Category Archives: Depression And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

Articles about various aspects of depression and how our chances of developing the disorder is significantly amplified if we have been subjected to childhood trauma.

Childhood Depression: Seven Signs (An Infographic).

child signs of depression

My own depression, requiring electroconvulsive shock therapy at several points throughout my adulthood, began (albeit at a lower level of intensity), in my childhood. My symptoms included anger at home, self-harm, frequent crying, tantrums, withdrawal and (to use three of my father’s rather unhelpful words), ‘sullenness’ or, indeed, ‘sulkiness’, not forgetting, of course, ‘moroseness’, together with early use of alcohol.

My behavior was also sometimes regressive – I remember, at fifteen, shutting myself in a cupboard for about an hour (bizarre, I know. Please don’t rub it in!). I later learned that this is apparently what experts in the field term ‘cacooning’ – a sign of particular emotional disturbance, apparently.

Even more worryingly, when I was about eight I became so caught up in my thoughts that I would fail to answer my name in class (the psychological term for this is dissociation‘). The school thought I was becoming deaf and I had to be sent for a hearing test ( my ears were fine). Apparently, this ‘deafness’ became particularly acute when issues involving family life were discussed in class.

As a result of my childhood experiences, when I did my first degree in psychology at the University of London, my final year dissertation was entitled ‘The Effects of Childhood Depression on Academic Performance’. The results of my small scale study showed the two variables were inversely correlated.

I very much wish I’d received professional support as a child, it may have saved me an awful lot of trouble in adulthood.

Below, from The Institute of Mental Health, is an infographic on seven signs of childhood depression:

signs of childhood depression

eBook:

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Above eBook now available on Amazon for immediate download. Other titles available. Click on image of eBook above.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depression: Why Fighting Depressive Feelings can Worsen Them.

fighting_depression_and_mindfulness

Childhood trauma, especially if this involved the experience of being abandoned and rejected (either literally, emotionally or both) can make us especially prone to developing serious forms of depression in our adult lives.

To make matters worse still, if we were emotionally uncared for as children, too, it very often follows that we have, through no fault of our own, failed to develop the abilities of ‘self-soothing’ and ‘self-nurturing’ which could have potentially ameliorated our depressive condition; this fact obviously intensifies the psychological pain our depression inflicts upon us and increases its tenacity and longevity.

As we are impotent to soothe ourselves emotionally, we may have found unhealthy ways of reducing (however temporarily and, ultimately, self-destructively and self- defeatingly) our suffering by excessively making use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Because we were emotionally uncared for as children, we have failed to absorb or learn ways of caring for ourselves as adults – indeed, we are bereft of a self- compassionate inner voice.

In a sense, just as we were emotionally abandoned as children, we have learned only, as adults, how to ’emotionally abandon ourselves’, whereas, of course, what we needed to learn was the precise opposite of this.

Without emotional support as children, our depressive state is very likely to have made us feel frightened (we were in need of emotional rescue but there were no rescuers) and ashamed (Why can’t I be a normal kid? There’s something badly wrong with me and everybody knows it.)

emotional_effects_of_abandonment

Now, as adults, when we are depressed, we are likely re-experience these feelings of fear and shame. Again, we feel ashamed of being depressed and fearful about how it isolates us from others; such feelings will be exacerbated if the culture in which we find ourselves immersed, or subset of it with which we interact, regard depression as a sign of weakness (which it most certainly is not – indeed, coping with depression calls for great bravery).

Due to the dynamics of our society, men are likely to feel more ashamed of being depressed than are women.

How Feelings of Depression can Serve an Important Purpose.

But we need not be ashamed of our depression. Indeed, mild to moderate depression can serve a very useful purpose and therefore be considered both functional and adaptive (as opposed to dysfunctional and non-adaptive).

Examples of ‘Helpful’ Depression:

Our depression may spur us, for example, into examining our lives more closely in order to attempt to ascertain why we feel unfulfilled, empty etc. It may be that:

we are in a poor relationship.

– we do not find meaning in our work.

– our values are distorted (e.g. attributing greater importance to materialistic gain than to fulfilling human relationships).

– we need to slow down, rest and reduce the number of mental burdens we impose upon ourselves.

So we see that some degree of depression can serve a valuable purpose and is natural by-product of our evolution and we need not be ashamed of it. If we find we ARE ashamed of it, it is useful for us to realise that we are doing no other than to add an extra and utterly unnecessary layer to our already considerable mental anguish. In effect, we become depressed about the fact that we are depressed, a kind of, if you will, meta-depression.

So it is frequently not the actual feelings of depression (i.e. how it affects our emotional and somatic experience) but, far more often, it is the automatic negative thinking that invariably goes with them, such as :

I am unlovable

I am a complete and utter failure

Everyone hates me

Such thinking serves only to intensify our feelings of shame.

We need, if we can, to reduce our tendency to get caught up in such thinking (generally cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way of combating negative thinking), but to, instead,  accept, even focus, on how our depression makes us viscerally feel. Counter-intuitively, this can actually REDUCE the negative impact depression has on our emotional state.

An effective technique that helps us to focus on and accept, non-judgmentally, our immediate feelings and experience as opposed to getting caught in thinking and analysis is called mindfulness.

RESOURCES :

Depression Self Help : Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depression – Nutritional Deficiencies which can Exacerbate It.

nutritional-deficiencies-and-

We know that if we have suffered significant trauma during our childhoods we are more prone to depression in our adult lives than those who were fortunate enough to have had a relatively stable upbringing (all else being equal).

However, there are other factors that may make us more vulnerable to developing depression and, in this article, the factor that I wish to concentrate upon is NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCES.

Research suggests that a deficiency in our bodies of any of the following may increase our risk of developing depression, make our chances of recovering from an existing depression smaller and, in connection with this, make it less likely that we will respond to some anti- depressants.

depression-and-nutrient-deficiency

1) FOLATE – the nutrition expert Hyman suggests that if we are deficient in folate it lowers the chances any anti- depressants we may be taking will work effectively

2) MAGNESIUM – Hyman suggests that magnesium deficiency can make us less able to cope with the effects of stress

3) OMEGA -3 FATTY ACID – a deficiency in this, research indicates, can lower our mood

4) AMINO ACIDS

5) IODINE – if we are deficient in this our thyroid may under-perform which can result in feelings of lethargy, fatigue, inability to concentrate and depression

6) VITAMIN B COMPLEX – deficiency in this, too, may lead to under-performance of the thyroid with the same results as described immediately above. This is also true of :

7) SELENIUM (see 6 above)

8) IRON – research suggests that a deficiency in this can lead to feelings of fatigue and depression. The deficiency is much more likely to affect women than men

9) VITAMIN D

If considering taking supplements it is recommended that an appropriate professional is consulted.

Resources :

Natural Treatment Plan For Depression (downloadable) : CLICK HERE.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Childhood Trauma and Depression – Somatic Symptoms

narcissistic_mothers

We know that the experience of significant childhood trauma makes a person more vulnerable to suffering from clinical depression in later life. Whilst depression usually gives rise to both psychological and somatic (i.e. bodily) symptoms, in this article I intend to focus solely on somatic symptoms.

One such symptom of depression is a constant feeling of extreme fatigue; this, at least in part, is linked to the fact that many individuals who suffer from depression have sleep problems. In fact, four out of every five people with depression report suffering from insomnia, whilst a further 15% report a need to sleep excessively. Lack of energy can have a very drastic effect – for example, it can actually significantly slow down how a person moves (walks e.t.c.) on a day-to-day basis; psychologists refer to this as PSYCHOMOTOR RETARDATION.

Furthermore, there is now increasing evidence that those who suffer from depression are also more vulnerable to heart disease (however, the precise reason for this is not yet fully understood).

Osteoporosis, too, is more prevalent amongst those with a history of clinical depression due to the fact that it causes damaging alterations in a person’s bone mass.

Clinical depression can also reduce an individual’s sex drive (i.e. lower libido). Men may experience impotence, often due to an inability to relax during sex. Also, many depressed people feel so emotionally numb that the idea of sex simply loses its appeal.

Many people who are suffering from clinical depression also often report feelings of bodily pain which has no obvious physical cause. For example, people often complain of an oppressive sense of pressure in their head, or pains in their face, neck, chest and stomach.

Indeed, it is thought that about half of people with clinical depression experience physical pain as a result, and, unfortunately, often both they and their doctors do not realize that depression is the underlying problem.

To make matters even more complicated, it is now thought that a large group of individuals with depression show ONLY physical symptoms (sometimes referred to as ‘smiling depression’, as the person does not report feeling especially unhappy), making it even more unlikely that their bodily problems will be attributed to a psychological cause (i.e. to depression).

The physical brain itself, too, can be adversely affected by serious clinical depression – due to the temporary effects of depression on the death and birth of brain cells, some small regions of the brain can actually shrink; also, research suggests that depression causes alterations to the brain’s blood flow in certain regions.

Whilst it used to be thought that physical complaints arising from depression were due to an individual ‘converting’ their emotional symptoms into somatic ones (referred to as ‘somatization‘), the current view is that clinical depression can actually lead to a malfunction of the pain perception pathways (the nerve pathways that are disrupted are thought to involve the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine – the actions of both of these neurotransmitters are known to be disrupted by depression).

It follows, therefore, that the somatic symptoms of depression are likely to be best treated by anti-depressants that act upon the the neurotransmitters referred to in the above paragraph.

RESOURCES :

EXPERT TIPS FOR DEALING WITH DEPRESSION – NHS

content_4964975_DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL 40b15208-decf-40fb-aa7b-16365c5dd61e

Above ebooks now available on Amazon for instant download. – CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Effects of Childhood Trauma – Alexithymia, Depression and Binge Eating

 childhood_trauma_questionnaire

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One possible effect of significant childhood trauma, according to recent research, is a condition known as ALEXITHYMIA ; it is closely linked to clinical depression and eating disorders.

Let’s look at the main symptoms of alexithymia. According to Taylor et al, 1990, they are as follows:

1) Problems identifying one’s own emotions and those of other people

2) Problems describing own emotions and those of other people

3) Problems differentiating between one’s feelings and the physical/bodily sensations of emotional arousal

4) Impoverished skills of mental imagination

b

DISCONNECTED FROM FEELINGS :

Those with the condition can feel very disconnected from their feelings (or may confuse their feelings with physical problems – see symptoms above) and this state of affairs often begins in childhood

RECONNECTING WITH FEELINGS :

Whilst it is possible to reconnect with one’s feelings, some people who suffer from alexithymia are resistant to the idea of doing this. This may be because they feel that a state of emotional numbness protects them and that if they allow themselves to have authentic feelings again they will be overwhelmed.

In other words, the idea of reconnecting with their feelings makes the person feel vulnerable and threatened. S/he may equate having feelings with a sign of weakness.

CHILDHOOD :

Such ideas are generally learned in childhood. This may be because the sufferer of alexithymia had a powerful role model who denied and suppressed/repressed his/her own feelings, so the sufferer never learned to be ‘in touch’ and ‘tuned in’ to his/her feelings nor how to express and manage them in a healthy way.

UNRESOLVED ISSUES :

Individuals with alexithymia are very likely to have issues from their childhood that remain unresolved and, also, to have feelings connected those issues which remain unexpressed. IT IS LIKELY THAT THE INDIVIDUAL IS REPRESSING (banishing from his/her conscious awareness – an automatic psychological defence mechanism) MUCH EMOTIONAL PAIN AND ANGUISH ASSOCIATED WITH SIGNIFICANT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

HIGH ADULT SUSCEPTIBILITY TO ADVERSE EFFECTS OF STRESS :

As an adult, people with alexithymia may well find that they are acutely sensitive to the effects of stress and are therefore more likely to be ‘tipped over the edge’ by problems and difficulties that better emotionally adjusted people may regard as easy to cope with.

Because the sufferer of alexithymia is unconsciously dealing with so much stress anyway (repressing emotional pain is mentally exhausting) s/he has a low level of resources available to cope with any more; his/her stress tolerance is low, and mental resources to deal with it are quickly overloaded, even by demands others may view as trivial.

ALEXITHYMIA AND EATING DISORDERS:

Research into alexithymia also suggests it is connected to eating disorders. Because the sufferer’s ability to cope with day-to-day life is significantly impaired, s/he may comfort/binge eat as a way of trying to improve mood/reduce feelings of stress.

Like other potentially damaging coping strategies, (eg excessive drinking, gambling, over-spending, drug taking etc) whilst this might provide some short-term relief, it’s long-term effects are most unhelpful.

Instead, addressing the underlying problem through therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should be strongly considered.

 

Stop Binge Eating | Self Hypnosis Downloads

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

Psychotic Depression: The Symptoms

disturbing_unprocessed_memories

Psychotic Depression And Childhood Trauma :

Those of us who experienced severe childhood trauma are at a substantially higher risk of developing depression as adults than those lucky enough to have had a relatively stable upbringing. However, it is not well known amongst the general public that, in a minority of cases, depression can be so severe that it involves disturbing psychotic symptoms (estimates suggest that about 13% of those who suffer from serious depression will experience psychotic features, and this percentage can rise steeply amongst geriatric populations – perhaps as high as 50%). It is these symptoms that I will describe in this article.

symptoms_of_psychotic_depression

Symptoms of Psychotic Depression :

Symptoms of psychotic depression may include the following:

1) DISJOINTED THINKING – The ability to think can become severely impaired and the thoughts a person has may become very muddled and confused, rapidly flitting from one subject to another. This can make concentration impossible and lead to speech patterns which are difficult for others to follow and understand.

2) AGITATION/PACING – During my own illness I suffered very badly from this. For years I was so agitated I could not often sit down for long, and, even if I was sitting, certainly found it impossible to physically relax in a chair; I was, almost literally, constantly on the ‘edge of my seat.’ Such serious agitation is sometimes treated with major tranquillizers (these are anti-psychotic drugs) and, indeed, it was necessary for my psychiatrist to prescribe these for me.

3) DECLINE IN SELF CARE – Again, I suffered this symptom during my own illness. I did not bath for a very long time ; instead, I would occasionally wash with a flannel. I shaved rarely, and did not use soap or shaving foam when I did (this actually makes shaving quite painful). During a particularly bad period, when I was intensely suicidal and actively planning to hang myself, I did not change my clothes for three months (click here to read about this episode of my life).

4) DELUSIONS

a) Of being an exceptionally bad person or ‘evil.’

These include delusions of being an exceptionally bad person, or, even, of being ‘evil’ or of being ‘the devil.’ Also, self-blame, an extremely common symptom of non-psychotic depression, may become delusional – the sufferer might, for example, start to falsely believe he has committed terrible crimes (eg mass murder or the assassination of an important figure).

Because of this, the delusional individual may believe he will soon be horribly punished for these imaginary crimes, and start to dwell obsessively upon what form the punishment might take (eg terrible eternal torture in ‘hell’ or by a malign and clandestine ‘secret police’).

b) Nihilistic delusions.

These may take the form the sufferer believing the world does not actually exist, or that eveyone in it is dead, or that he, himself, is dead.

c) Somatic delusions.

Sometimes, individuals suffering from psychotic depression might believe part of his body is missing, such as the heart or the brain.

d) Delusions of worthlessness.

At the delusional level, ideas about being worthless become extreme. For example, a person may believe they are the most useless and worthless person in the entire world, fit only to be utterly despised, ridiculed and held in profound contempt.

The psychotically depressed may also believe that their body is wasting away, rotting and disintegrating and/or that they have some terrible, incurable disease.

e) Delusions of poverty

This involves the false belief that one has run out of money, or that one has nearly run out (even when, in fact, the individual is comfortably off), together with accompanying fears that one will starve or end up living on the streets in rags.

5) Hallucinations.

This involves seeing or hearing things which are not, in reality, there. The former are referred to as visual hallucinations and the latter as auditory hallucinations. For example, the individual may ‘see’ a vision of the ‘devil’ or ‘hear’ the ‘voice of god’ telling him to kill himself.

Sometimes, too, other senses may be affected. For example, food may lose all its pleasure and taste of nothing, or, even, taste unpleasant.

RESOURCE :

childhood trauma and depression

Above eBook is now available on Amazon for immediate download. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depression Treatment And Neuroplasticity

effects of stress

Depression And Neuroplasticity

I have described, in other articles, how the brain goes on physically changing all our lives – the process does not stop when we reach adulthood. The quality of the brain, which allows it to continually restructure its architecture, neuroscientists call NEUROPLASTICITY (click here to read my article on this). The really exciting thing is, however, that it is now known, beyond all doubt ,that it is possible for us to very significantly influence our brain’s physical development throughout our lives in extremely beneficial ways simply by changing how we think and how we behave.

This discovery has enormous implications as to how psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, addictions and many others will be treated in the (hopefully near) future.

Indeed, if, soon, more and more individuals suffering from depression and other conditions are treated by teaching them to manipulate their own brain structure through behavior changes and new ways of thinking, the need for medications will be reduced thus allowing many to avoid their sometimes negative side-effects  – in fact, studies now suggest that any positive effects anti-depressants have is largely due to the placebo effect (read my article on this by clicking here).

It is useful to give an example of a study that shows that what we think and do creates physical changes in the brain. In one particular study, a group of medical students underwent brain scans/imaging before and after weeks of intensive revision. It was found that the parts of the brain associated with this activity, by the end of their revision period, had become physically denser (due to the growing of more connections between neurons/brain cells).

This is similar to a study I referred to in another post involving London taxi drivers – after a long period of training (involving memorizing all of London’s streets and various landmarks) it was found that the area of their brain which processes spatial information had grown.

Whilst these two examples do not involve the treatment of psychiatric conditions, it is believed the same principles can be applied to future therapies. Research is currently at an incipient stage.

NEGATIVE NEUROPLASTICITY :

One of the reasons that depression is so insidious is that it leads to negative neuroplasticity. In very simple terms, this means :

a) when we are depressed, we think and act in negative ways which (b) stimulates regions of the brain involved in negative thinking and acting causing (c) these regions to grow. This leads to (d) further negative thinking and behaving – thus, a vicious cycle develops.

POSITIVE NEUROPLASTICITY :

Research is currently investigating if positive neuroplasticity can be created in depressed people to stop and reverse the above process. Again, in very simplified terms, this might involve :

a) encouraging and training patients to think and behave in more positive ways which (b) stimulates regions in the brain involved with positive thinking and positive behaviour causing (c) these regions to grow. This should lead to (d) further positive thinking and behaviour – thus, instead of a vicious cycle, a virtuous cycle is created and will hopefully keep going due to its own momentum.

THE AMYGDALA :

As this momentum builds, it is theorized that the regions of the brain that contributed to our depression will lose their power as  their neural interconnections wither away and atrophy due to lack of use. In connection to this idea, the region of the brain called the amygdala has been focused upon by researchers.

The amygdala (click here to read my article on this) is often over-developed and over-sensitive in those who have suffered childhood trauma due to the effects early adverse experience has had on its development. It is high activity in the amygdala that makes people feel anxious, distressed and fearful. A key aim of future therapies may therefore be to reduce connections in this brain region.

RESOURCES :

Depression Treatment And Neuroplasticity 1   Depression Treatment And Neuroplasticity 2

 

Above eBooks available on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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