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Abuse & Childhood Trauma

There are many types of abuse: physical, emotional and sexual.  Abuse can be subtle and hard to discern, or extreme and very obvious.  Abuse may be confined to several specific incidents in the individual’s life or can be ongoing and pervasive.  Abuse occurs in all ethnic/religious groups and at all socioeconomic and educational levels.

Childhood Abuse

Although individual response varies with the situation and the individual, the following are some common signs and symptoms of abuse in children, in adult survivors of childhood  abuse, or adults currently in an abusive situation.

Signs of abuse in children include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Spacing out/day dreaming
  • Tension & reactivity
  • Withdrawal
  • Personality change
  • Change in sleep patterns/nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Lying and evasion
  • Aggression
  • Poor academic achievement
  • Health complaints
  • Sexualized behaviour
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Fearfulness
  • Stories, drawings, or play with unusual, aggressive, or sexualized themes

Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse

Adult survivors of childhood abuse may exhibit a range of symptoms.  Some individuals will have memories of their abuse.  Others will not have memory but will exhibit some of the personality and behavioural characteristics that indicate a history of childhood abuse.  The picture of symptoms will vary according to their age, when the abuse occurred, how long they were in an abusive situation, how severe or traumatic the abuse was at the time, and the presence or absence of support or comfort from other sources.

Some indicators of adult survivors of abuse are:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety, depression or anger management problems
  • Avoidance of feelings
  • Chaotic life patterns
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Lack of trust
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Over or under functioning as an adult
  • Sexual difficulties: numbing out , promiscuity
  • Gullibility – easily victimized
  • Learning difficulties


  • Perfectionism
  • Addictions
  • Body numbness
  • Tendency to space out
  • Poor management of stress
  • Erratic moods
  • Tendency to expect the worst
  • Distractibility
  • Disorganized
  • Poor follow-through
  • Vigilance, no safety
  • Overly self reliant
  • Tendency to become involved in abusive relationships


In some cases, people do not have clear memories of abuse they experienced earlier in their lives.  These individuals may not recognize symptoms until many years later.  They may become depressed or angry and are confused about why they have these feelings.  Perhaps, even though they have been managing their lives reasonably well in the past, some of their coping techniques are not working as well any more.  Alternatively, they may have achieved sufficient stability in their lives such that they feel ready to deal with the past.  For others, a particular event, such as a birth of a child, or some life transition, will trigger old issues of abuse.  Individuals who have repressed memories may begin to experience emotions or body sensations connected to the abuse, or may find that intrusive memories are coming through.

If you have concerns about a child in your life, or if you recognize yourself as a survivor or current sufferer of abuse, you need not cope alone.  We provide a range of services to children, adults and families where there is, or has been, some form of abuse.


Adult Children of Alcoholics

Mission Bridge Psychological ServicesFamilies with a history of alcoholism tend to have similar dynamics.  Alcoholism is a disease of denial and avoidance, with an underlying dynamic of low self-esteem.   Alcoholism can interfere with a family’s ability to function in a healthy and balanced way.  This means that problems are not solved in mature and effective ways, and emotional needs are not always met.  Volatility and chaos are often present and the family experiences frequent crises and conflict.  Parenting is often immature and erratic so the children do not develop good self-esteem and a sense of competence.  Adult Children of Alcoholics often feel different and are forced to “guess” at what’s normal.

Children often have characteristic ways of adapting within the alcoholic family.  Although each family and individual is unique, children can adopt characteristic roles in order to survive in the family.  Some of the roles are: the over-functioning child who takes responsibility for the family and becomes an adult too soon; the under-functioning child may act out or be the distracting clown; the rebellious delinquent; or the shut down and withdrawn child.

Most adult children from alcoholic families keep adapting until there is a crisis in their adult lives.  A crisis will often lead to the realization that they are not coping as well as they should, are not making good choices, or are repeating patterns that are not constructive.  The realization that the problems they experience can be attributed to family dynamics, and that it is possible to change, is a great relief.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of an alcoholic family, and about how you can work toward controlling your own life rather than being puppeted by past influences, please feel free to contact us.

Family of Origin Issues

Mission Bridge Psychological Services“Family of Origin Issues” refers to those problems that arise for people in the aftermath of family dysfunction that interfered with healthy psychological development. Issues include such problems as alcoholism, abuse, family violence, depression, family isolation, family trauma or health problems.

All of us in our lives suffer loss and limitations in our up-bringing. The examination of family of origin issues helps us to gain perspective on the factors that shaped us. Therapy provides an opportunity to examine one’s life, keep the good, eliminate the bad, and learn new and more effective ways of living.

This form of therapy often results in enhanced self-esteem, as people begin to understand that there may be explanations for their least desirable behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Though this may, at first glance, imply that the goal is to blame others and excuse ourselves for our faults, the opposite is actually true. There is a vast difference between explaining ourselves and excusing ourselves. The insight we get from explaining ourselves helps us take responsibility for ourselves. This is an important step in making change, and fostering our growth and development as people.

Psychological Services
Mission Bridge Psychological Services

The partners at Mission Bridge Psychological Associates provide a comprehensive range of psychological services to individuals, couples, adolescents, and families. Together, we bring over 90 years of experience to our clients. Our collaboration both within our partnership and with other community resources increases the depth, range, and quality of our services.

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