A recent study presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry on March 26th, 2023, reports that children who experience trauma have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, making them angrier adults. The worse the trauma in childhood equates to an angrier adult.
What does the study show?
The study commenced in 2004 and evolved from data from an ongoing Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, with nearly 2,276 participants aged 18 to 65. The study examined anxiety and depression over an extended period to understand the correlation between childhood trauma and anger.
There is surprisingly little research on the impact of childhood trauma and levels of anger. Research studies have previously predicted that at least 40% of patients with anxiety and depression tend to be angrier than the average population, but the link to childhood trauma was unknown.
The study examined how childhood trauma correlated to feelings of anger, how anger manifested, and the participant’s tendency to become angry. Childhood trauma includes neglect and emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Examples included the loss of a parent, divorce, or being placed in care.
The study found a link between children’s trauma and anger. Children who suffered emotional and physical abuse were likelier to have anger issues. The more traumatic the child’s experience leads to an angrier adult.
The lead author, Nienke De Bles, a Ph.D. student from Leiden University in the Netherlands, found that anxious or depressed people with a history of emotional neglect and physical or psychological abuse were between 1.3 and 2 times more likely to have anger problems.
She also confirmed,
“the more traumatic the childhood experience, the greater the tendency towards adult anger. We can’t definitively say that the trauma causes the anger.”
The study was able to able to understand specific emotions associated with childhood trauma. Children who suffered emotional neglect tended to be more irritable or easily angered as adults.
Those who suffered physical abuse tended to exhibit more antisocial personality traits and had a greater tendency towards anger attacks. Suppressed anger and a greater sensitivity to rejection were noted in those adults who suffered sexual abuse.
The study also indicated that those who experience anger tend to discontinue psychiatric treatment, thereby reducing their recovery from trauma.
As reported by My Mind News, researchers found that women and men experienced childhood trauma differently. As there is a link between childhood trauma and anger, these findings will help develop interventions and personalize gender-specific care for children and adults.
Finding the root cause
Another critical consideration in developing interventions relates to the emotions experienced by those who suffered childhood trauma. Nienke De Bles recommends that it should become standard practice for therapists to explore and seek out information from those who are anxious and depressed to understand if the root cause relates to a past trauma.
This is extremely important due to the emotions involved. Trauma sufferers often suppress anger and exhibit antisocial behavior, and it can be challenging to uncover the root cause unless specific exploration around childhood trauma occurs.
In summary, the study findings reveal the absolute need for it to become standard practice for therapists to explore childhood trauma with those experiencing anxiety and depression to help understand the root cause and inform the development of an intervention strategy to assist recovery.
What are your thoughts on this research? Let us know in the comments.