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Trauma Related to Child Abandonment and Known Treatment Strategies

Every person who has experienced trauma experiences it in their own way; some are more resilient than others depending on the amount of support they receive from family, friends, or community resources. Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is known to affect anyone at any age regardless of race or gender. There is a specific form of PTSD which affects children on into their adult lives; this is called PTSD of Abandonment or Abandonment and Attachment Related Trauma. A child’s first relationship is developed with their parents; this relationship should nurture a sense of security, wellbeing, and a general sense that things are going to be okay. When a child feels abandoned that attachment is either degraded or never made; this can cause insecure attachment which makes forming relationships later in life a difficult task. A child can develop anxiety when parents return home late from work multiple times, or suddenly go out of town; so, the effects of a absent parent due to a divorce or death are devastating. When children experience being given up for adoption or being forced to live with another member of the family this could leave the lasting impression that the child does not feel capable of being loved or that the abandonment is somehow their fault.

According to researcher’s PTSD of abandonment is considered to be a psychobiological condition affecting a person’s ability to create secure attachments or intimate relationships. Individuals who have suffered the trauma of abandonment are known to experience a range of psychological symptoms including: anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and chronic mental health illnesses. Due to these symptoms, individuals will often isolate themselves, sabotage relationships, or find themselves only attracted to people who seem unavailable.

There are several known treatment options for PTSD of abandonment; the most integrative treatment is called Inter Personal Therapy (IPT). IPT uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), family therapy, group therapy, and any supplemental techniques which are person centered. IPT focusses on helping the individual build trust in others, raising low self-esteem, increasing intimate relationships, and garnering a positive belief about social situations. In IPT the CBT technique is supplemented to help the individual identify inaccurate or intrusive thoughts and replace them with accurate and helpful thoughts which will foster a change in behavior. In IPT the DBT technique is used to validate the individual’s experiences, stabilize negative emotions, and cope with stress. This will have the overall outcome of the individual being able to accept their experiences without the emotion tied to them and create a treatment plan to move past them.

Susan Anderson (2016, September 28) retrieved from

The Refuge, A Healing Place (2017) retrieved from

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