Book Review on Childhood Adolescent Trauma Paper
Childhood/Adolescent Trauma Book Review: How Chronic Anxiety, Childhood Trauma, Domestic Abuse and Toxic Relationships Cause PTSD and Complex PTSD by Snow J. B.
J.B Snow’s ‘How Chronic Anxiety, Childhood Trauma, Domestic Abuse and Toxic Relationships cause PTSD, and complex PTSD’ published in 2015 is the book of choice in understanding childhood/adolescent trauma. The book, narrated by Sorrel Brigman, outlines the major differences between Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome Disorder and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In this book, Snow shows the transition from anxiety to PTSD, how childhood trauma is related to PTSD, how PTSD can arise from events that occur to a parent, family member or close friend, how PTSD and toxic relationships are related and Complex PTSD (CPTSD) briefly in 3 chapters.
According to Snow (2015), not all anxiety is pathological. Some degree of anxiety is good as it prepares the body for flight or fight in situations when one encounters a conflict. Anxiety produces negative and positive effects as it prepares the person to react to the situation confronting him/her. The positive effects, according to Snow, prepare an individual to handle the situation at hand in the best way possible. Snow (2015) explains that the negative effects of anxiety can lead to PTSD. They arise when someone is exposed to a traumatic situation in which they have no control over and can do little or nothing about. If such events occur repetitively and without interventions, this will lead to Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) (Snow, 2015). The effects of anxiety, according to Snow (2015), include sleep apnea. PSTD occurs due to exposure to a traumatic event such as rape once or twice. CPTSD can be found more often in women and children who encounter battering every day and soldiers. Alcoholic parents and mentally ill parents place their children at more risk for developing PTSD. According to Snow (2015), patients with PTSD present with a high degree of dependency in life and a sense of hopelessness. Further, patients with CPTSD present with a desire to be rescued, inability to complete tasks effectively, helplessness and fear (Snow, 2015).
Most childhood trauma known to cause PTSD and CPTSD stem from trauma afflicted by the closest family members such as the parents (Snow, 2015). CPTSD can emanate from being brough up by parents who are mentally ill or who have diagnosed personality disorders. Snow expounds on the issue by claiming that autocratic parenting and helicopter parenting can also lead to CPTSD. Children can also develop CPTSD if exposed to constant violence, witnessing or experiencing as and when they lack parental protection. According to Snow (2015), children with CPTSD present with a lack of emotional control, temper tantrums, and nightmares. In homes characterized by chronic violence, the children can develop CPTSD and go unnoticed. The child may develop phobias, feel unreal, and get dissociated. CPTSD can be easily aroused by sounds such as sirens, which affects the children’s ability to learn (Snow, 2015).
The book contains a lot of necessary information and has created awareness concerning the effects of PTSD and CPTSD in adults and children. Snow (2015) expounds on PTSD and CPTSD adequately and goes further to show how toxic relationships often lead to anxiety which culminates into PTSD. He provides information on how unhealthy patterns and sexual assault lead to CPTSD. The author further stresses that adults and children suffering from PTSD and CPTSD must be helped in their road to recovery from trauma and be taught ways to live with PTSD. While the author asserts that some level of anxiety can be good in some situations, such as the tinge of anxiety some people feel when tasking with speaking to the public, or when attempting something new, when unchecked and when emanating from abuse of traumatic experiences, anxiety can escalate to a level that is detrimental to normal functioning.
After indulging more in learning about PTSD, I realize that I am a victim of PTSD, and I now understand how it affected me and continues to affect me even in adulthood. I grew up as an only child with a single mother against my will. My father left the family to live a lone life and most certainly escape responsibility. He chose to do drugs, and without a child and a wife, he had nobody to question him. My mother suffered a severe heartbreak and projected all her emotions towards me. She couldn’t fathom the idea that he had been happily married to the love of her life, but that the marriage had all crumbled down, leaving her with a child to raise. I believe I was the most constant reminder of her husband, something that prompted her to take out all her emotions on me. She made me feel like she did not want to take care of me like she did because it was her obligation. I lacked motherly love, and my mother was hardly understanding. Worse still, I had no memories of spending quality time with my father. He was neither a good father nor a good husband. Now that he was gone, my mother took that all out on me.
Ben et al. (2018) assert that too much fear increases the chances of developing PTSD. When I was growing up, my mother always seemed angry and never sought help to redress her pain. I believe this decision was probably due to the stigma that arises from seeking counseling services. She would always spank me or hit me hard using any available object whenever I did something wrong or tried to express myself. Freedom of expression was unheard of to me. My voice was suppressed despite having reasonable opinions. Expressing myself even as an adult, 34 years old, is difficult. As a teenager, my mother once punched me and cursed me, ‘bitch’. As an adolescent, I rarely got into trouble because I hardly ever asked for anything.
The trauma I suffered affected me as I became older. At times when with my boyfriend, I would jump with fear of being hit. This resulted from having to shield myself from my mother’s punches, and at the moment, I would do nothing about it. She would often yell at me, “You are just like your father!” and “You are useless just like your father!” Those words were more painful than the beating itself. Their effect was long-lasting throughout childhood and adolescence to adulthood. While I may have had little to do with my parent’s marriage, and the failure thereof, it seems that I am the one who bears the most pain from that marriage. For this reason, Snow’s (2015) assertion that childhood trauma emanating from abuse, whether verbal or physical, can result in PTSD resonate well with me.
I can relate to PTSD because I used to live in fear that my mother would hit me anytime for not doing something of for failing to do it the way she wanted. As an adult, I feel emotionally disconnected from her, and I have difficulties expressing myself or having a voice. I still fear that I am not good enough for her, even as an adult. She remains significant to me even after the trauma she caused me, adding that she could never control emotions, especially anger. She should have shown me love instead of letting out her anger on me. My mother is very controlling up to now, but I resolved never to let her influence me as a mother and wife. I also refuse to be subject to her unhealed wounds and a broken heart.
After reading on PTSD and CPTSD, I cannot stop asking myself how PTSD and CPTSD cannot be categorized together because they present similar characteristics. The question became more profound after reading the book by Snow (2015) on “How Chronic Anxiety, Childhood Trauma, Domestic Abuse and Toxic Relationships Cause PTSD and Complex PTSD.” Children who experience trauma present with varying degrees of anxiety because trauma processing and understanding in children differ. I am interested in finding the criteria that make a traumatic experience fit to be categorized as CPTSD. I am also interested in knowing if the children with CPTSD present differently from adults or military service members. I believe that any traumatic experience can cause PTSD, and symptoms are equally destructive, regardless of the initial stimuli.
Long-standing unmanaged anxiety leads to the release of cortisol (Fiksdal et al., p47). Cortisol has different effects on the body system, including instructing the brain to curb non-essential functions that could be detrimental to fight-or-flight response to a threat. Further, it alters the functioning of suc vital organs and systems as the digestive system, reproductive system as well as growth processes. For this reason, long-term exposure to factors that trigger the profuction of cortisol can have long-term negative health impacts. Fear is common in PTSD and CPTSD. Environmental triggers cause intermittent flashbacks in adults or children who were not treated or who have not learned how to live with the trauma.
Exposure to multiple childhood trauma has been seen to result in complex symptoms, among them, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional control disturbances (Cloitre et al., 2019). As Snow (2015) contends, PTSD can arise from diverse traumatic experiences and can cause even more severe symptoms and health complications. However, I do not support the claim that PTSD can progress to CPTSD depending on the causative stimuli, be it domestic violence, sexual assault or physical abuse by someone close to the child. All these traumatic events can lead to CPTSD in adulthood if not treated promptly. Developmental research has come in handy in explaining CPTSD.
In fact, research has proven that childhood abuse coupled with other challenges such as neglect, single parenthood, parents with psychiatric disorders, and emotional abuse negatively impact the emotional regulation developmental process, which culminates into ineffective interpersonal behaviors (Cloitre et al., 2019). My conflict with PTSD is its classification based on the type of trauma behind it. Trauma to me has equal consequences, regardless of the extent, as long as the child was not protected. Snow (2015) further claims that marrying a psychopath or a narcissist could lead to PTSD, and that multiple incidences of rape ultimately lead to CPTSD. Snow explains who fits what definition in defining PTSD and CPTSD. Evidence from studies such as that of Cloitre et al. (2019) show that exposure to greater magnitudes of trauma in childhood and adulthood often leads to presentation with more complex symptoms early or later in life.
Noteworthy however is that indivduals respond differently life stressors, a factor largely determined by genetics and life experiences. At the genetics level, the genes responsible for contolling how individuals respond stress tend to favor fairly stable emotional levels, occasionally leaning towards flight or fight (Mayo Clinic, n.d.). However, instances exist these genes trigger overeactive or undereactive responses. Strong response to stressors is often associated with a history of traumatic events (Mayo Clinic, n.d.). For instance, individuals who experienced neglect or abuse during childhood tend to be more vulnerable to stress. Similar responses are seen in individuals who have a history of violent crimes, active military service, police officers dealing with crime, among others (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).
In his book How Chronic Anxiety, Childhood Trauma, Domestic Abuse and Toxic relationships cause PTSD and Complex PTSD, Snow (2015) seeks to expand the readers’ understanding of PTSD and the associated dynamics of the disorder. The information shared the elucidates the differences between PTSD and CPTSD creates awareness of the harmful effects of anxiety, and most importantly, of PTSD. Personally, stress has a bearing on the physical and spiritual aspects of my life. I do overreact, and when I’m anxious, I do feel like God has neglected me. It is easy to be stressed when bringing up the first child and at the same time striving to safeguard her from obvious dangers such as falls or choking. It even gets worse when you have to balance between bringing him up and studying. A person can experience an emotional breakdown when stress and anxiety become uncontrollable. At such times, I turn to God for help and focus on his promises in the scriptures to overcome all unaddressed traumas. By trusting in the Lord, I feel stronger every other day, even during times of despair. He gives me peace and allows me to live a happy life, despite it being full of traumatizing and stressful events.
I believe the knowledge I have obtained from the book will enhance my professional growth as I aspire to translate the information into actionable goals, especially regarding stress and anxiety management. In my line of work and future profession, I expect emotional narrations from children suffering from PTSD or CPTSD relative to their developmental stage. I am expected to be unbiased in the provision of care, practice active listening and unbiased interpretation of the child’s narrations if I deliver quality care. I shall take my emotions and my own opinion off it. When I worked in a professional setting in CPS, I recall a case of a child who falsely accused her grandfather, causing him significant psychological distress. I biased my management because I could not believe her accusations under the circumstances. The child wanted to live a defiant life, not following any rules at the grandfather’s home and unrestricted relationships with the opposite sex. Her lies even grew more evident when I emotionally dissociated from her story. Based on this ecperience, I shall not be biased when handling clients to ensure that children who have PTSD or other traumas and are under my care heal effectively.
My action plan entails personal growth and ensuring that my personal experiences do not inhibit my professional growth. I shall address the areas in my life with a deficit and I will ensure that I keep re-evaluating my progress to detect any gaps that may develop. I shall continue doing self-care by turning to my all-time helper, Jesus Christ, through unwavering prayers throughout my profession to assist children in overcoming trauma and PTSD. I also plan to expand my knowledge base on PTSD and CPTSD to ensure I provide effective care interventions to suffering children, making sure that they ultimately transition into happy and productive teenagers and adults free of PTSD. Finally, I understand that unresolved trauma and stress can always be projected onto others just like my mother tended to do with me. As a professionally, counsellor, I am working to resolve my past issues, so that I can be able to deliver effective care devoid of projections to my clients.
- Ben‐Ezra, M., Karatzias, T., Hyland, P., Brewin, C. R., Cloitre, M., Bisson, J. I., Roberts N.P., Schuster L.B. & Shevlin, M. (2018). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD) as per ICD‐11 proposals: A population study in Israel. Depression and anxiety, 35(3), 264-274. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22723
- Cloitre, M., Hyland, P., Bisson, J. I., Brewin, C. R., Roberts, N. P., Karatzias, T., & Shevlin, M. (2019). ICD‐11 posttraumatic stress disorder and complex posttraumatic stress disorder in the United States: A population‐based study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 32(6), 833-842. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jts.22454
- Fiksdal, A., Hanlin, L., Kuras, Y., Gianferante, D., Chen, X., Thoma, M. V., & Rohleder, N. (2019). Associations between symptoms of depression and anxiety and cortisol responses to and recovery from acute stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 102, 44-52. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018308497
- Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Stress Management. Accessed 24th April 2021 From https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- Snow, J. B. (2015). PTSD and Complex PTSD: How Chronic Anxiety, Childhood trauma, Domestic Abuse and Toxic relationships cause PTSD and Complex PTSD. (Sorrel Brigman) [Audiobook]. Audible.