What is PTSD?
While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are different psychological imbalances, they can frequently be co-diagnosed. In fact, research has shown that PTSD itself can lead to prolonged depressive states. Furthermore, as many as half of all people diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from a major depressive disorder.
So yes, PTSD and depression are strongly correlated, with post-traumatic stress being a strong starting point for a clinical depressive state. However, the two conditions are different in many ways and usually caused by different things. Before going deeper into how they relate, here is a definition of each:
The cause of PTSD is usually a specific, terrifying, extremely traumatic event in a person’s life. These events can involve natural disasters, being the victim of violence, severe abuse, or in many cases, combat experience.
However, PTSD itself is not explicitly a type of clinical depression. The condition is instead characterized by a broader range of symptoms that include:
- Flashbacks to the trauma that caused it
- Avoidance of people, places, and things that are reminders of the trauma
- Feelings of isolation
- Suicidal or morbid thoughts
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Severe startle reactions to certain triggers
People dealing with PTSD also often have trouble with close relationships and start on patterns of self-destructive behavior involving substance abuse or risky behavior. These can sometimes lead to suicidal tendencies or even suicide.
What is Depression?
Depression on the other hand need not be caused by specific traumas. It can emerge gradually from inherited traits, unknown causes, or as a result of changes in brain chemistry, hormones, and life circumstances. The specific causes of major depressive disorder are not always even known in some patients. Depression is characterized by symptoms with many differences from those of PTSD, but also some similarities.
People undergoing a depressive state often suffer from:
- A lack of motivation or interest in most daily activities
- Persistent tiredness and lack of energy
- Sleeping too much or not enough (sleep disturbance)
- No pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed
- Guilt and feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal and fatalistic thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Eating too much or not enough
Depression can however also emerge after specific traumas in life and more importantly, it can become worse, or make itself present as a result of the general life chaos that post-traumatic stress disorder often causes. Consequently, the reverse can also happen: people already dealing with a depressive state can see it worsen if they also undergo a post-traumatic event.
Dealing with both PTSD and Depression
Because PTSD can cause depression and because both conditions can share certain symptoms or even causes. Patients who suffer from a range of either condition’s symptoms might indeed be dealing with both PTSD and depression. Their relationship is close enough that it’s crucial to form a clear diagnosis of which is the case, or if both are present, and to clarify which condition formed first.
What each condition can do is worsen the other if both aren’t addressed uniquely. Fortunately, treatment for both also shares certain similarities, and with both conditions, clinical remedies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription medications, and support groups exist.
In many cases, a combination of these three and other treatment options involving lifestyle changes can cause enormous relief in either one or both conditions. More specifically, treatment options that reduce the intensity of PTSD or depression can also then greatly relieve the difficulties caused by the other condition