How Abuse Contributes to Depression

Depression is a serious psychological disorder that is caused by imbalances in the chemical system that the brain uses to regulate mood, impulse control, ambition, gratification and memory. A variety of naturally occurring chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, are involved in the signal system used by the brain to manage emotions.

Depression occurs when any of the following physiological events related to these chemical neurotransmitters occur:

  • The brain does not produce enough serotonin.
  • The brain does not have enough receptors to process the serotonin that is produced.
  • The serotonin produced by the brain is taken back up too quickly to be noticed by the receptor sites.

Some individuals lack the molecular building blocks used in the manufacture of serotonin while others disrupt the balance of this system through drug or alcohol abuse. However, one of the most common factors among those who suffer from depression is a history of abuse.

Physical, verbal and sexual abuse or neglect causes the brain’s production and use of serotonin to be seriously compromised. According to a 2003 article in Psychology Today, nearly every adult who suffers from depression has some history of childhood abuse.

Effects of Depression Caused by Abuse

Verbal, physical and sexual abuse can cause severe trauma at any age. Young people are especially vulnerable to the emotional after effects of abuse. Like a soldier being shot at on a battlefield, the abused person subconsciously defends himself or herself against nervous breakdown or other intense pain by partially shutting down. Many abuse victims tend to block out memories of bad experiences.

The result in the brain is very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of which include the following:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Relational isolation
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Abuse of others
  • Self-medication through drug or alcohol abuse
  • Emotional numbness
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Individuals who have been abused tend to develop emotional problems, including depression, and also are considerably more liable to abuse others in one way or another.

Healing for Abuse Victims

The key to achieving lasting recovery from abuse is for victims to be assisted in the recollection of their abuse and to be given the emotional skills to process what happened to them. This often involves a therapist with special training in this area and may also require substance abuse or behavioral help, depending on the particular circumstances. With the right counseling and rehabilitation, millions of trauma and abuse victims have found complete healing of their mind and spirit.