This week’s guest post is written by Dr. Jeff Nalin, Clinical Psychologist, who is the founder of Paradigm Malibu, which is an adolescent treatment center for teens living with mental health or substance abuse issues.
Trauma: One of the Biggest Risk Indicators for Depression and Suicide
How Can You Reduce The Risk?
Psychological trauma refers to a type of emotional pain that occurs after a shocking or life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, rape, assault or witnessing death. People that undergo trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD refers to chronic anxiety that occurs after experiencing trauma. In addition to PTSD, trauma sufferers are more likely to experience depression.
Research has found that depression and PTSD are the strongest predictors of suicide. A 2008 study, conducted by the Houston Fire Department, examined suicide predictors in firefighters. Firefighters are often exposed to trauma and experience PTSD symptoms due to their line of work. The study found a strong connection between PTSD, depression and suicide.
Aside from suicide, experiencing trauma tends to have a lot of negative consequences for the victim all throughout life.
A new study found that people with chronic health issues tended to have higher rates of childhood trauma. The ACE study, conducted by doctors Robert Anda and Vincent Felitti, surveyed more than 17,000 children and adolescents beginning in 1995. Their childhood experiences were compared to their later adult health records. It was found that children that experienced adverse or traumatic events in childhood, such as losing a parent to death, physical abuse or neglect were much more likely to have more chronic health issues as adults than children that did not experience traumatic events. In addition, children with trauma histories were 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression. So, why does experiencing trauma make it more likely that someone will develop depression or other issues?
Inability to Cope With Future Stress
People who experience trauma often find it difficult to cope with stress of any kind. In fact, the 2008 Biggest Loser winner, talks about how she gained weight back after being sexually assaulted following the show. She tells Self magazine how she was unable to cope with the stress of her wedding and other things due to the underlying trauma. As a result, she ended up gaining all of the 112 pounds back in the years since the show.
A wedding can be a big stressor for anyone, even if they have not experienced trauma. But, many people that have undergone trauma tend to be unable to cope with, or overreact even to small, everyday things. They are constantly on-edge. This is a form of anxiety that serves as a defense mechanism to help protect against future trauma. The problem is that it causes them to overreact to nearly everything. A small stressor, such as an unexpected bill, might cause someone with history of trauma to shut down and not even deal with it. This makes matters worse and causes even more stress. A small health setback, such as an abnormal test, might cause a person to become so anxious that they ignore the issue, refusing to go back to the doctor for follow-up treatment. This puts them at risk for even more problems. Depression is also more likely to increase when someone does not cope with stressors well. The stress can lead to them becoming hopeless about a situation. Feelings of hopelessness tend to trigger depression.
How can I deal with post-trauma feelings?
The best way to deal with trauma is to seek treatment from a qualified therapist or treatment center. They can help you address and cope with the underlying trauma. Counseling is a great way to help you begin the healing process and learn to feel good.
Dr. Jeff Nalin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Founder of Paradigm Malibu Treatment Center