PTSD and Depression: Common Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

Many people suffer from both PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and depression. In fact, depression is the most common co-occurring mental issue for women suffering from PTSD, and the second most common for men with PTSD, following alcohol abuse.

Depression is among the most common mental health disorders suffered by Americans and people around the world. In 2015 alone, “an estimated 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year,” a number that represents 6.7% of American adults. By comparison, it is estimated that:

The statistics above highlight that PTSD and depression are very common responses to significant trauma, with depression being especially prevalent for female trauma survivors. Some people suffering from PTSD and depression deal with flashbacks more often and more intensely than others. In our experience, this is sometimes related to the severity of the trauma someone has experienced, or how long they endured it. But it also important to consider that no one has any way of truly understanding how intensely another person has been affected by something. Someone looking in might see a given traumatic event as a small thing – a one-time robbery, for example – but that could have been a huge, life-changing event for the person who actually experienced it. We can’t assign a “degree of trauma” to someone else’s pain. But we can help guide them from that dark place to somewhere much brighter.

Does everyone with depression suffer from PTSD?

In short, not at all. But there is a much stronger likelihood that those suffering from PTSD also suffer from depression.

While the root causes of depression can vary greatly from one individual to another, the causes of PTSD typically stem from one or more of the following: sexual assault, physical assault, war, natural disaster, accidents and collisions, unexpected loss of a loved one, emotional abuse, terrorist attack, kidnapping, or childhood neglect. There are, of course, other causes of PTSD, but these are among the most common. Looking at any one of those PTSD causes, it is easy to imagine that someone who has survived such a traumatic event would also be experiencing depression. While it is certainly true that not all causes of depression involve trauma, the trauma that causes PTSD may also cause depression. While there are millions of people suffering from depression who don’t have PTSD, many who have PTSD also have depression. In fact, “a large national survey showed that depression is nearly 3 to 5 times more likely in those with PTSD than those without PTSD.”

PTSD and Depression: Co-Occurring, but Different

At Bridges to Recovery, we recognize that while PTSD and depression are commonly co-occurring mental health issues, they are also distinct issues in their own right. As such, your comprehensive treatment plan will address the foundation of each, and how they are affecting your life. Many people make the mistake of assuming co-occurring conditions rely on each other to exist, and that resolving issues surrounding one of them will automatically resolve the issues of the other. While it is true that some medications will help with both PTSD and depression, and that your individual therapy and group therapy will have benefits in combating both disorders, they do exist outside of each other, and impact you in different ways. They are co-occurring, not codependent.

Empathy and Understanding: Bridges to Recovery Offers Both

While some people don’t comprehend the difficulties of PTSD and depression because of sheer ignorance or lack of empathy, for countless others it is a question of understanding the unique impact of trauma; some rely on the faulty assumption that everyone who experiences something has a very similar reaction or result. This can seem a strange assumption to make to some people, but in talking with family and friends of clients who have treated with Bridges to Recovery, we have found instances where that is their honest belief.

One such scenario involved a female client who we were treating for PTSD and depression caused by the sudden loss of her parents as a young teenager. Even as a successful adult who has established many happy, healthy relationships, she lived with the constant fear of losing those she loves to illness or an accident. This fear was all-encompassing at times, leaving her filled with worry, anxiety, paranoia, and sadness. In talking with one of her visiting family members –  an aunt who helped raise her – we learned that she simply didn’t understand why her niece experienced PTSD and depression while her niece’s sister – who had lost the same parents at the same time – was less negatively impacted in her day-to-day life by the loss. Her sister still experienced sadness and missed her parents greatly, of course, but in her aunt’s words, “her sister was able to get over it for the most part – why can’t she?”

It is important to note that as harsh as this might sound, it was asked with true concern and without any callousness. Her aunt wasn’t part of the group of people who are unfeeling or lack empathy – in fact, she very obviously felt deeply sorry for her niece and what she was going through. But she lacked the simple understanding that not everyone who experiences the same thing experiences it in the same way; there are innumerable variables to consider.

We are all completely unique individuals with unique relationships who experience the world through our own eyes and in our own shoes. No two people – even identical twins – share the same life experience. And no two people have the same reaction to a traumatic event. As such, no two people need exactly the same treatment plan, with the therapies, medications, and even length of inpatient recovery needed varying from one person to another. At Bridges to Recovery, you will receive the personalized treatment you need to reclaim the life you deserve. You will be given the tools necessary to put PTSD and depression in the past as you move toward a healthier, happier future.

Whether you’re just starting to recognize the signs of PTSD and depression, or you’ve been doing your best to handle them for years, with or without therapy, Bridges to Recovery can help. Contact us today to learn how an innovative, personalized PTSD and depression treatment plan can work for you.