Psychological Therapeutic Solutions

By Dr Deborah Kingston

By Dr Deborah Kingston

Understanding Mental Health

Depression and Anxiety as Survival Strategies

Traditionally, depression and anxiety are viewed as common mental health disorders. However, through the lens of trauma specialists, these conditions can be re-conceptualised as survival strategies to prevent further trauma (Janina Fisher).

For example, a person who experienced childhood neglect may develop anxiety as a survival strategy. Their constant state of alertness and worry acts as a mechanism to anticipate and avoid potential threats or neglect in the future. By understanding their anxiety in this context, they can begin to see it not just as a disorder, but as a learned response to past trauma. This perspective can be empowering, helping them to approach their anxiety with more compassion and understanding. It also guides therapy to focus not only on managing symptoms but also on addressing and processing the underlying trauma.

The Neurobiological Perspective

Experts suggest our neurobiological system often go into overdrive in response to trauma, with the limbic system (our ‘red alert’ centre) taking precedence over the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and decision-making. This shift is a protective mechanism, guarding the individual against further psychological harm.

Understanding Depression and Anxiety

Understanding depression and anxiety as responses to trauma, rather than as standalone disorders, changes our approach to treatment. It suggests that these conditions are part of the body’s natural defence mechanism, and by addressing the underlying trauma, we can begin to alleviate these symptoms.

The Role of Tools like PHQ9, GAD7, and IES (R)

Tools such as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ9), the General Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD7), and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R)/or The Post Traumatic Checklist (PCL5) are invaluable in exploring one’s mood and the severity of symptoms. They can be the first step in recognising the link between trauma and depression need for professional intervention.

Moving Towards Healing

By understanding our mental health through a trauma-informed lens, we can start to change our understanding and reactions to triggering situations. This perspective empowers individuals to seek the right support and therapy, potentially leading to more effective and targeted treatments.


Reframing depression and anxiety as survival strategies rather than mere disorders opens new pathways for understanding and creating life thriving strategies. Recognising the signs and seeking professional help when necessary, can be a crucial step in this journey.

Call to Action: If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety and suspect a link to past trauma, consider using tools like the PHQ9, GAD7, and IES (R) to assess your situation. These will give you a guide as to whether you feel you need to seek pro advice.  Alternatively if you require further guidance and support consider reaching out to Psychological Therapeutic Solutions. Contact us to explore personalised options to help alleviate distress and develop more effective coping strategies.