My childhood was not traumatic. So, why am I depressed? For many, that is a million-dollar question. If you have had no trauma but still depressed, then why is that? Do you beat yourself up with comments such as, “I don’t have any reason to be depressed,” or “So many others had it worse than me?”
As a psychotherapist, I’ve often had clients tell me they have no trauma but still depressed. Not only that, many have had those comments said to them by their parents or others.
When that happens, it makes people with no trauma but still depressed even worse. It causes so much shame because they “have no reason to be depressed.” If you have no trauma but still depressed then that supposedly means you have no reason to be depressed. So, “why am I depressed” is often the next question.
Society’s Belief about Those With No Trauma But Still Depressed
Think about what you and society consider to be trauma. Things such as sexual abuse, violence, a house burning, tragic deaths of loved ones or others along those lines. Often, these result in PTSD.
Due to that, society recognizes those as being traumatic, especially for a child. Therefore, people with no trauma but still depressed are not recognized as having a real reason to be depressed.
Those who have experienced society’s definition of trauma definitely struggle. However, at the same time, their traumas are recognized and therefore accepted as reasons one might suffer from depression. So, if you had no trauma but still depressed, then why have you been depressed for so many years?
“Little t” Trauma Versus “Big T ” Trauma
We can find the answer as to why you have no trauma but still depressed with the simple letter “T.” Let’s take a look at “Little t” trauma versus “Big T” trauma.
The traumatic experiences I’ve referred to are considered “Big T” traumas. While those are incredibly difficult to heal from, they also give you a clear reason as to why you struggle mentally.
On the other hand, “Little t” traumas are very hard to recall consciously. Due to this, we often don’t understand why we have no trauma but still depressed. We can’t remember anything “major” that would’ve caused depression for so many years.
These terms of “Little t” and “Big T” traumas are not my creation. However, I want you to have an understanding of the “Little t” traumas that probably led to your confusion from having no trauma but still depressed. To learn more about these terms, click here.
So, what are “Little t” traumas? How are they related to those with no trauma but still depressed? “Litte t” traumas are events that did not seem impactful at the time and you might not even remember them. The reason they became trauma is because those “little” events took place over and over.
When that happens, they become a major event to our brain because there have been so many of those experiences that got filed together in our brains? That can often equate to one “Big T” trauma. This is how you can experience having no trauma but still depressed.
What Is “Little t?” Trauma For Those With No Trauma But Still Depressed?
Consider a little boy in kindergarten. Let’s call him Brian. He has not had any major events thus far that the brain would categorize as trauma.
One morning, Brian’s teacher is passing out papers to all of the children in class. When she gets to Brian, she says to the whole class, “Brian, you didn’t put your name on your paper, but I know you know how to write your name, don’t you? Aren’t you smarter than that?”
All of the other children snicker at Brian and one even whispers, “You’re so stupid. You can’t even write your name.” Keep in mind this would be a normal comment a teacher would say. So, I am not blaming the teacher.
A few weeks after that incident, Brian gets up to go sharpen his pencil. He breaks his pencil in the pencil sharpener in front of the whole class. He hears the snickering again and maybe even a comment or two about how he doesn’t even know how to sharpen his pencil.
This doesn’t seem too traumatic so far, does it? At least, not to the degree of causing your depression in adulthood. Keep in mind that those two events created just little bitty pieces of “negative stuff” in Brian’s mind. It’s still not enough to consider as trauma though.
Let’s fast forward Brian to first grade. As his teacher is passing out papers, Brian sees that he made a bad grade on his test. The teacher leans over and whispers, “You’re smarter than that.” Again, the teacher did not mean to shame him, but thought it was encouragement.
The night before the test, Brian had been up all night vomiting. His mother checked his temperature before he went to school. He no longer had a fever, so his mother told him he had to go to school. Obviously, Brian could not concentrate to do well on that test.
“Little t” Traumas Add Up
The teacher’s comment just added another “Little t” trauma that gets categorized in his brain with the other two events. Now, imagine several of those continuing to add up over the next few years for Brian. That is how you can arrive at having no trauma but still depressed.
Also, keep in mind that Brian’s parents loved him, but they did not have a household that talked about their feelings. So, Brian never told anybody how he felt during those events.
He probably didn’t even recognize his feelings other than maybe anger because he wasn’t taught about feelings. Anger is often repressed sadness. To read more about that, click here.
Due to that, his feelings of sadness or shame got pushed down. Are you now thinking of similar events throughout your childhood? What experiences do you remember now that you didn’t think were a big deal at the time?
How “Little t” Traumas Affect Us
As Brian continues to have experiences like this, he creates a false belief telling himself “I am stupid.” What comes next for Brian is to attach a behavior that indicates his belief of “I am stupid.”
Typically, this can play out in two ways. The first is that Brian decides he should no longer put forth any effort in school or anything else because, ultimately, he believes he is stupid. So, why should he bother?
The second way this can go is that Brian exhausts himself trying to prove to the world that he is smart. Hello perfectionists! Nothing he does is ever good enough for him because, again, he believes, “I am stupid.” Both of these can result in a person having no trauma but still depressed.
Can You Relate To Results of Having “Little t” trauma?
Do either of these possibilities sound familiar to you as an adult? Are you able to recognize these kinds of behaviors in others? Creating such a harmful belief as a child almost always results in depression. Again, society does not recognize these events as trauma. That brings us right back to people have no trauma but still depressed.
Also, I want to explain that not every child will create that kind of belief from these experiences. There are lots of reasons why some will and some will not.
Remember how I mentioned that Brian’s parents did not discuss feelings? His parents probably had no awareness of the importance of that because they were never taught that. Brian is probably one of the kids that heard comments like, “Stop that crying. There’s no reason to cry.”
It’s possible that Brian’s parents were emotionally unavailable. To read more about that, click here for my post on 5 Steps to Heal from Emotionally Unavailable Parents.
How Does All Of This Relate To Those With No Trauma But Still Depressed?
So, If Brian never learned about feelings, that means he did not learn how to express them. When that happens, we hold them all in because we feel ashamed of ourselves. If Brian never saw anybody express their feelings in a healthy way, how would he know how to do so?
That can often result in years of depression following him into adulthood. As I said, there are many reasons as to why some people with “Little t” traumas will develop depression and some will not. The main reason I see is illustrated by the situation I explained with Brian. That is how adults identify as having no trauma but still depressed.
I mentioned that the brain files these “Little t” traumas all together resulting in false beliefs like Brian’s,“I am stupid.” So, often the “filing cabinet” for “Little t” trauma in the brain can become larger than the “filing cabinet” for “Big T” trauma.
“Little t” Traumas are Usually Subconscious Or Repressed.
Don’t forget that I said that “Big T” traumas are recognized by society and are very conscious for the most part. On the other hand, “Little t” traumas are rarely recognized by anybody as trauma, which results in them becoming subconscious.
So, back to adults having a good childhood with no trauma but still depressed. If things like “Little t” traumas are not conscious, then we can’t identify the reason we have depression as an adult.
Healing “Little t” Trauma
When I work with adults who have no trauma but still depressed, I typically begin with an explanation of “Big T” and “Little t” traumas throughout their childhood. Usually, my clients are able to start identifying those “Little t” traumas and their false beliefs that go with them. Once there, we look at the behaviors that followed those throughout their lives.
Sometimes, it can be easier to start recognizing your false beliefs first. After that, you might be able to better recall some of your “Little t” traumas that sneaked in and caused major damage to you and still do today.
Identifying and processing any kind of trauma is difficult, but it is always worth it. As always, I recommend finding a licensed therapist to help you identify and process your “Little t” traumas. It is very difficult to do that without guidance from a trained professional. To find a licensed therapist in your area, click here.
Now that you understand “Big T” and “Little t” traumas, what are some of the “Little t” traumas that may have popped up in your head? Can you identify the false beliefs that resulted from “Little t” traumas? Just remember there is a reason for you having no “trauma,” but still depressed.