Depression and childhood trauma are often linked.
Past trauma can affect your health and energy later in life, even if you feel like you have left that all behind.
If you are under stress for long periods of time as a kid it can compromise your immune system and make you more vulnerable to a myriad of illnesses including depression.
Do you come from a family that was “broken”? Was there neglect, abuse, extreme poverty, or absence of love?
It sounds so obvious, but we tend to minimize the past. Other people had it worse than you after all…
Well, tell that to your body!
What’s the real story?
According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, people who suffer from childhood trauma have a greater risk of health problems later in life.
This study was done with over 17 thousand adults about exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
They created a questionnaire to find out about physical emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, and household dysfunction including:
- parental mental illness,
- parental substance dependence,
- parental incarceration
- domestic violence
- parental separation or divorce
The study found a correlation between test scores and physical health outcomes as well as mental and social problems in adults. The higher your ACE score the more likely you were to have health problems. with a score of 4 or more on the ACE test you were 4 times more at risk of suffering from depression and for Suicidal tendencies, it was 12 times greater than those who had lower scores.
Your body spent the first 17 or 18 years of life being stressed out. You probably didn’t absorb many of the nutrients in the food you ate. So, you might be more depleted than the average person. Your adrenals may have been on high alert ALL THE TIME growing up and they might still be overworked.
You might not think it is a big deal, but depression and childhood trauma have been linked and can lead to a weakened immune system, overworked adrenals and a host of physical problems. (Not to mention the emotional stuff.)
Do you seem to get sick more often than other people?
Do you suffer from chronic conditions that you just can’t seem to beat?
Does your doctor cringe when you show up,
or just not have any idea of how to help you?
Do you have any of these chronic conditions?
- Chronic aches and pains
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Depression, or plain old persistent sadness
- Digestive issues
- disordered eating
- Vigilant sleeping or light sleeping
- Allergies or respiratory problems
- Skin problems, eczema, etc.
Or other symptoms you can’t seem to beat?
How can you use this?
If you have lived through a lot of trauma, abuse, stress, misfortune or neglect as a kid the quick fixes that work for other people might not work for you. Popping an antidepressant every day might not be enough to heal the underlying cause of your discomfort.
You may need to rebuild your system and do some detective work to figure out which systems are deficient and what nutrients or treatments you need to use to heal.
Stress can affect hormones, or your gut microbiome or your immune system. any number of systems can create chronic inflammation which leads to depression and anxiety. But it can be healed.
Depression is often a symptom of long-term stress
Depression is not a disease in and of itself but a symptom that something is wrong or is still wrong. That is the tricky part.
Sometimes the depression is a symptom of a stressor that took place a long time ago that affects your health in the present.
If you scored high on the ACE test you may have a weaker immune system or other systems that are causing inflammation for instance. And this physical symptom could be the underlying cause of your depression.
If you were under unusual amounts of stress when you were a kid, chances are you developed deficiencies of hormonal production in the gut which can cause inflammation in many bodily systems.
Fight or flight response causes normal bodily functions to shut down. So your body produces less of the chemicals you need to feel good. Thus you produce the symptoms of depression.
Here’s the deal…
You can’t be expected to just snap out of it by thinking happy thoughts and getting some exercise. And even more to the point doctors can’t just give you antidepressants and simply expect you to stay on them for life. They may help in the short run but in the long term, most people experience diminishing returns and a lot of discouraging side effects.
It can be frustrating to keep switching medications or upping doses. And it is unnecessary to rely on antidepressants alone.
It is like a doctor putting a cast on your broken leg without setting it properly and expecting you to just wear a cast for the rest of your life.
The same goes for therapy. Sitting there and talking about how you feel about your broken leg won’t fix it. It might ease the discomfort a little by having someone on your side who will listen.
But you must address the actual root cause if you are going to beat it for good.
For depression and childhood trauma, it isn’t quite as easy as it is with a broken leg but by getting your blood panels done by a naturopathic doctor or a sympathetic Md who knows about functional medicine can help you figure out what is missing and what needs to be balanced.
Stop the Rubber Band Affect Forever!
If you focus on the symptoms of depression and childhood trauma, without addressing the root causes you get the rubber band effect.
You start to make progress, but you only get so far and then find yourself right back where you started. When you start to relapse most mainstream doctors will raise your dosage of meds and you go down that rabbit hole chasing the perfect antidepressant cocktail.
Why does this matter?
Without also addressing your whole body as a system and figuring out the root cause of your depression it’s a game of diminishing returns, a band-aid instead of true healing.
When you are depressed it is easy to just follow the doctors’ orders
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find the truth when you are depressed because already you are not thinking straight.
The medical system is just going to slap you with some pills and a little talk therapy and send you home to suffer and continue a long-term downward spiral.
You must stand up for yourself even though you feel like crap.
You have to be your own advocate and do your own research and be willing to leave no stone unturned in order to get the care you need.
the best part?
The answer is out there.
You may need B vitamins or certain amino acids. You may need light therapy.
Once you have taken care of balancing the body you can go back and work on cognitive therapy.
Thinking positively and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps will only work once you are fortified from within with balanced hormones, a healthy gut microbiome, and a clean toxin-free environment.
Go ahead and start therapy and meditation and exercise and positive thinking but while you do that you must also find out what physical damage was caused by the stress.
You might need to look into healing the microbiome because this is where many hormones are manufactured including 75 percent of the serotonin you need to have a healthy mind.
When you are tense and anxious for a long time you are not digesting or eating or absorbing optimally. You may have specific nutrient deficiencies or your thyroid might be affected.
You might be sensitive to mold in your home or mold in certain mass-produced foods like coffee and grains.
You are unique, one size does not fit all
You are the expert on you and your recovery from depression is not going to look the same as anyone else’s.
Find a health professional to guide you and use caution when trying supplements suggested in some of the books and resources and websites you will find.
Find out how the combinations are going to affect your medication and what to take if you want to taper off antidepressants.
Resources for depression and childhood trauma
Kelly Brogan MD has a book and program for natural depression treatments that is all-encompassing. Get free materials that are life changing!
One of the best programs I have found is Dominate Depression It takes you systematically through every step of the detective work you need to do to recover fully from depression.
Finding a good naturopath or nutritionist might be a good first step if you can afford it. There are also plenty of good books on the subject too if you can’t afford a specialist and your insurance doesn’t cover complementary medicine.
Take the ACE test and see what it does and doesn’t mean