Bad things happen to everyone. Some of us survive traumatic incidents. Others get through difficult ends to romantic relationships. Sometimes we lose someone who is dear or important to us. In other cases, it may involve someone who treated us badly.

Sometimes, we’re able to work through the pain and it lessens over time. But other times, we push the pain aside and it hides itself in a corner of our brain. We don’t think about it all that often, but it waits to reappear. When we get through multiple tough situations that leave us feeling bad, they gather together and start to affect how we think.

Over time, we don’t notice the pain, but we do find ourselves reacting to situations in puzzling ways. Events that seem simple cause our hearts to race and our palms to sweat. Small setbacks leave us surprisingly blue for days at a time. Tiny misdeeds by others cause us to lash out angrily, and we just can’t understand why.

Those past pains are examples of traumas we’ve suffered, and not all of them have to be large or terrifying. They may just be the setbacks of everyday life. But if we don’t process them correctly when they happen, they’ll accumulate and often reemerge as anxiety and depression.

When people start noticing they feel depressed or anxious, they’re often confused. They assume something recent has triggered those feelings, but that isn’t always the case. Mental health professionals are learning that long-past pain — even pain we may not remember — can come back and cause serious problems years later.

If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed and aren’t sure why, consider sitting down with a counselor who can help you get to the root of it. It may be a symptom of a physical problem, if may be related to a recent development in your life, or it may be pain you’ve carried around for decades. The sooner you can identify the cause, the sooner you’ll start feeling better.

Jared Jones is one of our therapists who help teens. He is trained in CBT and EMDR and often helps people who feel suicidal, anxious or depressed.

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