4 Ways Childhood Trauma And Depression Are Connected

Keegan Warrington
August 15, 2022

Recent studies show that childhood trauma can have lasting effects on our mental health and physical wellbeing. There are indications that individuals who have gone through trauma early in life are more prone to depression as they age. The more we understand its impact, the more critical it is to find ways to resolve and heal from it.

In this article, we’ll explore how childhood trauma and depression correlate.

can trauma cause depression

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental condition that influences how you think, act and feel, making you lose joy over things you used to love. It usually triggers physical and emotional issues that may lead to problems in your personal and professional life.

Its usual symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Sudden outbursts of anger, frustration, and irritation over trivial things
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Episodes of self-blame and worthlessness

Different factors may trigger depression, such as poor mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, childhood trauma, or a recent traumatic event.

What Is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma may happen if a child witnesses a dangerous, scary, or violent event that threatens their life or that of their loved ones. It may cause children to feel extremely scared or helpless.

Several events can leave children traumatized. These include:

  • domestic violence
  • physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • violence in the family, school, or community
  • exposure to war
  • death of a loved one
  • serious accidents
  • life-threatening disease
  • events related to the military, such as deployment, injury, or parental loss.

After being exposed to a traumatic event, you may notice behavioral changes in the child, such as loss of interest in everyday activities, anger, inability to concentrate, and somatic complaints.

depression from childhood trauma

What Is Trauma-Induced Depression?

Going through stressful life situations can have adverse effects. You experience flashbacks, find it difficult to sleep, and develop mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

A study by the University of Liverpool researchers found that traumatic life events are the primary driver of depression. Often, trauma victims don’t have as many opportunities to enjoy pleasurable and rewarding experiences and social support. They also tend to be fearful and avoidant to protect themselves from things that could hurt them. These factors contribute to their eventual depression.

What Is The Difference Between Trauma-induced Depression And Childhood Trauma Depression?

Trauma-induced depression is a type of condition that occurs after an individual experiences a recent traumatic or stressful event. On the other hand, childhood trauma depression happens when a person carries the trauma they had during their early life into adulthood.

The Connection Between Childhood Trauma And Depression

Affects Individual’s Self-Worth

Children abused or neglected by their primary caregivers tend to think they’re unlovable. There are also instances when even loving parents fail to express empathy to their children, unintentionally giving off a similar message.

This results in children developing a perception that they are not good enough. They would blame themselves for how they are treated – thinking that if only they were “better,” their caregivers would meet their needs or love them more.

This core belief can be difficult to correct later in life. Learning about your parents’ unhealed trauma or mental illness may not be enough to change your self-image and self-worth.

childhood trauma depression

As young adults experience childhood trauma, they are more likely to suffer from depression and other maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance abuse and self-harm.

Influences the Dynamics of Adult Relationships

The relational trauma that children experience can affect how they build connections with other people throughout their lifetime.

The first connection with a primary caregiver lays the foundation for the dynamics of your future relationships. Those feelings can manifest in your adult relationships if you feel confusion, fear, shame, and an inability to rely on the other person early on in life.

Individuals with childhood trauma symptoms may struggle to trust others and express their vulnerability. They may also exhibit low self-esteem and develop depression and anxiety.

Stress Hormones Can Impact A Person’s Mental and Physical Health

According to an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, childhood trauma impacts adults’ physical and mental health. The high levels of stress hormones create inflammation and imbalances that affect the brain and body in many ways.

Long-term exposure to stress hormones can disrupt your body’s processes, increasing your chances of having heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

Cognitive Abilities

Besides the mental and physical health repercussions of childhood trauma, individuals may also suffer from cognitive deficits or difficulties with memory, logical thinking, and problem-solving. It could prevent you from setting goals and achieving success in academic or work environments.

A child’s habitual psychological patterns as a result of trauma can lead to cognitive impairments. When young ones are constantly faced with stressors, their energy is focused on fighting them. It makes them less motivated and interested in learning new things, developing new talents, and making deliberate choices.

How to Address Childhood Trauma

Although the impact of childhood trauma can be life-long, the following approaches help reduce its effects.

trauma induced depression
  • Counseling – A counselor can guide you on allocating blame sensibly, develop skill sets necessary for self-compassion, and learn other skills to manage complicated emotions.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This is an evidence-based approach that lets you unlearn negative responses and trains the brain to address trauma, stress, and grief healthily.
  • Meditation – This helps increase self-compassion and improve your ability to self-regulate or keep emotions in check.
  • Medication – Depending on the severity of your condition, medical professionals may recommend you take medications to cope with the effects of trauma.

Can trauma cause depression? Yes, it is usually the root cause of various mental health disorders. Research proves that adults with major depression exhibit significant childhood trauma histories.

Trauma from an early age that is carried over into adulthood can affect an individual’s physical and mental health, relationships, self-worth, and cognitive abilities.

If you are experiencing childhood trauma and depression symptoms, you must talk to a mental health professional to know what steps to take next.
TMS for depression is one of the treatment procedures you may consider, especially if you have medication-resistant depression. Feel free to call us today to know more about this cutting-edge approach.

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Keegan Warrington