Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression share a lot of the same symptoms and may even share a joint diagnosis, but is PTSD actually a form of depression? The short answer is no.
While depression is a chronic mood disorder that causes intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and other mental and physical symptoms, PTSD is a stressor-related disorder that is brought on following a traumatic event. Read about the differences and similarities between the two disorders below.
What is PTSD?
While many people only relate PTSD to former military service members, PTSD affects approximately 8 million American adults every year and can stem from a past of child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault, or witnessing or being involved in an accident, disaster, or life-threatening event.
The symptoms in adults are broken down into four main categories — re-experiencing; avoidance; arousal and reactivity; and cognition and mood.
- Re-experiencing: Flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts
- Avoidance: Staying away from reminders of the event, avoiding thoughts and feelings related to the trauma
- Arousal and Reactivity: Easily startled, on edge, angry outbursts, insomnia
- Cognition and Mood: Loss of interest in enjoyable activities, negative thoughts, feelings of guilt or blame, trouble remembering details of the event
Children are not spared from developing PTSD either, however the signs and symptoms can manifest differently than they do in adults. When the condition is seen in children, symptoms can include regressing and wetting the bed or forgetting how to talk, as well as acting out and being especially clingy a parent or caregiver.
What is Depression?
Unlike PTSD, depression doesn’t have to stem from a traumatic event, however, those who are diagnosed with PTSD are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop a depressive disorder. PTSD can prevent the individual affected from experiencing positive emotions or increase their likelihood of withdrawing from loved ones or activities they enjoyed, which can contribute to depression.
With depression, symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless, anxious, or worthless. Some may have reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide, and loss of appetite. It can also demonstrate symptoms similar to PTSD such as losing interest in activities once enjoyed, having a lack of energy, or having difficulty sleeping. Both depression and PTSD can affect how you feel, think and behave and can impact your performance at work and home.
Depression affects almost 1 in 10 adult Americans every year and the mood disorder can be a common problem that arises following a traumatic event, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to a concrete experience. It can affect anyone at any time without warning.
How Are The Conditions Treated?
While depression and PTSD can leave those affected and their close family and friends feeling helpless and alone, there is hope. Depression and PTSD share common treatment methods including medications, service animals, and psychotherapy. If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from depression or PTSD, see a doctor immediately to discuss treatment options.
A doctor may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep aids to help treat the symptoms of both PTSD and depression. Participating in psychotherapy, or talk therapy, in addition to taking medications can help those affected learn how to manage emotions and the symptoms. For those with PTSD, exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring has proven successful in helping individuals control their fears and make sense of traumatic memories.
The use of service dogs to help combat feelings of anxiety, depression and fear that are associated with PTSD and depression is also common. Studies have found that petting an animal can relieve stress and service dogs are professionally trained to assist individuals during panic attacks, night terrors, and protect them in crowded rooms or distract them from maladaptive behaviors.
Another option is participating in a study that may have access to possible new medications. There are ongoing research studies, such as the ones currently offered at the Lehigh Center for Clinical Research, that are looking for tomorrow’s cures, today. Call us today at 610-820-0342 for more information.