1. Health

PTSD and Depression

By

Updated November 06, 2008

A diagnosis of PTSD and Depression commonly co-occur.

What is Depression

Everyone feels sad from time to time. Depression is different from just feeling unhappy or sad. Depression is more intense, lasts longer, and has a large negative impact on a person's life. The following are the symptoms of depression (also called a major depressive episode) as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV):

  1. Depressed mood for almost every day and for the majority of the day.
  2. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
  3. Considerable weight loss or weight gain.
  4. Difficulties falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling constantly on edge and restless or lethargic and "slowed down."
  6. Feeling worthless and/or guilty.
  7. Difficulties concentrating and/or making decisions.
  8. Thoughts of ending one's own life.

According to the DSM-IV, to be diagnosed with a major depressive episode, a person must experience 5 of these symptoms all within the same 2-week (or longer) period.

How Common is the Occurrence between PTSD and Depression?

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 genetic factor that underlies the development of both PTSD and depression.

Getting Treatment

If you have PTSD, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you address your PTSD symptoms, the less likely they will become worse and will in turn increase your risk for depression.

If you currently have PTSD and depression, it is still important to get treatment as soon as possible. Each disorder may make the other worse. PTSD and depression are very common co-occurring mental disorders. Therefore, mental health professionals trained in the treatment of PTSD are also usually well-trained in the treatment of depression. In addition, some treatments, such as behavioral activation, may be equally good in treating PTSD and depression.

Sources:

Breslau, N. (2002). Epidemiologic studies of trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other psychiatric disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 47, 923-929.

Breslau, N., Davis, G.C., Peterson, E.L., & Schultz, L. (1997). Psychiatric sequelae of posttraumatic stress disorder in women. Archives of General Psychiatry, 54, 81-87.

Jakupcak, M., Roberts, L.J., Martell, C., Mulick, P., Michael, S., Reed, R. et al. (2006). A pilot study of behavioral activation for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 19, 387-391.

Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048-1060.

Shalev, A.Y., Freedman, S., Peri, T., Brandes, D., Sahar, T., Orr, S.P., & Pitman, R.K. (1998). Prospective study of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression following trauma. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 630-637.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
  4. Related Conditions
  5. PTSD and Mood Disorders
  6. PTSD and Depression - Relationship between PTSD and Depression

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.