Childhood Trauma and Depression in Adults

· January 23, 2017

No stage is simultaneously more intense, wonderful and vulnerable than childhood. Those early experiences eternally mark not only much of the course of our lives, but also the vision we have for it.

The bond we have with our caregivers, our parents, who guide us, care for us and clothe us, provides the pillars of our development so we can grow up with security and autonomy.

But if something goes wrong, if violence, misfortune appears in our life, cutting the course of our childhood, that trace will stay there forever.

It’s a fact – a reality. And as children, as people who are not yet able to defend themselves or fully understand why there is evil or tragedy, we must digest it with all its difficulty and gravity.

Psychiatrists label these situations as “premature stress”, which are events caused by physical or emotional traumas that will largely alter the course of our development and maturity.

The wound will remain in our brains. That severe peak of stress and suffering leaves an injury, which upon reaching adulthood, causes us to have a higher risk of developing some form of depression.

child alone drawing
Lack of affection during childhood: one of the biggest causes of depression

Sometimes, it’s not necessary to reach such unfortunate extremes such as abuse or child maltreatment. Often children who grow up without family roots, or with parents who haven’t known how, or haven’t wanted to strengthen this vital link with their children, causes them to reach maturity with a great deal of shortcomings and faults.

A healthy, happy and complete childhood causes the child to grow up knowing that they are loved, and that through each of their steps, decisions and failures, they will have the unconditional and unique support of their family.


The development of their self-esteem will go hand-in-hand with the affection they receive. The child will have a positive self-concept, because it is a reflection of what they have discovered so far.

But if they instead discover emptiness, sneers and reproaches, the child will grow up not only marked by insecurity, but also with some resentment and even distrust.

If those who should have been offering him support and unconditional love only gave him the cold shoulder and a bad attitude, it’s difficult for them to reach a healthy relationship with another person. They become distrustful and fearful.

Overcoming a difficult childhood

Psychiatrists speak of “biological vulnerability.” That is, all these traumatic or negative experiences of the past have become embedded in our experience and in our brain.

High levels of stress change and shape many of our deepest structures, and all this makes us more vulnerable people. People more likely to suffer depression upon reaching adulthood.

Now, does this mean that everyone who experienced trauma during their childhood will necessarily suffer depression? The answer is no. Each of us will face our traumatic past in a certain way. Maybe for some people these past events are a shock to overcome and fight every day.

Something to assimilate, accept and face so that life gives them a new opportunity, and the chance to be happy again.

But for others, those biological and emotional predispositions are still too heavy a load. It’s not just about dealing with a lingering memory, but it can also influence the way they relate to the world.

lonely woman forest

They may have lost confidence in themselves and everything around them. They may have difficulty maintaining friendships and even relationships. They may long for affection, but are unable to accept it for fear of being betrayed or injured.

These are profiles which can imply a certain type of chronic anxiety, hypersensitivity and emotional vulnerability that will need to be fought every day. Happiness in these cases has a high price. So, how should one cope? Obviously, with effort, willpower and a lot of social support.

Having seen all of these realities, the only thing left to remember is the importance of continuing to protect children. Never think that a child is a miniature adult.

A child is hungry for positive emotions, and is in need of experiences full of unconditional affection, words and links. A child is not an adult capable of understanding why other adults to treat them badly, nor are they capable of defending themselves. What happens during those years will be ingrained in their lives forever. Don’t ever forget it.

Always take care of little ones, and if you have suffered a difficult childhood, remember that happiness isn’t unattainable for anyone, and that it’s worth it to accept it, overcome it, and create a new life.

Images courtesy of Lucy Campbell