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Is Your Depression Caused by Past Trauma?

“I just tried to move past that time and get on with my life.”

Have you ever referred to your past trauma in these kinds of terms? It makes sense that you would want to set those experiences aside and not focus on them.

But what if you haven’t moved on? Instead, you feel down, emotionally numb, even hopeless. It’s been like this for a while, so you don’t even notice that you might actually be struggling with depression? Trauma and depression can certainly be linked together.

Here’s how.

The Impact of Trauma

Trauma has the potential to be incredibly impactful on your life. This is true whether it was a stand-alone event, or multiple traumas experienced over a stretch of time (even years). These moments become embedded in your mind and psyche.

Now, even after much time has passed, you might not be actively thinking about the trauma every day. However, it is in the background. Those experiences influence your mindset today. They may even come roaring back as a triggering moment.

Triggers cause your brain to revert back to the traumatic moment. And of course, they bring up distressing emotions, such as fear and anxiety.

Numbing Your Emotions

One way that people cope with both trauma and depression is by numbing their emotions. It is easier to feel nothing than something. This happens in a couple of ways:

  • Your brain seems to have switched off the parts that control emotions. Things that should cause you to feel joy or sadness have no effect at all.
  • When you have troubling emotions arise, especially if they are related to your trauma, you numb them yourself through substance use. Alcohol and drugs have long been used as tools to “forget” about what happened. Even if the effect is only temporary.

If you experienced traumatic events and are struggling with numbing your emotions, especially through substance use, then you might also be coping with depression as well.

A Feeling of Hopelessness

Many people who report feeling depressed say how they experience a sense of hopelessness. Hopelessness is a very strong word. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hopelessness as:

“having no expectation of good or success”

There is an important word in that definition: expectation. Or the lack of it.

When we expect nothing positive in our lives, then of course we are going to experience depression. Hope keeps us going and to live for the future. It could be as simple as looking forward to hanging out with friends and watching the big game Saturday afternoon. Or the prospects of retirement and traveling with your partner.

However, if you have unresolved trauma from your past, that can linger as hopelessness.

When the Memories Don’t Go Away

There’s another way that trauma haunts you, eliciting hopelessness and numbness, causing depression. It’s when those traumatic memories just don’t go away. Every day you recall a memory from that time.

These are things that you can’t just push away or ignore. They remind you of when you were vulnerable, scared, and even afraid for your life. No matter what you do, you still can’t stop thinking about them.

Now imagine that happens spread throughout the months and years, and you can imagine how you could be depressed.

Finding Hope Despite the Trauma

Even though you have experienced trauma, that doesn’t mean you can’t find hope and peace in your life. The process to do so requires several approaches. These include:

  • Lifestyle changes that support a healthier mental state
  • Counseling sessions with a therapist trained to treat depression
  • Medication

No-one has to be defined by their past. Rather than letting it hold you hostage, you have the power to do something about it. This includes getting professional help from a therapist. To learn more, reach out today, 256-686-9195, to find out how depression therapy can help you.

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