Connecting Childhood Abuse and Adult Depression

Posted on April 3rd, 2014
Posted in Depression

Research has shown lasting effects from childhood trauma, including substance use, mood disorders and risky sex. A new study shows that victims of childhood abuse are more likely to experience delayed remission from depression. The same impact occurs among adults that had addict parents.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, looked into a variety of factors associated with remission rates in a total of 1,128 depressed Canadian adults. The data was pulled from the National Population Health Survey in which depressed respondents were given a follow-up every two years until they experienced remission. For some this period extended up to 12 years, but most experienced a timely recovery. Among three-quarters of respondents depression had subsided after two years.

But for those who had experienced physical abuse during childhood, recovery took an average of nine more months. For adults whose parents had an addiction, the average recovery time was about five months longer.

The study is not based on a design that can provide causal information about the connection between depression and childhood adversity. However, the researchers speculate that childhood traumas may lead to a disruption in the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the part of the brain that regulates stress. In some research, adult depression is shown as a reaction to HPA axis hyperactivity.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is characterized by an interference with a person’s ability to work, sleep, eat and engage in other normal daily activities. The individual with major depressive disorder struggles to function in normal life. While there are situations in which a person may experience one episode of depression, more often there are multiple occurrences.

Depression is most often recognizable by a persistent sad or hopeless feeling. The experience is not to be confused with the temporary experience of “the blues.” Other common symptoms include feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

For many patients, psychotherapy is the first step in treatment. Through a trained counselor, patients learn tools to recognize depressive symptoms and manage their low emotions and other symptoms.

For severe cases, the counselor or physician may recommend the use of an antidepressant. The process of finding the most appropriate antidepressant can be a process of trial and error, with some medications proving to be ineffective or resulting in unpleasant side effects.

Experts are not certain what the cause of depression is, but they suspect that there are various combinations of biological and environmental factors that can lead to its development.

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