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What is the Connection Between PTSD and Depression?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are common in people who experience a traumatic event that triggers memories that disrupt daily life. PTSD might lead to nightmares or flashbacks of the occurrence immediately or long after the situation ends. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression can develop in the aftermath of war, a violent crime, an accident, or a natural disaster. Rape and other intrusive sexual assaults can also lead to PTSD and depression.

PTSD can be severe or minor, and can arise within hours or years after a traumatic episode. It commonly appears within three months of an ordeal the victim views as life-threatening. Sometimes the sufferer withdraws from family and friends into isolation, which can lead to depression. Others afflicted with PTSD and depression fear the catastrophe will happen again, and live in a heightened state of readiness. Flashbacks and reliving the traumatic event give rise to PTSD symptoms that include anxiety, fear, or hopelessness.

The most common known cause of PTSD and depression occurs in men and women who experience war. Known as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock syndrome,” this condition describes some level of PTSD suffered by combat veterans who return from military conflict. The condition was first diagnosed by examining soldiers who returned from war zones suffering anxiety after exposure to terrifying ordeals. PTSD and depression afflict people of all ages and backgrounds, however, if they have been exposed to a shocking event.

Depression that results from post-traumatic stress disorder is usually treated with a combination of drugs and therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is commonly used to help the patient practice relaxation techniques to cope with stress or anger. PTSD and depression might be treated with anti-anxiety medication depending on the severity of the symptoms and level of depression. In mild cases of the syndrome, the patient may benefit from group therapy that allows him or her to talk through feelings in the aftermath of a crisis.

PTSD can lead to sleep disturbances and alcohol abuse, both of which are commonly seen in sufferers. Negative thoughts and a lack of energy represent other symptoms of depression, along with feelings of helplessness. A person experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression might need professional help and the support of friends and family to aid recovery. Regular exercise and doing things previously enjoyed also lessen the level of distress.

Some people are able to overcome the stress from a disaster or violent assault without formal treatment. Mental health experts say if PTSD and depression continue longer than a month, and interfere with the ability to function normally, a professional is needed. Living under a constant state of arousal or fear can generate physical health problems, and lead to suicide in extreme cases.

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