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  • Writer's pictureNicole Ambrose, LCSW

The Link Between Depression and Trauma

Often those experiencing depression have a difficult time pinpointing the reasons why. In fact, aside from wanting to feel better, many seek therapy to find answers to this exact question. For some, the answer is both simple and complex at the same time… it’s underlying trauma.

Depression is characterized by feelings of intense sadness and hopelessness, a lack of interest in daily activities, difficulty with sleep, low energy, poor concentration or indecisiveness, and patterns of negative thinking. Some will feel almost empty inside and others will be riddled with guilt and feelings of worthlessness causing them to isolate themselves from others.

Several of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, overlap with those of depression; i.e. difficulty with sleep, negative thinking, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, little to no interest in daily activities, and isolation from people and places associated with traumatic memories and events.

Now, this does not mean that every person experiencing depression also has a history of trauma, but those with a history of trauma are more susceptible to experiencing depression in life, particularly those with childhood trauma.

Early life trauma is significant because it can have a ripple effect on your later life experiences. Trauma is subjective because it is solely determined by how each individual internalizes and responds to an experience. It’s not the same for everyone across the board. Trauma is NOT the event or stimulus, it’s our emotional and physiological response to the event or stimulus. In childhood, we are vulnerable. Our sense of safety and security is often in the hands of those around us, and when a child experiences trauma that’s repeated over time it creates a compounded impact on their emotional and physical functioning.

At the core of trauma, we are dealing with your body’s stress response, the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response. When you are in a situation and a threat is present, your central nervous system, specifically your sympathetic nervous system, kicks into action to prepare you to respond in a way that allows you to survive the threat.

Your brain gases up your body with hormones that help you respond. This can lead to chronic stress in the body when it happens over and over again. Chronic stress at an early age can affect the growth and development of parts of your brain and can reduce the production of feel-good hormones like oxytocin. Stress is one of the biggest risk factors for the onset of depression.

Again, not every person with childhood trauma will experience depression later on in life, but there is a lot of research that supports the connection between them. In fact, chronic stress and trauma are underlying factors for many mental and emotional problems, but that’s a discussion for another day.

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, please get connected to a therapist or psychologist that can help you learn how to better manage the symptoms and gain strategies to overcome them. There are concrete steps that you can take to improve your day-to-day life, and with the support of a therapist, you can also uncover the parts of your past that are interfering with your ability to feel happy today.

I specialize in helping adults overcome depression, anxiety, and trauma with traditional talk therapy and EMDR therapy in Coral Springs, Florida as well as online across the state of Florida.

Call me today at 954-391-5305 for a complimentary consultation and begin your healing journey. I look forward to seeing how I can help you become the best version of yourself. You deserve it!


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