By On February 19th, 2014

Childhood Abuse and Parental Addiction Increase Depression Recovery Time

Source: D. Sharon Pruitt

Source: D. Sharon Pruitt

It is no secret that childhood abuse or living with parents under the grip of addiction often have life-long effects that long outlive their damaging environments, but we are just beginning to evaluate exactly what those impacts are. One study on the effects of abuse and parental addiction has found that adults who suffered physical abuse or were raised by addicted parents take longer to recuperate from depression, compared to those raised in healthier households.

The study, published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology used a sample of 1,128 Canadian adults struggling with depression from the National Population Health Survey to analyze remission. These depressed adults were then observed for alternate years or until they went into remission. The maximum time noted to recover from depression in the study was 12 years.

“Our findings indicated that most people bounce back. In fact, three-quarters of individuals were no longer depressed after two years,” reported co-author and Professor Emeriti Tahany M. Gadalla. But, this doesn’t mean everyone recovers at the same speed, and recovery can be impacted by several factors including childhood struggles.

“The average time to recovery from depression was 9 months longer for adults who had been physically abused during their childhood and about 5 months longer for those whose parents had addiction problems” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

The authors said that previous studies had already shown that abused children or those who were raised by parents with addiction were more susceptible to depression. This could potentially be linked to why it takes longer to recover.

But, researchers also suggested a biological source for this variance. Specifically, they feel that traumatic childhood experiences disrupt the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which affects stress regulation.

“In many studies, adult depression has been characterized by HPA axis hyperactivity,” says co-author and recent PhD graduate, Sarah Brennenstuhl. “This link is an important avenue for future research.”

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