How Abuse Contributes to Depression

How Abuse Contributes to Depression

Depression can be caused by a number of influencing factors, from genetics to major life events. Any act of abuse at any stage in a person’s life puts the individual at high risk for depression, as well as a number of other psychological illnesses and harmful consequences.

Coping with the effects of abuse is painful, but when a person is able to deal with the issue head-on, they are less likely to experience adverse consequences later in life. Addressing issues of abuse can help prevent depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse and self-destructive and other harmful behaviors.

How Early Childhood Abuse Contributes to Depression

Research has shown that early childhood abuse (before age 5) contributes to damaging psychological changes that influence depression. Children who experience maltreatment or physical, sexual or emotional abuse encounter much higher levels of stress than children who grow up in healthy, non-abusive environments.

It may seem like the consequences of abuse would not take effect until the child understands what is going on, but research proves otherwise. Increased levels of stress, even in children ages 5 and younger, cause psychological damage that can harm a child’s development and health.

Cortisol levels are higher in children who were abused during early stages of life than cortisol levels of non-abused children. High cortisol levels make an individual prone to depression and other mood or psychological disorders.

In addition, early childhood abuse can cause long-term learning disabilities, sleep problems, emotional disturbances and aggressive or abnormal behavior. These consequences can make life more complicated and can also increase the chances of developing depression and other mood disorders.

Can Abuse Contribute to Depression in Adults?

Abuse can contribute to depression and other psychological disorders in people of all ages. Being a victim of abuse can cause many physical, psychological and spiritual effects that influence an individual’s health, wellbeing and quality of life. Victims of abuse often experience a wide range of emotions, turmoil and confusion.  The feelings and reactions that may result from being a victim of abuse can include the following:

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Embarrassment
  • Confusion
  • Self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Powerless

These feelings contribute to high stress levels, and if they are not addressed, an individual can be overcome by emotional pain and turmoil. Stress, fear and anxiety are all issues that contribute to depression.

Being a victim of abuse can make an individual feel worthless. Low self-esteem and self-worth along with feelings of guilt and shame can influence self-destructive behaviors and self-loathing. These feelings contribute to the development of depression, but they also influence self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies and obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Abuse is a risk factor for multiple psychological problems. It is not uncommon for co-occurring disorders, like depression and anxiety or depression and addiction, to develop in an individual who has suffered from abuse of any kind. In addition, victims of abuse often isolate themselves from others and activities because they lack trust or the ability to develop intimate or emotional relationships. Social isolation is a major risk factor for depression and substance abuse. Victims of abuse who withdraw themselves from others and resources that could help them cope or heal are more likely to fall into depression.