Childhood trauma linked to mental health issues in adulthood

mental health

Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness but the ability to cope with the stresses of life, work productively and make a contribution to one’s community

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Kenya has experienced a surge in mental health cases in recent years, with various studies and reports showing the prevalence is estimated to be around 10-25 per cent, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most commonly diagnosed illnesses.

A new study presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris has found that individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety and have had traumatic childhood experiences are more likely to become angry adults.

According to the study, the more severe the childhood trauma, the more likely the person will have anger problems as an adult.

The researchers examined data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, which began in 2004 and followed over 2,000 participants between 18 and 65. Participants were asked about their childhoods, including whether or not they had been neglected, lost a parent, or physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

The study found that adults who experienced emotional neglect and physical or psychological abuse were between 1.3 and 2 times more likely to have anger problems.

The lead researcher, Nienke De Bles from Leiden University in the Netherlands, said more research should be done on anger in general. This study has shown a clear link between childhood trauma and increased levels of anger. She added that easily angered individuals might have more difficulty with personal interactions and that anger may reduce their chances of a better life.

"We found that children who suffered emotional neglect had an increased tendency to grow into adults who were irritable or easily angered, whereas those who had been physically abused had a greater tendency towards anger attacks or antisocial personality traits. Sexual abuse tended to result in a suppression of anger, possibly because of a greater sensitivity to rejection – but this needs to be confirmed," said Nienke De Bles.

The study suggests that it should be normal to ask people with depression and anxiety about their anger and past trauma, even if they are not angry at the moment.

 Dr. Julian Beezhold, Secretary General of the European Psychiatric Association, commented that the study's findings align with what is seen in day-to-day clinical practice and will help increase awareness of the importance of anger and associated childhood trauma.

"This study looks at the somewhat neglected symptom of anger and its association with childhood experience. The findings are in line with what we see in day-to-day clinical practice and will hopefully help increase the awareness of the importance of both anger and associated childhood trauma," Dr Beezhold said.

The researchers hope that their findings will encourage psychiatrists to understand the cause of their patient's symptoms so that they can offer the appropriate treatment for each individual.