Healing Line

Healing Line

Deep and Difficult Wounds

by Dr. Drew Edwards
Fall 2016

People who have suffered from early life trauma or abuse often struggle with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or just feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Their lives become organized around the traumatic event, the person who hurt them, or numbing their pain. Unfortunately too many suffer alone because they fear judgment from others, or that they are not worth the trouble. Their lives are marred by emotional pain, confusion, and self–doubt.

Trauma Defined

Early life trauma can stem from physical, emotional or sexual abuse or from neglect, loss of a loved one, bullying, witnessing violence, or having a serious accident or injury. It can also result from growing up in a highly dysfunctional home, where chronic emotional neglect and indifference are the norm. This list is not exhaustive.

We must understand that in the case of child abuse, the event or events never occur in isolation. Rather the traumatic event(s) are usually just one facet of a family’s dysfunction. Typically, physical or sexual abuse can be coupled with a parent’s addiction, which breeds inconsistent parenting, neglect, emotional abuse, and numerous other problems. Over time, the abused child drowns in layer after layer of deeply shaming and dysfunctional behavior, leaving him or her feeling progressively worse about him or herself.

Approximately five million children in the United States alone experience some form of trauma every year. More than two million of these children are physically or sexually abused.

Addiction & Mental Illness

Behavioral medicine and addiction doctors have long noted the link between emotional trauma, addictive disease and mental illness. A 2012 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed that childhood trauma is a common finding among people undergoing addiction treatment, especially women, and is strongly predictive of depression and mood disorders, anxiety, eating disorders and obesity, compulsive sexual behavior and other forms of addictive disease.

Damaged Brains

The fact that traumatic life experiences often precede mental illness and substance abuse is not surprising. What is surprising is the extent of neuroadaptive changes in the brains of traumatized children and teens.

Utilizing sophisticated brain imaging technology, researchers at the University of Texas were able to measure “preclinical” deficits in the neuronal signaling and “connectivity” in the midbrain region of adolescents who were traumatized as children. This neurocircuitry is the “hardwiring” that regulates how we process emotions and cope with stress. In addition, researchers found that early life trauma diminishes one’s capacity to experience enthusiasm, pleasure or contentment. This insight is important because it suggests a neural pathway through which early life stress may contribute to depression." — Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry

The findings suggest that childhood maltreatment is a severe stressor that alters trajectories of brain development. This is critically important because young children do not have a frame of reference in which to process and categorize traumatic experiences. They require the love and help of a competent, caring adult, or God ordained parents as the primary source for comfort and support when children are sick or injured. If a parent is absent, or is the source of abuse, the child truly suffers deeply and in isolation.

As traumatized children mature, their psychopathology emerges. As teenagers, they quickly learn that drugs or alcohol quickly numb feelings of fear, powerlessness, depression — and drown out painful memories. As a result, the deep wounds of abuse or trauma become inexorably yoked to addiction. As addiction progresses, resentments emerge and become the fuel that feeds the self–loathing, addiction and later, thoughts of suicide can follow.

Children who are traumatized often carry their wounds, fear and helplessness into adulthood. To survive they learn how to push away, or medicate their pain and self–loathing. But in the process they also lose their spiritual identity.

For others, the pain and fear can turn inward and be expressed as depression, overwhelming anxiety, cutting or self–mutilation. Some teens engage in so–called, self–soothing behaviors, such as, sexual promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, overeating, to name a few. Eventually most become mired in the addictive cycle of self–hatred and shame, ameliorated by intoxicants, or other compensatory behavior, all of which inexorably leads to more self–hatred and shame…and the cycle continues.

How to Help

I can think of no better treatment for adult victims of childhood trauma than intercessory and inner healing prayer. Why? Because God knows exactly where it hurts, why it still hurts, who did the hurting, and, He deeply desires to take the hurt away.
The words of Jesus should speak to us loudly. Yet, for those who have been abused, words are cheap and trust is in short supply. Partially because the self–loathing is deeper than most of us can imagine. Think about it. If your mom or dad, or older sibling or a trusted adult abused you, how could you ever feel worthy of love, respect or care?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will will find rest for your souls. — Matthew 11:28–29

The Lies of the Enemy

Satan uses these wounds to foster self–hatred and resentment. And he wants those who have been hurt the most to feel like they somehow deserved it. He whispers, “no one loves you.” And sadly, many victims of abuse believe the lie. So much so, that some take their own lives. So the initial battle is spiritual. Prayer ministers show the unconditional love of Christ and speak, pray and denounce the lies of the enemy. Their message becomes “You are deeply loved by God.”

Although the details of childhood trauma and abuse are scary to deal with, it’s not scary for the Holy Spirit. Prayer ministers know to call on the Holy Spirit, who is the great comforter and healer of whatever torment we are experiencing. Certainly professional counseling and psychiatry can play an important role in the healing process. In my experience, professional counseling alongside prayer ministry is a powerful combination — especially if the professional is a Christian.

Remember that God does not have limited resources and He often heals one differently than another. Scripture informs us that all believers can be partakers in His ministry. Remember when the 72 returned from their mission of healing the sick and casting out demons? Jesus told them, that with faith, they could do even greater things.

If you are carrying deep wounds, remember the words of Jesus, “Come to me and I will give you rest” — and Christian Healing Ministries is a great resource for prayer appointments. They also have a network referral database. God loves you, and deeply desires to bring comfort and peace to all who seek Him.

Carline H, Keyes KM, et al. Childhood Trauma and Illicit Drug Use in Adolescence: A Population–Based National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2016
Hanson JL et al, Blunted Ventral Striatum Development in Adolescence Reflects Emotional Neglect and Predicts Depressive Symptoms. Biological Psychiatry. Published online May 25 2015
Teicher, M.H.; Anderson, C.M.; Ohashi, K. et al. Childhood maltreatment: altered network centrality of cingulate, precuneus, temporal pole and insula. Biological Psychiatry. 76(4):297–305, 2014.

Drew Edwards Dr. Drew Edwards is a nationally known healthcare researcher, author, clinician and consultant, he also serves on CHM’s board of directors.
Fall 2016 Issue