Theories on the Development of Disorder

When something, an emotion, an urge, an impulse, is so severely suppressed that a person becomes oppressed, we can often observe extreme opposite reactions. This is consistent with the laws of physics and the universe, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Except, one thing. I believe when it comes to emotions and behaviors, the opposing reaction is more like equal plus. The plus being an x-value holding place for a value with the meaning “a little more.” Determining that exact value in numerical terms may be difficult, since there is no numerical value for emotions.

It basically conveys the message that the situation perpetuates itself. Any potential absence of behavior or action can still be perceived as a positive value. Inaction can still be considered an action in this case, because there isn’t really such a thing as a complete absence of behavior.

This is potentially a huge factor in mental illness. Obviously, we are aware of the psychological damage abuse and neglect in childhood can cause, even throughout adulthood. It is thought to manifest in anxiety disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. However, that does not account for people who did not experience what is typically considered childhood trauma.

Even as adults, we are susceptible to psychological damage. This is a fact that is well established through research involving war veteran and victims of sexual assault. However, we only consider extreme forms of trauma as something qualifies as such. Such is also true of childhood trauma.

Other qualifying trauma often happens over a period of time, and goes consciously unrecognized. This does not mean that it is also subconsciously unrecognized as well. In fact, the subconscious is likely keenly aware, but unable to translate to the conscious mind.

Once the conscious mind becomes aware that there is something amiss, the traumatizing behavior seems commonplace. The person has likely become desensitized to what was once a subtle, but generally constant external stressor. By then, it becomes internalized and often mistaken as an internal stressor.

Those are the seeds for maladaptive behaviors in both children and adults. At this point, unhealthy coping mechanisms have already been adopted as part of a person’s behavioral repertoire. This is directly the result of an extreme reaction to the accumulation of what may be considered subtle long term stressor(s).

The maladaptive behaviors are recognized as such, and perpetuate trauma through mistreatment of oneself. It can be behaviorally observed by an unusual response to certain unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, the subject is often unaware that their responses are abnormal. By the time it is either pointed out or realized by oneself, the original cause is well buried under layers of self-abuse / neglect.

The result of this is much larger than anxiety disorders. It reaches out to grab behaviors typical of a variety of psychological disorders. Behavior repertoires are often observed in personality disorders and mood disorders. it would stand to reason this is true, due to the nature of long-term external stressors, particularly subtle abuse and neglect.

12 thoughts on “Theories on the Development of Disorder

  1. Very interesting, Lulu! As someone with relatively little “trauma” before my teen years, it’s hard to see at as a cause for any of my issues. Everything I’ve experienced seems so minor.

    If anything, maybe I didn’t get enough positive reinforcement for accomplishments since I’m a total approval-seeking workaholic overachiever. But I also realize that it’s my choice to continue to live that way – or not.

    • We’re conditioned to think that if it wasn’t obviously traumatic, or a person remained relatively unharmed very soon after the trauma, then it has no affect. I like to term it “Collective Trauma”.

      We can determine if collective trauma is accumulating by taking the stress inventory. Very high numbers are a good indication. If we chart that over a period of time, and see that the numbers remain consistently high, then we can determine instances of a person suffering from collective trauma.

      Think of it in terms of alcoholism. A person’s body isn’t instantly harmed by the encounter when binge drinking. But, after a period of time, though the person in question may disagree that their drinking is excessive, we’ll start to see evidence in behavior and physiology.

      Now, why can we see this evidenced and why can’t a person cope? The mind becomes more sensitive to stress. We can see this markedly in increasing irritability in some. Others may withdrawal and isolate, because they fear accumulating more. Things that ordinarily would be considered average annoyances, such as misplacing the car keys, will turn out to be overly stressful.

      Now, this is just a theory of how reinforcement for maladaptive behavior perpetuates this. Excessive working is fulfilled by achievement. The achievement is kind of like putting another trophy in the trophy case. It feeds a person’s self-image and causes a sense of satisfaction, admiration, and appreciation. The stress is accumulated by an intense reaction to “failures”. Then, the “behavior” of failure is “punished” by not wanting the stressor produced in the intense reaction. It’s an additional way it is reinforced. This is likely something that has gone on since childhood. But, I’m not going to psychoanalyze it any further. It is applicable to many different people in different ways.

      Where I personally suffer is in a variety of maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors are sometimes conflicting, and it becomes confusing. For instance, I too suffer from the “perfectionist complex”. “Failures” are often handled in two extremely different ways.

      A “failure” is always damaging to my self-image. It can even go as far as “perceived failures”, meaning failures in areas that cannot be quantified, and sometimes qualified. Just the fear of failure alone is enough to start producing stress.

      So, that brings us to the intense reaction. Often, it is received as a blow to my self-image, followed by self-punishment. Whether it is lambasting myself, or anything else, it is inevitable.

      Or, sometimes, it is followed by a complete withdrawal. I will see it as a complete loss. In the interest of saving myself constant torment, I will discard it and wash my hands of it. Abandoning projects, people, etc, is part of my MO. But, it makes prediction and treatment even harder, because one doesn’t know what behavior will surface.

      One would assume that by turning my back on a stressful endeavor would relieve the stress it produces. The result is actually the opposite. Think of it as an area that saw damage in a natural disaster. Most people start to go in and fix it. But, what if they didn’t? The area would be roped off for safety, but then it becomes an even bigger stressor. One would have to find ways to continue to avoid it, causing a wealth of new stressors.

      Another particularly maladaptive behavior is my intense response to stress itself. One of those responses is extreme, and involves destruction of property. This is an even bigger problem. Not only am I responsible for damages, which I can loathe myself over my loss of control, but I have to worry about other people’s reactions to the destruction, and replacing the item. Or mourning the loss of the item. Either one.

      So, we see how stress multiplies itself. How do we break this cycle? Another thought for another day!

  2. I think it varies and in fact a psychological disorder may be the conclusion of any number of things, starting with Genetics. There are things that I see when my family all gets together that are not mormal behavior. I also see myself with the same behavior. But Im talking about family that I haven’t grown up with or been around a lot. Only difference is that I know that it is a mental issue and sadly my family doesn’t recognize it as such.
    Of course events of childhood (I am sure of this) has much to do with how our psychological problems are formed. Also, truamatic events throught our whole lifetime can bring on a mental and emotional disorder. I was only diagnosed about 12 years ago but after I knew and looked back, I saw that it was with me from childhood. I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t fitting in right. With me, my life was suppressed and opressed as far as I remember, and that is about three. My home was almost a cultish religious home. I lived in fear and bondage. It was so bad that I still have nightmares about my mother even though we get along well now. All these things build up and change us and how wer think until we can’t hardly think anymore, at least normally.

    • You have touched upon something here.

      See, I wasn’t going for the obvious and well established factors. I was trying to dig deeper into the behavior(s) that prompt and sustain it. But, you really hit the jackpot with me today.

      I’ve been working on a post about my mother. I don’t like the woman, but that’s not the point of the post. The point is how I had been very upset with myself lately, because I thought I was allowing myself to turn into her. That’s far from the truth

      There are disturbing parallels between her and I. I sometimes only get a glance of myself, and I see her. I have mistaken my own blurry reflection for her before. To say the least, it’s upsetting for me. Not the part about us looking similar. That’s genetics, and a person can’t change that. She’s pretty anyway, so I guess I got dealt a good hand there. I’m more upset about what it represents to me.

      I, never once in my life, wanted to be like my mother. My mother was, and always has been, a housewife, now what they call a homemaker. (When I was described as such on a tax return one year, I went through the roof.) Society had taught me that women who stayed in the home were submitting to an antiquated lifestyle. And that’s what I grew up thinking. She didn’t do much to change that line of thought either. She had described how she had thrown her life away for a man who didn’t love her, and another man who made her life miserable (my father). She got accepted into college, and was talked out of it. Instead, her parents wanted to marry her off. A woman’s place was in the home, and so she went along with it. She told me she regretted it sometimes.

      So, I found myself striving hard to be better, and to do better. To stay out of the home, and have a career, after a good education. To have a happy marriage, where my partner didn’t make me miserable. To have a good man that I didn’t have to hassle to go to work, and didn’t have to hassle to do much of anything. A man who cared for me, and wasn’t afraid to show it.

      Instead, I landed myself in a situation where I was described as a homemaker. I have a job now, but it’s very much part time. I still struggle with poverty like she did. I have a husband that often reminds me of my father, (which was NOT the case when we were married, four years ago today. He was a completely different man.) I have a son with ASD. And if I were to have another child, it would likely be a girl who later turned up with bipolar disorder. I see the parallels. I can’t stop them.

      Then, the little things started changing. I had always been a very willful woman. No person could tame me. Except my husband. What I didn’t realize is that it went beyond taming, and into putting me into submission. So, I started acting like my submissive mother, who has uncontrollable outbursts from time to time. I started becoming afraid of the world and of new experiences. I started to want to quit my job and hide in my house. And that’s when I saw it. My mom, her mom… it’s not me. It’s a family thing.

      When my family is under great stress, meaning all of my extended family, the “crazy” comes out. I don’t like using the word, but it’s really the only way to describe it. One of my aunts becomes delusional and denies the facts that are right in front of her face. She becomes nutty at the prospect of “abandonment”. But, it is specific to a caretaker.

      I have another aunt who completely withdrew. It was too much for her, and so she took off. I have an uncle who seems to remain indifferent to his mother dying, and another who still seems bitter about her childhood. And finally, there is my mother.

      My mother is a jumbled mess of conflicting values and emotions. Starting to sound familiar? On one hand, she feels an obligation to care for her mother during her final times. But, she is still bitter about her childhood. (Rightfully so, from what I understand). She told me that she looked back and couldn’t find one happy memory of her mother. She was trying to find something that would make her want to do this. Instead, she found more reasons why she doesn’t want to. But, my mother has abandonment issues too, only applicable to caretakers. It is really an emotional strain for her to watch her mother die. She hates her. She loves her. She never wanted to be separated from her mother. She wanted to be close, but every time she’d try, she’d get hurt and withdraw and become resentful. (It must be coming into focus now.)

      My mother believes in women’s right and freedoms, and yet she never embraced any of them. She pretty much lives her life to care for my brother and my father. She goes above and beyond caring, though. She submits to all of their wishes, desires, and demands.

      My mother tells me that she is not content at home, but when presented with an opportunity to get out, she doesn’t take it. I suspect she doesn’t really want to go out, because the outside world causes great anxiety. Which brings me to her mother. Her mother is extremely agoraphobic. Besides doctor’s appointments, she has not left the house at all since my grandfather died.

      There we have it. A whole mess of people without disorders who show serious signs of them. A certain amount of pressure has to be put on them for it to be obvious, though. And like you, I am the only one who carried a diagnosis, who thinks of it as a problem, and is seeking treatment. To the rest of them, that’s just the facts of life.

      In terms of religion, you touched upon something that I was going to get to in a follow-up post. About societal pressures having their effect. My family was religious, but not oppressive. Where I was oppressed was in my personality. Everyone around me built this mould for me. Certain expectations were put out there, but not clearly defined. That was so everyone could mess with the bar.

      My father was the one who put the bar too far out of my reach. Other people would at least feign happiness at my achievements and submission to an idea of me. But, my father could not be pleased. I was never doing enough, achieving enough, being enough. Most of the time, the man was indifferent about me. (Go ahead and draw from that, because I know I am). It was at the height of my childhood achievement that I saw the cracks starting to show. I became very unhappy, probably to the point of depression. And when it became impossible to maintain a certain image and continue to work on high, I let things go to pieces. I had to start being true to myself, whether people liked it or not.

      They didn’t. I was the smudge on my father’s existence. He was ashamed of me. He was infuriated by me. Everything about me conflicted with his idea of me. It was very difficult for me when I came into adulthood, because I was free to make choices about my life. He didn’t like what I was going to school for. He insisted I should have gone for music (inevitably, he was right). He never liked my boyfriends (inevitably, he was right. He was the one who encouraged me to marry my husband when he proposed.) He didn’t like my drinking, smoking, partying. He just loathed the way I lived and was.

      I graduated college when he only got his GED for high school. I married the man he handpicked for me. And he still was pissed when I turned up pregnant. I don’t know why he was upset about his adult, married, pregnant daughter. For most of my pregnancy, he didn’t really talk to me. He took me to appointments, but it was a pretty quiet ride.

      The day my son was born was the day that I could do no wrong. It was the first day I did something right. It was the last day I did something wrong. Finally.

      Now, this is where I resent my mother. I am starting to believe the truth in what I’m about to say. During one of my recent episodes, I concocted this cockeyed theory of what the strain on our relationship was. We don’t outright have disagreements, because my mother doesn’t fight. In fact, from a distance, it looks like we get along just fine. But, there are things about her that I’m starting to realize and I really despise.

      A lot of the things that pissed me off about my father in childhood, I started to wonder if they were actually perpetrated by my skittish mother instead. I started to think about how she was never pleased with my appearance, and never really tried to hide it. I was a fat kid, but she didn’t do anything in the way of showing me proper diet and exercise. I started to think about when I hit puberty. She was going through her whole menopause midlife crisis thing at the same time. I gained 15lbs and she lost 15lbs, putting her at about 90lbs. I was more like 145lbs, a lot when you’re only 4’10. I looked at this one photo from a vacation we took. There I was in this cover all bathing suit, wrapped in towels. And there was my rail thin, blonde haired mother in a bikini.

      My cockeyed theory? My mother set me up to fail. My mother was so damn jealous of me, probably because in a time before I can really remember, my father adored me, that she set me up to fail. She wanted to prove who the better woman was. So, I was subjected to impossible expectations and damaging scrutiny. But, she left just enough scraps of approval that I would continue to strive for more. Until I completely caved when I became symptomatic.

      I guess I had completely failed as an adult, because sometime in the middle of college, she gave up on me. She gave up on her too. Probably because she saw the seeds of her in me. Someone who self-sabotages. A raging alcoholic. Someone miserable and fed up with life. And, I think it bothered her.

      The only reason I stand to believe this, is because of some recent events. I weighed myself one day, and discovered that my hard work had paid off. I was at my bottom adult weight, and I was determined to get under it. My mother was at one of her higher adult weights, and she was very depressed about it. That’s when she started asking me, “Do you think I should dye my hair blonde again?” I’m blonde. Barbie bitch blonde. I was a good woman and told her she looked fine the way she was. The grey wasn’t grey, it wasn’t actually white, and it suited her.

      Why would my nearly sixty-three year old mother care after at least five years of letting her natural color grow in and letting her weight bounce up and down, naturally?

      It’s suspicious to me. It really is.

      So, to finally answer the question directly, yes, my childhood was filled with serious oppression. Especially my teen years. But, it can be found in my childhood as well.

      • all through reading this, I kept wanting to interupt and say Jealousy!! That was what I finally figured out about my mother. It got to where even if I had a cold in Florida, She would end up with the same sickness expecting the same attention in Michigan. That is just one example. She would get her hair cut like mine and she didn’t know how to style it so it would not look like mine and she would just stare at me and my hair. I sware, it is a ficious circle with all these tihngs. It seems that parenting is a no win situation sometimes. I mean mine are grown. But both are affected by their dads abuse and My mother too. Also by my unstableness. I can already see it in them. It really hurts to see it in your kids. If I would have had a man that was sensitive to what I had already been through, which he knew too well how she was because he had to deal with her too. But instead, he tried to be my mother too after I married him. If you look at the big picture, My god, isn’t it all just screwed up?

        • I’m so glad you didn’t think I was a total nutjob for thinking that. Sometimes, when I get ideas in certain states, it’s just plain paranoia. But, unfortunately, a lot of times I’m right. It seems my powers of perception are greater in hypomanic states. Or maybe it’s because I don’t automatically eliminate things because I don’t think they are logical or likely.

          I think I miss a lot of the obvious because it’s illogical to the thinking brain.

          Your mother sounds like a real piece of work. My mother doesn’t go that far. We have a really strange relationship. Sometimes, if it’s a topic that stirs enough emotion in her, she’s on my side. When my husband dodged my surgical consult for the second time, she was about to rip his throat out. That’s because her first husband had left her completely alone in a foreign country where she didn’t know the language to have her surgery.

          During the time of my surgery, it was the nicest she has ever been. It’s not like she’s mean. She’s indifferent. She’s stoic. Seeing emotion come out of her, well, it looks forced. She did my laundry without complaining once. She took care of my son without nasty remarks. She was actually caring, like a mother should be.

          When her mother got sick, that was the end of that. We had about eight weeks. Four where I was practically helpless. Two more where I’d strain myself too much, and make it bad all over again. And two more where I was just getting back to normal.

          Hmmm, now to think of it… when I get new clothes, she gets new clothes. She didn’t even buy me a birthday present, but she sure got herself some things she “needed”. When I get my hair cut, she gets her hair cut. But, she’s worn her hair the same way since the 90’s. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, because she feels she doesn’t have to be culturally relevant.

          Yeah, now that I think about all of these things, it is like that. When I was first diagnosed, she refused to accept it. She would say stuff like, “Everyone feels that way.” But, I couldn’t impress upon her that it’s extreme, and uncontrollable. She insisted that I wasn’t trying, and that was the problem.

          This summer will mark three years since the start of my treatment. In that time, she has gone between denying it, blaming it on my father, and relating it to his behavior and treatment, and now, it’s changed again. A couple of months ago, she made a remark about her sisters, “I’m starting to think it’s not just your dad that’s responsible for your disorder.”

          A few weeks ago, she admitted to me that she’s been self-medicating for years. I asked why she never got treatment (for what she thinks is an anxiety disorder). She told me, “I was afraid they were going to take you guys (her kids) away.” That’s the reason I didn’t immediately seek treatment. I was having postpartum psychosis.

          So, now I guess we’re both “crazy”. She’s been thinking about treatment. If it’s because she wants to name a disorder, like I did, then good for her. At least she’ll be getting treatment for something she’s been lying to everyone about for years.

          • well its way back in my life journal now. But you can see how my mother seemed to be more into my life than her own. She was sneaky too and acted like she was some witch that had me all figured out. Which she did control me more than I’d like to admit. But when I totally broke down and was in the hospital, she really thought things over. She was trying to be supportive. When I got into therapy though, it was so hard for her. She just knew that all my therapist and I did durring my sessions was talk about my mother and how it’s all her fault. I told her that no one ever said it was ALL her fault. It showed tremendous insecurity on her part about the way she ran the house and how she raised me. I brought her some information about Bipolar disorder and she read it. Then for the first time in my life, she tried to start acting like my mother instead of the great mother ship relaying messeges to me conserning my distruction. She was a machine not a mother at all. Now she seems like a mom. and I am thankful for that. But she still has her ways.My dad is starting to turn into how my mother was before and displaying othe uncharacteristic not at all normal for him. I am worried about him. I don’t even like to be alone with him. Mom knows what to talk about and what to not even open her mouth about. I must admit they have had me trapped all my life. Like you have said. They also have set me up to fail. When I got out of school, they had provided me with a car “which was really theirs”. Helped us get a mobile home which I paid about a third of it, and then tried to tell us who we could have over and what we could do. It has just went on and on. I had a few really good years where I could actually say “screw you, I don’t need you” so Ididn’t have to play nice. It was all a game with them. They would provide everything FOR A PRICE! That is how they could always have a say in where I went and everything. I finally unbrainwashed myself from that almost completely now. I pay my own bills got this home on my own so it is them who have to play nice because that is the only way to keep me around now. So we get along pretty good. But mom will never be any different. She had some mental disorders, not just one. If I had all day I would explain. Even the rest of her family is scared to death to smoke a cigarette in front of her or drink a beer, even if everyone gathers at someone elses house. She is just like the mom on Carrie!

            • I’m sorry. Totally inappropriate giggling at the “mother vs. Mother ship” phrase. I don’t think the context is funny. I think the verbage is funny. I’m going to have to borrow that. My mothership. Lol.

              And what you mentioned about the control, yeah, I have the same problem now. I live in a house that is “their” house. They don’t try to tell me who I can have over. But, they lord it over me if I “start acting up”. As if they’d actually kick me and my family out. It’s less profitable for them, and what would the rest of the family think?

              My mother makes me pay a certain amount of my pitiful income to her for babysitting. It’s not as if I’m at work all day. Quite the contrary. And it’s not as if I’m working all of the time. I don’t ask her to take him anywhere or leave any caretaking responsibilities to her, with the exception of supervision. Most people are shocked to find this out. “She’s already home, and she’s his grandmother!” Yup.

              And it pisses me off. Read my posts at the end of August to find out a little more about how much she pisses me off in that aspect of my life. She would have me quit my job first. She thought she wasn’t getting paid for me to do summer program, so she refused to do it. I put a price tag on it, and everything was okay.

              She cares so little about her family that she has to profit off of them.

              Yeah, she has money problems, but they are of her own creation. They took out loans for all kinds of things they never actually did (like fix my house), and now they’re getting screwed. They have dozens of maxed out credit cards. It’s not as if she’s struggling to make the basics. I’m struggling over the basics. Like missing doses because I don’t have the money to buy medicine until payday.

              So, I’m trying to find a way to tell them to piss off. Sometimes, I don’t play nice, but then I have to take shit for it forever. I wasn’t passive-aggressive about it last September. She threatened my employment, and I flew. I called her and screamed at her. Then, I didn’t speak to my mother for the majority of that month. I had my husband do all of the communication. Childish, I know. But I was furious!

              It was the first time in my adult life that she seemed to get that I was serious, and I wasn’t going to be pushed around. Sometimes, I think the only reasons she backs off is because she’s afraid of being responsible for a meltdown, coming between my son and my dad, (they are buddies), or being responsible for any pains my son might suffer from a screwed up parent. That’s pretty much it. She doesn’t want the blame, she doesn’t want to have to make the admission, and she doesn’t want to have to make amends.

              I’ve seen my father look guilty, because he’s realized he did something to harm me. But, anytime I’ve gone at my mother, she turns it around on me. It’s my fault somehow. Or I’m the only one with the problem. I’m so tired of that theme. Ugh.

              I’ve had some serious breakdowns. My family, husband was once included, will do anything to keep me out of the hospital. If I go, someone might get blamed for it. And then, they’ll have to watch my kid. I wouldn’t want them to visit. They’d probably make it worse. I’d probably refuse them.

              Or then again, I might not. I know I’m not brainwashed anymore. But, I can’t break free of it. I might actually let them visit in the hope that they might actually express love and concern. Doubtful.

              More oppressions. I guess as long as they have me by the heart strings, I’ll never be free.

            • you know, The last time I had to live with my parents, I was just coming down from an enourmous mental emotional breakdown which mother thought was the devil. I had no where to go. I couldn’t work. But mom cmae down from “praying ” in her room and said that God told her that I was cursed, and also that because of that , they couldn’t help me anymore or they would be cursed too. Soon after my tax return came and I hauled ass out of there. I have never went back there again. God has provided for me since then. The house they had built when they moved here, is huge. They admitted that they thought that me and the kids were just going to live with them so we would have room for all of us. It about made me sick. My parents really want to control me in a big way.

  3. I’ve talked about ideas related to this with my therapist. I do think that my childhood exacerbated whatever problems I may’ve been predisposed to. It seems that the field is moving toward seeing mental issues as a result of both genes and experience.

    In a nutshell, what’s traumatizing for one child may not be so for another child. You can’t objectively rate trauma. My childhood was traumatic for me because I felt unloved. My family did and does love me, so I’m still a little puzzled as to why I felt totally unloved. But I was an emotional and earnest child, so what bruised me might not have bruised someone else. When I told my parents I thought they were partially blame for my issues (I felt like I needed to inform them of this so that I could have some validation), they responded by essentially saying, “Then why aren’t my other kids like that?” Well, what was traumatic for me, what I felt as emotional neglect didn’t have as much of an impact on the others as it did on me. There’s also the fact that I was so nervous around people that I could never relate to my peers,which made my family interactions most of my interpersonal relationships.

  4. Check out the book “Drama of the Gifted Child” by Dr. Alice Miller if you get a chance. So much of what she writes about is evident in your post and the following comment threads.

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