Researchers at UCLA have discovered a link between early life traumas and future episodes of depression. The study revealed that although most of the population experiences depression as a result of a significant life event, such as divorce or the death of a family member, a large percent of the population, nearly 30 percent, suffer their first bout of depression as the result of rather minimal disturbances. Additionally, 60 percent of people who have had repeated episodes of depression also appear to have developed their first symptoms with little or no major life trauma. George Slavich, of UCLA, and his team believe these depressed people are more susceptible to symptoms because they have suffered previous challenging life events or adversities.
The researchers found that people who had lost a parent early in life, or those who had experienced several episodes of depression, were more likely to become depressed after minimal levels of stress than those without those pre-existing conditions present. “We have known for a long time that some people are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems than others,” Slavich said.
The team wanted to see if previous stress created a higher amount of sensitivity to future stress. After evaluating the life conditions of 74 women and 26 men, the researchers found that those who had suffered the loss of a parent in childhood experienced more depressive episodes than any other group. “Researchers at UCLA and elsewhere have previously demonstrated that early adversity and depression history are associated with heightened sensitivity to stress,” Slavich said. He goes on to explain what role thoughts play in this dynamic. “Our thoughts affect how we react emotionally and biologically to situations, and these reactions in turn greatly influence our health. Regardless of your prior experiences, then, it is always important to take a step back and make sure you are interpreting situations in an unbiased way, based on the information available.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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