"I realized how similar we were … We could finish each other's sentences," she said. "It was a combination of elations. And there was the adrenaline and on top of the grief, thinking why can't you go back in time. And in that combination of grief and need and feeling that you fit with someone, you get a concoction that made things very confusing."The website DeNeen started, mentioned in the article, can be found here.
"I had this strange falling in love feeling, holding my Dad's hand," said DeNeen. "It wasn't like a daughter, it was like something else."
Psychologists say that taboo is normally in place when family members grow up in close proximity by virtue of reverse sexual imprinting, or the Westermarck effect, which desensitizes them to later sexual attraction. Researchers hypothesize it evolved so biological relatives would not inbreed.
The phenomenon was first identified by Barbara Gonyo in the 1980s. She wrote a book, "I'm His Mother, But He's Not My Son," that recounted her personal story of reuniting and having sexual feelings for a son whom she had placed for adoption when she was 16. Gonyo fell in love -- a byproduct of delayed bonding that would normally have taken place in infancy, had they not been separated by adoption.
Gonyo, now a retired grandmother, created an online support group and DeNeen, who has a background in psychology, has taken up her work on a new website that she launched just two weeks ago, educating and intervening when others fall into the dangerous emotional trap of GSA.
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GSA is "not incredibly common," but is seen among parents and adult children and between adult siblings, according to Susan Brancho Alvarado, an adoption therapist from Falls Church, Va.
And because of that, mental health experts are not experienced in helping patients. They often mistakenly confuse GSA with incest or sexual abuse, shaming adoptees.
"They just don't have the training and the topic is completely foreign," she said.
Alvarado, who has treated four families with GSA, also blames the adoption process itself.
"It fuels the secrecy and builds up the fantasy about what the other family might be like," she said. "It is mitigated when you have open access to records and birth certificates and the family from infancy is included."
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