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Surviving Childhood: An Introduction to the Impact of Trauma


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Lesson 2: The Psychology and Physiology of Trauma
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The Psychology and Physiology of Trauma

Different children have different styles of adaptation to threat. Some children use a primary hyperarousal response, while others adapt a primary dissociative response. Most children, however, adopt some combination of these two adaptive styles.

In the fearful child, a defiant stance is often seen. This is typically interpreted as a willful and controlling child. Rather than understanding the behavior as related to fear, adults often respond to the "oppositional" behavior by becoming angrier and even more demanding.

The child, over-reading the nonverbal cues of the frustrated and angry adult, feels more threatened and moves from alarm to fear to terror. These children may end up in a primitive "mini-psychotic" regression or in a very combative state. Their behavior of the child reflects their attempts to adapt and respond to a perceived (or misperceived) threat.

Hyperarousal
Continuum
REST VIGILANCE RESISTANCE
Crying
DEFIANCE
Tantrums
AGGRESSION
Dissociative
Continuum
REST AVOIDANCE COMPLIANCE
Robotic/detached
DISSOCIATION Fetal Rocking FAINTING
Regulating Brain Region
NEOCORTEX
Cortex
CORTEX
Limbic
LIMBIC
Midbrain
MIDBRAIN
Brainstem
BRAINSTEM
Autonomic
Cognitive Style
ABSTRACT CONCRETE EMOTIONAL REACTIVE REFLEXIVE
Internal State
CALM AROUSAL ALARM FEAR TERROR


 


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