While stress may be ongoing and even chronic in nature, trauma is usually sudden and severe. Trauma is a shock to the system that can leave both your body and your mind reeling. Researchers are now looking into how trauma actually can change brain function.
This has direct implications for depression. Feelings of hopelessness and despair may arise after a traumatic incident, and these are symptoms of depression. Both children and adults can experience trauma, but childhood trauma is especially insidious.
Childhood Trauma and Depression
In 2005, the Journal of Family Practice reported that “Childhood trauma may lead to neurobiologically unique mood disorders.” The research indicates that stress and trauma, incurred during childhood, have long-lasting effects on brain development. Those effects, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2004), are long-term changes in various neurotransmitter systems.
As you read earlier, scientists rely to a great extent on twin studies, as they formulate theories that apply to larger populations. Some twin studies have now proven that trauma experienced in childhood, such as child abuse and child neglect, as well as the death of a parent, are predictors of major depression.
Further, depressed women who experienced sexual abuse as children experienced earlier onset of depressive symptoms than did women who had not been abused as children.
Adult Trauma and Depression
You've read that certain medical conditions can occur in tandem. For example, alcohol dependency may go hand in hand with depression. Likewise, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder, may accompany depression. If you've been the victim of a sexual assault, an automobile accident, or a natural disaster, for instance, the feelings of helplessness you felt during the experience may linger on.
If you find yourself dwelling on the incident to the point that you are unable to get beyond it and resume your normal life, you may find that you're now suffering from depression, as well as PTSD. Seeking relief from the symptoms of depression that have developed as a result of trauma can free you to address the anxiety disorder that accompanied the depression.