Depression After Trauma

By Luna, Youth Advocate


WHAT IS DEPRESSION?

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It can cause symptoms that can be severe that affect how we feel, think, and handle daily activities. In order to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Image: The surface of a pond, dark, with blurry reflections of trees as well as leaves and raindrops creating ripplesWhat causes depression?

Since depression is a very complex disease, no one knows for sure what causes it. Yet there can be a variety of things that influence it, such as life changes, trauma from abuse or other events, and even substance abuse. Although these are common triggers, the list is not limited to these.

DEPRESSION CAUSED BY TRAUMA

Traumatic events such as…

  • Domestic, family, or dating violence
  • Community violence (shooting, mugging, burglary, bullying)
  • Natural disasters
  • Sudden unexpected or violent death of someone close (e.g., suicide, accident)
  • Serious injury (e.g., burns, dog attack), major surgery (e.g., amputation),
  • War or political violence

…and many more events can cause depression.

Effects of trauma

These events can cause us trauma, and in return, our bodies react. There are many effects of trauma, and depression can be a big one. Trauma takes a big toll on us both mentally and physically.

According to the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, some may feel…

  • Numbness, inability to experience feelings, feelings of disconnectedness
  • Changing emotions such as shock, denial, guilt or self-blame
  • Extreme sadness, crying
  • Mood changes such as irritability, anxiousness, nervousness, pessimism or indifference
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Recurring memories or bad dreams about the event
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, strained personal relationships
  • Physical symptoms such as unexplained aches and pains, nausea, fatigue, loss of energy
  • Changes in eating habits or sleeping patterns

These are all normal feelings that are a part of grieving and recovering from any trauma. These are symptoms of situational or reactive depression.

Coping with depression after trauma

Image: A dark-haired person buries their face in the fur of a friendly, calm dogIt may seem impossible, but there is always room for healing after a traumatizing event. This, for most people, will be the hardest part of their journey to recovery. Coping with the pain and everything else that follows often feels daunting, but there are many coping strategies anyone can use.

Some helpful ways to cope include:

  • Giving yourself time to grieve: During this time it’s important to validate your feelings.
  • Talking to others: It may be helpful to let others know what you are going through so that they may support you.
  • Distraction & self-care: Giving your brain and body a break is also helpful.

WHEN DEPRESSION IS LIFE-THREATENING

Depression from any trauma can have serious and life-threatening effects. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, you are not alone. For support and resources, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or via online chat. No matter how difficult the situation, there is always hope.