Sibling abuse – an interesting article

This article on sibling abuse raises some interesting points on why it happens and signs to look out for.

It does seem to be focused mainly on sibling sexual abuse rather than physical or emotional abuse. All forms of sibling abuse are hard to get statistics for as in all the studies I’ve researched the sibling figures are included in “other family” general categories.

This quote from the article on impact for me is key for people to understand:


Time does not necessarily heal. Adult victims of childhood sibling abuse generally have lower self-esteem and are overly sensitive and insecure. They have trouble with relationships and repeat the victim role in their other relationships. They can have sexual functioning problems. There is continued self-blame at the same time that anger at their perpetrator is played out with others.

What it’s like for young people in London?

I work with young people in schools part of the week and I’m constantly saddened and often horrified at what they have to put up with. Maybe the levels of violence and fear aren’t in all areas but they are common enough that it is a problem for all society.

Every time there is a news report in of another stabbing in my area of which there have been too many this week I am looking for names to see if it is someone I know. So far it hasn’t been and I feel relief at that.

That leaves me feeling shame as well that I’m relieved it isn’t someone I know. However, it will be someones loved one. Someone out there is left with the grief and the horror. This moving article is by the brother of a young man who was killed last year.

Are you the family scapegoat?

This article describes very clearly what it is like to be the family scapegoat in a toxic and abusive family dynamic.

This is a form of emotional abuse. Not only does it involve gas lighting where your experience of reality is denied and twisted, but it also can include collusion from all the family members. While they may not be as active at scapegoating, if they choose to be convinced and don’t take the time to reflect on what is really happening they are colluding with it.

How hard though is it for the person set up as the scapegoat to recover? The sad truth is very hard and this may take a lot of work and self-reflection. When these behaviour patterns get set into us in childhood we can take a lifetime to undo them.

If any of the points are resonating with you though, don’t give up hope. Because while it is hard work to recover, its worth it to find your authentic self and what you are truly capable of.

Children’s Mental Health

As a school counsellor this article on children’s mental health sadly comes as no surprise to me. Its a terrible struggle to get children and young people into mental health treatments. Too many are being turned away as not meeting the criteria and thresholds. 1 in 4 as this article quotes also seems too low based on my experience.

Its not just an issue for those being refused treatment, or even the schools picking up the slack as best they can.

Each of these children and young people will (hopefully) grow up to be an adult. Statistically a lot of adults with mental health issues are first seen in childhood. By failing to treat them effectively when they first appear there is a greater risk of them affective the person throughout their life. This impacts all of society, with the cost of this being extended not just on treatment but potentially less ability to work and more benefits are needed.

Its a short term cost saving but the long term is creating more misery and hopelessness when there can and should be hope and recovery.

As the article says, its very bleak.


Did you know anxiety is the most commonly searched for word in counselling? Yes, even more than depression. Anxiety is defined as a felling of unease which can range from mild to severe, it can include feelings of fear and worry as well as physical responses.

You may not realise that there are a number of different forms anxiety takes as well, some people will suffer from more than one. The following is a very simple summary of the main forms but if you want more detailed information there is loads out there to research. Over the next few weeks I’m going to go into more detail on some of them, what it’s like to have, what other people might find useful to know and how counselling can help.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is worrying excessively and often irrationally about events or activities. People who get defined as “worriers” without a specific issue may well be suffering from this. Its overthinking every situation and possible outcome, no matter how extreme.

Social Anxiety

Social Phobia is really focused on interactions with other people and worrying about what they think of you. It can lead to planning conversations and then analysing them afterwards. It can be minimised as shyness, but at its roots are very low self esteem.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is having panic attacks regularly and maybe for no apparent reason. This may include physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, palpitations of the heart and trembling. It can be incredibly distressing to experience and hard for other people to witness.


Agoraphobia is commonly thought of as being scared of leaving home. It can be more complex than that and it is linked to feelings of being unsafe so some people may be ok in a car but not on a bus or able to visit a corner shop but not a big shopping centre. Being in the places that are perceived as unsafe can mean the sufferer experiences a panic attack.

Phobias can also be associated with panic attacks which may be brought on my encounters with a specific object or situation. These can be animals, a place or situation such as heights or flying, blood or injury or something like a clown.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by a very distressing or frightening event. It’s symptoms can include nightmares and flashback. It is now well know that military personal can experience it after being in war zones but it is also very common with civilians. Abuse, robbery, road accidents and even natural disasters can be some of the events that cause it and the symptoms may not appear for several years.

It also is very common in those who have suffered abusive childhoods. There is a separate category called complex PTSD for this when people have experienced repeated traumatising events.

Obsessive-Complusive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) does get shown quite a lot in media now so you may have an idea of what it is, rituals and repetitive behaviour such as hand washing. What you may not be aware of is the obsessive thoughts/images aspect that some suffers experience and the fact that they may NEVER have the sort of behaviour that you might assume would happen. Hoarding also comes under OCD and the need for symmetry and order.


Emotional abuse

I come back to forms of emotional abuse again and again as I believe it is the least understood and acknowledged form of abuse.

Emotional abuse exists in all other forms of abuse, sexual, physical and neglect but it also occurs without these other signs and that is why it is so hard to recognise from the outside.

 Even the victims may not realise what has happened to them, especially when it occurred in childhood. It can take years to come to terms with and recognise the relationship between the emotional abuse and low self-esteem, depression and anxiety that the adult who was emotionally abused in childhood may experience.

 Low self-esteem involve being made to feel that the victim isn’t as important as everyone else, that their needs don’t count. Their abuser’s needs are put before their own and it may be done so subtly they don’t even know it has happened. It’s hard enough to realise it is happening as an adult, much more in a child.

 The child victim may be very helpful and easy to deal with, after all they have already been taught their needs are less important than others. This is why they so often get missed. As they grow up, they may be sensitive to what they see as selfish behaviour in others. After all, they never put themselves first, how selfish that other people do so. This view can be a symptom of the abuse they don’t even realise they have suffered and they can be very judgemental of other people because of it.

 They have been conditioned to the fact that they shouldn’t put themselves and their needs first. But really, we all have to do that. Even parents who are doing all they can for their children can’t be totally selfless all the time. After all, if they don’t look after themselves then what impact can that have?

 Emotional abusers expect others to put them first and they have an array of tools to manipulate, shame and bully their victims into making this happen.

 It is not a personality flaw to put yourself first, it doesn’t make you bad or selfish. It is part of self-care. What is damaging and abusive is to expect others to put you first as well and to be resentful and coercive when it doesn’t happen.

Intimate partner violence

Below is a reminder of the scale of violence between intimate partners. This is an American organisation so the overall totals reflect that countries population but there is no reason to believe that the same ratio’s don’t apply in the UK. The EU wide survey published in 2014 documents one in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old.

Infographic displaying latest statistics from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010-2012. Shows key statistics on intimate partner violence, sexual violence, rape, violence experienced before the age of 18, and resulting negative impacts such as feeling fearful, concern for safety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among women and men in the United States.

Are you afraid to let the light in?

Do you find there are times when it can be hard to be anything but your suffering? I know I experience that.

Today I came across this quote and I found it so moving. Our wounds are painful and reminders of what we have been through, but they can be so much more. I identify the light as empathy. The ability and willingness to sit with someone else pain and to help them come to terms with it. To be able to reach deep understanding of others in a non-judgemental way. Without my own wounds I wouldn’t I don’t think I would have developed this ability to the extent I have.

What is your light?

Imposter syndrome

This article describes really well what happens with imposter syndrome.

In my experience it is very linked to emotional abuse; not just from parents and guardians but also siblings.

Siblings who resent the attention that another sibling gets can cause great damage with their jealously. When you end up feeling insecure and paranoid because of doing well at something it doesn’t help you grow into a confident and secure adult.

Attachment explained

This is a great video explaining attachment theory and the sort of issues that can come from childhood.

Its useful for adults, both as parents but also as part of our own self reflection. If we can understand our own attachment styles and why they were formed it can help us explore the issues we have in the present.