Childhood Trauma and Depression in Adulthood

July 1, 2024

image depicting childhood trauma and depression

Experts have studied the link between childhood trauma and depression in adulthood for many years. The evidence shows a clear connection between these experiences and mental health challenges later in life.

Read on to learn more about this link and discover how to get effective and compassionate mental health treatment.

What Is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma can take many forms. Examples of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Community violence
  • Bullying
  • Sexual assault
  • Losing a loved one
  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Serious accident
  • Life-threatening illness

Sadly, trauma in childhood is more common than you might realize. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that two in three children experience a traumatic event by age 16.

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What Are the Symptoms of Untreated Childhood Trauma in Adults?

Childhood trauma can affect your mental health and well-being. How it shows up in adulthood depends on what traumas you face and your personality. If you felt unsafe, neglected, unloved, or abused as a child, you might have been forced into survival mode. Here are some ways childhood trauma might affect you.

Emotional instability

Childhood trauma can make it hard to control your emotions, leading to mood swings and feeling emotionally numb.

Mental health issues

Experiencing trauma as a child can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health problems.

Low self-worth

Trauma can damage your self-esteem, making you feel inadequate and full of self-doubt.

Substance use

You might turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with painful emotions.

Relationship problems

Childhood trauma can make it hard to trust others and form close relationships, affecting your social skills.

Physical health concerns

Unresolved trauma can show up as chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, and other stress-related illnesses.


You might aim for perfection to control your life more.


This is a way to detach from traumatic memories and difficult emotions.


Childhood trauma can increase the chance of engaging in self-harming behaviors to manage emotional pain.

Not everyone who experiences childhood trauma will face these challenges, but many can relate to some of them. Getting help from a mental health professional can support you in healing and moving forward to live a more fulfilling life.

image depicting depression and childhood trauma

What Is the Correlation Between Depression and Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma can make you more likely to get depressed in later life. Here’s how they are linked:

  • Stress response: Trauma can change how your brain reacts to stress. This can cause ongoing anxiety and depression.
  • Emotional regulation: Early trauma can make it hard to control your emotions. This makes it tougher to deal with life’s challenges and can lead to depression.
  • Negative beliefs: Trauma can make you think badly about yourself and the world. This can make you feel hopeless and depressed.
  • Attachment issues: Childhood trauma can make it hard to form healthy relationships. This can make you feel sad and isolated.
  • Neurobiological changes: Trauma can change your brain structure and function, especially in areas that control mood. This can make you more likely to get depressed.

With the right help from therapists, people can work through their trauma and find ways to feel better.

Depression & Other Consequences of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma can cause many problems that affect your life. Some of these include:

Behavioral issues

Trauma can cause bad behavior, aggression, and trouble in school or work.

Chronic health problems

Long-term stress from trauma can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and stomach problems.

Difficulty with trust and intimacy

Trauma can make it hard to form close relationships, leading to feeling lonely.

Increased risk of further trauma

People who had childhood trauma might face more traumatic events later in life.

Problems with self-regulation

Trauma can make it hard to control impulses and manage stress, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Academic and career challenges

Trauma can affect thinking and focus, making school and work harder.

Impact on parenting

Childhood trauma can affect how you parent and form bonds with your children.

Knowing about these problems is the first step to getting help. With support from mental health professionals and a strong support network, you can overcome these challenges and lead a healthier, happier life.

How to Treat Depression Caused by Childhood Trauma

Treating depression from childhood trauma involves several steps. Here are some ways to help:

  • Therapy: Different types of therapy, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), trauma-focused therapy, and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), can help you heal from trauma.
  • Medication: A psychiatrist can prescribe antidepressants and other medications to help manage depression and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can reduce stress and help you manage emotions better.
  • Creative outlets: Creative activities like art, music, or writing can be therapeutic and help you express your emotions.
  • Support groups: Joining a support group can give you a sense of community and understanding from others with similar experiences.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and enough sleep are important for mental health and can help reduce depression.
  • Building a support network: Having supportive friends and family around you can provide emotional support and encouragement.

When to Seek Professional Help for Depression

It’s important to know when to get help for depression. Here are some signs that you might need to see a mental health professional:

  • Persistent sadness: If you feel sad or hopeless most of the time and these feelings don’t go away, seek help.
  • Loss of interest: When you no longer find joy in activities you once loved, it could be a sign of depression.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much can be signs of depression.
  • Appetite changes: Big changes in weight or appetite might be linked to depression.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired all the time, even after sleeping well, can be a symptom of depression.
  • Difficulty concentrating: If you find it hard to focus, make decisions, or remember things, you might need professional help.
  • Feelings of worthlessness: Feelings guilty or worthless, or blaming yourself a lot are serious signs of depression.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide: If you think about hurting yourself or ending your life, seek immediate help from a mental health professional or call a crisis hotline.
two people hug representing childhood trauma and depression in adulthood

Get Compassionate, Insurance-Covered Depression Treatment with Connections

Have you been affected by childhood trauma and depression in later life? If so, we can help you heal at Connections in Southern California. Our mental health treatment programs can help you feel and function better.

When you choose inpatient treatment at our luxury beachside center, you’ll join others dealing with similar issues. We keep group sizes small to ensure you get personal attention and support from peers.

If you’re worried about the cost of mental health treatment, we work with health insurance providers so everyone can get the care they need at an affordable rate.

All mental health issues are unique, so we offer personalized treatments at Connections. Therapies include:

  • Medications
  • Talk therapy
  • Counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

Get effective treatment for childhood trauma today by calling us at 844-759-0999.

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