Psychological Self-Help

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abused as children have a smaller hippocampus than unviolated
women; thus, stress seems to change our brains, our cardiovascular
systems, our immune systems, and our hormonal systems. So, when
"stressed out" as an adult, the original source may have been years
ago or even in your childhood (brilliant! except Freud said that 100
years ago). 
About 40% of 10 to 16-year-olds report some sort of trauma in
childhood--physical or sexual assault, kidnapping, etc. These
traumatized children have more stress symptoms, sadness, and
difficulty in school than non-traumatized children (Boney-McCoy &
Finkelhor, 1995). That's why therapists explore your history. 
Unfortunately, we scientists don't know how these continuing over-
reactions to stress are maintained over the years (see psychodynamics
section later). Of course, theorists speculate, e.g. some think intense
stress is primarily a chemical-physiological reaction which permanently
alters our body, especially the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal
glands and their various hormones, causing the hypersensitive
reactions to ordinary stress. Drugs might be developed to fix these
problems. Others think psychological (learned) processes are
responsible and need to be changed. 
Jeffery Young (1990) has suggested that early maladaptive
schemas or ways of thinking develop early in life. Such schemas,
especially after experiencing high stress, might include ideas that I will
be abandoned, that others may deceive or hurt me, that I won't get
enough love, that I can't handle life, that I can't be happy without a
particular person's love, that I am basically defective and others won't
like me, that my wants and feelings are unimportant, that I am
entitled to anything I want, that I don't need to or can't control my
emotions or behavior, and so on. Our particular schemas form the core
of our self-concept, so they resist change. And, the maladaptive
schemas from childhood could cause depression, over-reactions to
stress (like divorce), physiological changes, high blood pressure and
strokes, etc. years later. We are a long way from knowing how to
prevent these long-range consequences. Quite possibly the
physiological development and psychological processes (conditioning
and cognitive) constantly interact and share the blame. Give science
another 25 years and we will understand these new mysteries well
enough to "treat" the causes. For now, we can do our best with what is
known by exploring additional psychological theories about handling
serious trauma. Later, we will consider more theories about coping
with general anxiety. 
Dealing with Trauma
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