Depression and childhood trauma have been found to be related.  Depression ranks among the most common psychiatric disorders worldwide, with a 12-month prevalence between 10% and 17% and a lifetime prevalence between 17% and 40%.  60% of individuals who have recovered from a depressive episode will have a recurrence within 5 years. The rate of recurrence may be even higher in individuals who experience more persistent depressive episodes and in those who have a poor treatment outcome with residual sub-threshold symptoms. It is important to identify factors that predict risk of developing recurrent and persistent depressive episodes and lack of remission or response during treatment for depression.

A recent study* examined the effects of childhood maltreatment as risk factors for the development of depression in adulthood.  Childhood maltreatment was defined as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or family conflict or violence experienced as a child.

Childhood abuse, neglect, trauma and other forms of maltreatment have long been believed to result in later depression.  In fact, many types of treatment focus on unresolved childhood adversities that continue to adversely affect current relationships.

One study found that compared with individuals who have not experienced childhood maltreatment, those with a history of childhood maltreatment are at greater risk of meeting criteria for depression at any point in life.  This suggests that childhood mis-treatment contributes to depressive states during adulthood.  Furthermore, a meta–analysis of 16 epidemiological studies (23,544 participants) found that childhood maltreatment was also associated with an elevated risk of developing recurrent depression and persistent depressive episodes as adults.  That is, childhood events increased the likelihood of developing recurrent major depression as an adult.  A further analysis of 10 clinical trials (3,098 participants) revealed that childhood maltreatment was also associated with lack of response or remission to treatment for depression as adults.  This study indicates that individuals who experience childhood abuse, trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and other forms of mis-treatment are more likely to develop major depression as adults that are recurrent and difficult to treat.

It is only natural that events that occur in childhood tend to shape and have persistent effects during adulthood, including the association between depression and childhood trauma.  This means that is particularly important for people who have experienced childhood trauma or maltreatment to receive therapy that is specifically focused on helping these individuals address and cope with these childhood events.  Failing to address childhood maltreatment likely contributes to the persistent, recurrent depression that these individuals experience over the course of their lives and contributes to a sense of hopelessness about treatment.

Fortunately, there is now an Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of persistent and severe major depression and childhood trauma in seven peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our programs provide services to those suffering from recurrent major depression who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care.  We provide three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting that includes treatment focused on unresolved childhood trauma and family of origin issues.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for recurrent major depression can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.

*Nanni V, Uher R, Danese A. Am J Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;169(2).