Trauma can be defined as an event that has brushed us with death as in:
- A narrow escape from an accident, a natural disaster, being mauled or attacked by an animal, or violent attack from another human being – including combat in war, or witnessing the death of someone from these causes.
- The ‘death’ of the way we once viewed ourselves and our safety in the world due to a betrayal of trust that resulted in the violation of our boundaries by someone close to us – as in rape, physical, mental and emotional abuse, and neglect, or witnessing others treated in this way.
- The ‘death’ of our good feelings about ourselves or positive self-regard through the humiliation and deprivation of being held captive, tortured, enslaved, or trapped in a childhood of ongoing domestic violence and/or abusive experiences with caregivers who are unable to love, care for, and respect children.
Experiencing these kinds of traumas carries a high risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can seriously disable a person’s life if left untreated. Having PTSD also carries a high risk for the development of other health problems like depression, other anxiety disorders, substance abuse/disorders, obesity, diabetes, and ischemic heart disease.
Trauma and Depression
Childhood abuse more than doubles the risk of developing long-lasting and recurring depression later in life, according to a review published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, and in such cases the patients are less likely to respond to treatment. The researchers reviewed 16 studies of a total of more than 23,000 patients, and found that those who suffered maltreatment in childhood, such as rejection by the mother, harsh physical treatment or sexual abuse, had more than twice the risk of recurring depression. It is thought maltreatment in childhood causes changes to the brain, the immune system, and some hormone glands in young developing bodies. (NZ Listener, September 03, 2011)
See What is Your ACE Score? The Negative Impact on Adult Health of Adverse Childhood Experiences for more information on the impact of trauma on one’s life.