  1. Recovery from a bullying experience is measured in years. Some people never fully recover.

 

  1. For many, social life ceases and work becomes impossible; the overwhelming need to earn a living combined with the inability to work deepens the trauma.

 

Common symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD that sufferers report experiencing

hyper vigilance (may feel like paranoia, but see HERE for key differences between paranoia and hyper vigilance)

  • exaggerated startle response
  • irritability
  • sudden angry or violent outbursts
  • flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive recollections, replays, violent visualisations
  • triggers
  • sleep disturbance
  • exhaustion and chronic fatigue
  • reactive depression
  • guilt
  • feelings of detachment
  • avoidance behaviours
  • nervousness, anxiety
  • phobias about specific daily routines, events or objects
  • irrational or impulsive behaviour
  • loss of interest
  • loss of ambition
  • anhedonia (inability to feel joy and pleasure)
  • poor concentration
  • impaired memory
  • joint pains, muscle pains
  • emotional numbness
  • physical numbness
  • low self-esteem
  • an overwhelming sense of injustice and a strong desire to do something about it