What is Depression?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is commonly associated with our active duty servicemen and veterans, but anyone can have PTSD at any given point in their lives. Many people who are diagnosed with PTSD are those who have been involved with or seen a dangerous, life altering event. Examples include long term abuse, the death of a loved one, severe car accident, or those who survive a natural disaster like a flood or tornado.
Those who have PTSD are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression as well, and the particular type of depression depends on individual factors such as brain chemistry and the triggering event. There have been many scientific studies that have shown correlations between individuals who are diagnosed with depression are more likely to suffer a traumatic event than those who have never been depressed. Since PTSD patients are also likely to be depressed, many of the symptoms present are found in both disorders.
Depression is one of the most commonly occurring disorders in PTSD. In fact, it has been found that among people who have or have had a diagnosis of PTSD, approximately 48% also had current or past depression. People who have had PTSD at some point in their life are almost 7 times as likely as people without PTSD to also have depression. Another study found that 44.5% of people with PTSD one month after experiencing a traumatic event also had a diagnosis of depression.
How are PTSD and Depression Connected?
PTSD and depression may be connected in a number of ways. First, people with depression have been found to be more likely to have traumatic experiences than people without depression, which, in turn, may increase the likelihood that PTSD develops.
A second possibility is that the symptoms of PTSD can be so distressing and debilitating that they actually cause depression to develop. Some people with PTSD may feel detached or disconnected from friends and family. They may also find little pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. Finally, they may even have difficulty experiencing positive emotions like joy and happiness. It is easy to see how experiencing these symptoms of PTSD may make someone feel very sad, lonely, and depressed.
A final possibility is that there is some kind of underlying cause of both PTSD and depression.
- Flashbacks of the incident:
- These are involuntary and can be triggered by the smallest reminder of the event. These reminders are often sensory, such as through sight, taste, touch or smell.
- Self-destructive behavior:
- These are behaviors that the person would not usually engage in, such as binge drinking or overly reckless driving.
- Nightmares or night terrors sometimes occur.
- Severe reactions to loud noises
- PTSD suffers are more likely to react to loud noises if the triggering event had loud noise involved, such as with a gunshot or bomb.
- Avoiding sensory stimuli.
- Could be noise or even touch.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can become noticeable almost instantly after the traumatic event or can take months or even years to develop. Those traumatized for any reason can experience PTSD in either the acute, short term or chronic, long term forms. Although PTSD is most common in adults, children can also develop PTSD, at any age and after many major events.
Any medical professional can diagnosis PTSD, although it is best to consult a licensed professional counselor (LPC), psychologist or psychiatrist. These specialists will accurately identify the causes of PTSD and will know the best combination of treatments available.
Medications: Since depression is associated with PTSD, antidepressants such as SSRI’s can be prescribed to help manage PTSD symptoms. Other medications include sleeping pills for insomnia. Drugs specifically target the physical aspects of PTSD but are integral in assisting with the emotional side as well: a PTSD patient that experiences insomnia and night terrors is going to have a harder time coping overall without sleep.
Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy or Talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy, which is an entire collection of therapeutic techniques) are two of the major therapies currently used to assist patients working through the emotional side of their PTSD. Whether symptoms are acute or chronic, suffers receive the most benefit through the ability to speak to a mental health professional that can work through their symptoms at the psychological level.
Ketamine Treatment: Since ketamine, delivered intravenously, has been demonstrated to help treat depression symptoms, those who experience PTSD can benefit from trying this treatment. Often one treatment with ketamine is enough to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, but sometimes it can take a few treatments before patients begin to see results.