Bed-wetting, Sleepwalking, Hair pulling, Nail biting, Skin picking, Stammering and the list goes on… When under stress the mind finds ways to relieve itself with abnormal behaviors

In most cases, the stress in children is due to highly toxic family situations. According to the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study, there are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the study and five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect.

Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death, or abandonment.

Bed-wetting, Sleepwalking, Hair pulling, Nail biting, Skin picking,  Stammering and the list goes on…
Hair pulling (Trichotillomania) is a body-focused repetitive behavior 

For some time may be the child’s resilience allows him/her to manage to survive in this environment. However, it cannot go on indefinitely.

Fear & Repression

The two most crucial emotions a child has to deal with in a dysfunctional home are fear and repression. A child is so fearful of his/her parent/parents’ violence, rejection, invalidation, and abandonment, but cannot express it to anyone. They have to literally bury it deep within the subconscious and pretend that everything is normal.

All emotions good and bad are energy, they have to be expressed and cannot be repressed. When negative emotions cannot be expressed consciously, invariably the pain and hurt lodged in the unconscious mind pushes through in form of maladaptive behaviors and drives that are termed as abnormal and weird.

Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

The most common problems faced by children of trauma are stammering or stuttering, bed-wetting (secondary enuresis), sleepwalking (somnambulism), nail biting (chronic onychophagia)hair pulling (Trichotillomania), and skin picking (dermatillomania) and other abnormal repetitive behaviors.

Adding to the child’s stress and anxiety is the bullying and ridicule of his/her peers the child has to cope with. It becomes a  vicious cycle that cannot be broken easily.

If these psychological issues are not addressed and the emotional pain is not expressed, invariably the child will end up cutting herself/himself and eventually commit suicide.

Research suggests that Body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB)  is a dysfunctional response to stress used (consciously or subconsciously) in an attempt to alleviate high levels of mental distress and turmoil. It is also theorized that it can operate as an expression of repressed rage and/or other repressed feelings.

Family Dysfunction

Since my father mostly picked on my brother when he was growing up, wanting to make him a man. My brother ended up with a slight stutter and would even wet his bed till maybe 8 years. As for myself, the moment I came to understand that my mother was going to die I began wetting the bed.

After she died it was further exacerbated by being sexually molested while I slept. And my insensitive father would broadcast it to all my relatives, ridiculing me. It was the most shameful thing to cope with.

The worse part was when the cousin (who thought of himself as a great writer) who was also sexually abusing me wrote a piece on the family and derisively described me as the ‘Susu Queen’. My brother who by then had stopped wetting his bed thought it hilarious.

The rage I felt was so great I felt like lashing out but couldn’t because I was smaller.  Gradually, I blocked out all emotions and pretended that nothing or no one would hurt me. I was so successful that I mostly forgot about the abuse, the incest. Most of the memories were safely tucked away till I had a breakdown in my late twenties.

Love Cures Pain

The one BFRB behavior that persisted right into my late twenties was hair-pulling. I used to do it unconsciously, till one of my colleagues at work began making fun of the habit. Though I became conscious of it I was driven to do it in private.

Eventually, I stopped it post my son’s birth. Being occupied physically and mentally taking care of my child distracted my mind.  Becoming a mother gave me that loving connection that I was desperate for.

Simple Course of Action

When my son, began biting his nails soon after beginning school I realized that I was being too pushy wanting him to be the best. The other reason I concluded was his school was not at all child-friendly.

Thankfully, I got a job in a residential school. This gave both of us the space to relax and be safe. My son’s nail-biting miraculously disappeared.

When the Throat Chakra is functioning we become conscious of the person we are, the internal and real worlds that make us who we are. It  helps us express ourselves creatively and effectively

Sensitive Attuned Parenting

Instead of taking your child to a specialist for his abnormal compulsive behaviors or OCD.   The most honest and sensible course of action is to do a little self-introspection. Make a checklist of how your behaviors or actions have impacted your child.

A child is very sensitive to their emotional environment and is deeply influenced by their parents’ conduct. A little love and support will go a long way in ameliorating these behaviors.

Image Source: Pixabay

Further Reading

Parenting From the Inside Out – Dan Siegel

Compassionate Child-Rearing – Robert Firestone

Keeping Your Child in Mind – Claudia Gold

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind – Daniel J. Siegel

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller

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