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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 59 (2017) 5, 286 - 296

Review article

Emotional scars: impact of childhood trauma on the development of depressive and anxiety disorders later in life

J.G.F.M. Hovens, E.J. Giltay, A.M. van Hemert, B.W.J.H. Penninx

background Childhood trauma and negative life events in childhood are risk factors for the development of anxiety and depressive disorders in adulthood.
aim To increase our understanding of the specific associations between trauma and negative life events in childhood and the development and course of anxiety and depressive disorders in adulthood.
method Our research findings are based on data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (nesda). In our article we report on two cross-sectional and three prospective studies.
results All domains of childhood trauma are risk factors for the development of anxiety and/or depressive disorders in adulthood. Emotional neglect is the main independent predictor of the occurrence and the course of anxiety and depressive disorders. Certain personality characteristics and more unfavorable clinical factors play an important role in mediating the relationship between childhood trauma and the course of anxiety and depressive disorders later in life.
conclusion Not only does childhood trauma increase an individual’s vulnerability to the development of anxiety and depressive disorders, it is also associated with a more serious and more chronic course of these disorders. Our studies have provided new insights into the underlying mechanism that links childhood trauma and anxiety and later anxiety depressive disorders. Consequently, we feel justified in making some recommendations with regards to clinical practice and public health interventions.

keywords anxiety disorders, childhood trauma, depressive disorders, epidemiology