New scientific research from London may provide a key into the recent success of a South Florida firm assisting individuals with long-term and previously intractable depressions.
Individuals with histories of childhood abuse or mistreatment are twice as likely to develop multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes as those without such experiences, according to a new report by a Psychiatry team from King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The British researchers studied 16 epidemiological studies involving more than 20,000 participants and 10 clinical trials involving more than 3,000 participants. At present, one in ten children exposed to maltreatment – psychological, physical or sexual abuse or neglect – and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 depression will be the second leading contributor to the cost of disease across all ages. Significantly, individuals with multiple and long-lasting depressive episodes represent the largest societal impact of depression.
While previous studies have shown that maltreated individuals are more likely to show abnormalities in biological systems sensitive to psychological stress – the brain, the endocrine, and the immune systems – both in childhood and adult life, and they may have important clinical implications.
“Identifying those at risk of multiple and long lasting depressive episodes is crucial from a public health perspective,” notes Dr. Andrea Danese, senior investigator of the King’s study. “The results indicate that childhood maltreatment is associated both with an increased risk of developing recurrent and persistent episodes of depression, and with an increased risk of responding poorly to treatment. Therefore prevention and early therapeutic interventions targeting childhood maltreatment could prove vital in helping prevent the major health burden owing to depression. Knowing that individuals with a history of maltreatment won’t respond as well to treatment may also be valuable for clinicians in determining patient’s prognosis,” she added.
Dr. Danese noted, “The biological abnormalities associated with childhood maltreatment could potentially explain why individuals with a history of maltreatment respond poorly to treatment for depression.”
“Our study has shown that antidepressant medication, psychological treatment and the combination of these two are less effective in those who have a history of childhood maltreatment,” noted Dr. Rudolf Uher, co-author of the article “Childhood Maltreatment Predicts Unfavorable Course of Illness and Treatment Outcome in Depression: A Meta-Analysis,” appearing in the August 14, 2011 edition of The American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Research on the brain is only now beginning to recognize the myriad of factors that may contribute to long-term and recurring depressions,” observed Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., director of clinical services of the Brain Training Centers of Florida. “So many of our clients with histories of long-term and recurring depressions report physical, emotional and sexual abuse in childhood or the fear that occurs when one grows up in a family with an alcohol or addicted or violent pattern that our experience reflects the British findings.
“More importantly, however, we’ve also found that using the tools of neurobiofeedback and individual counseling we are frequently able to assist clients in overcoming depression, sleeping better, and living without the stress of being perpetually hyper-vigilant,” said Flynn.
Flynn is careful to avoid making promises regarding individual clients, again noting the “multitude of factors – including childhood trauma – that may result in adult depression.
“Our experience, assisting dozens of clients with histories of chronic depression, appears to indicate that early life trauma affects the balance of brainwave activity throughout the brain,” notes Flynn. “By helping clients achieve a healthier balance of this activity, we have been able to assist many adults find significant and long-term relief from otherwise unresponsive depressions.”
Dr. Flynn is quick to emphasize that future research should emphasize biological and neurological changes associated with childhood abuse in all its forms.
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.