Studies overwhelmingly show a strong link between childhood trauma and the development of a major depressive disorder in later life (in fact, nearly every study into this link has shown that the two are correlated to a statistically significant degree). However, it continues to be treated most often as primarily a disorder caused by faulty brain chemistry and there is, because of this, likely to be an over-emphasis on treating the condition with drugs (mainly anti-depressants).
It has been argued that drug companies have promoted the idea that depression is caused by neurochemical abnormalities in order to keep their vast profits flowing in. However, anti-depressant medication is not without its risks and undesirable side-effects. Furthermore, studies are increasingly revealing that these drugs work a little better than placebos.
Studies on the effects of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) on the individual are now suggesting that childhood trauma may well be the greatest cause of later depression. Indeed, research has shown that people who have suffered four or more ACEs are about 5 times more likely to experience a depressive disorder in later life. Additionally, they are about 12 times more likely to commit suicide, 7 times more likely to become alcoholics and 10 times more likely to inject drugs.
It is therefore extremely important to recognize the effects of childhood trauma and to treat those effects appropriately even if the psychological disorder develops decades after the actual experiences of the trauma.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN SYMPTOMS OF MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER?
Some of the most important features of the disorder are as follows:
– low mood
– a marked increase or decrease in appetite
– loss of interest or pleasure
– insomnia or increased need to sleep
– low energy levels/fatigue
– marked reduction in psychomotor activity
– difficulties with concentration/memory
– low self-esteem
– suicidal ideation/attempts
Depressive disorder can also be split into different sub-groups. Two major subgroups are :
1) ENDOGENOUS DEPRESSION – depression thought to be caused by internal factors such as brain chemistry and genetic inheritance
2) EXOGENOUS DEPRESSION – depression thought to be caused by external factors such as trauma, relationship breakdown etc
(it should be noted that there is some dispute about how valid the above distinction is and I myself feel a split into these 2 categories is something of an over-simplification – this will be discussed in later posts.)
ENDOGENOUS depression is thought to account for about 30-40% of all depressive disorders diagnosed and if a person suffers from this treatment with anti-depressant drugs may be appropriate.
In the case of EXOGENOUS depression, however, it is clearly important to focus on the outside events which have caused it and to tailor therapeutic interventions appropriately.
THE OVERLAP BETWEEN SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION AND SYMPTOMS OF POST – TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD).
Not only does depression commonly occur as part of PTSD, but PTSD symptoms can mimic many of the symptoms of depression. From these observations it is now being suggested amongst many researchers that those diagnosed with depression may well be PRIMARILY SUFFERING FROM PTSD, which clearly makes sense in terms of the link between childhood trauma and the condition which is, at present, being diagnosed as primary depression.
Therefore, if what is currently being diagnosed as depression would more accurately be diagnosed as PTSD, there is clearly a strong argument in favour of reviewing how current ‘depressive disorders’ are being treated by the medical profession. This will be examined further in later posts.
DISCLAIMER: Do not make decisions about treatment of depression without seeking the appropriate professional advice.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSC; PGDE(FAHE)>
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.