Did you know that there is a connection between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression? Many veterans in the United States struggle with more than just PTSD when they return home from active duty. In fact, veterans who have PTSD frequently have co-occurring mental health conditions like depression. When combined, PTSD and depression can lead to even more serious consequences, including addiction and suicidal thoughts.
Learn more about the connection between PTSD and depression below so that you can find the right kind of treatment before any of the symptoms become more dangerous.
Symptoms of PTSD and Depression
Before we can understand why PTSD and depression often go hand-in-hand, we must first look at what each of these disorders are and the symptoms that come with each of them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms
To start, PTSD is a mental illness that usually occurs after somebody goes through traumatic experiences. Veterans develop PTSD more frequently than the general population because they are exposed to a range of traumatic experiences during their service. Everything from combat exposure to natural disasters can be traumatizing for veterans and leave them struggling to cope with the emotional pain.
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The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
- Persistent anxiety
- Changes in mood and behaviors
- Recurring negative thoughts
- Sleep difficulties
- Struggles with addiction
These symptoms can be quite challenging to manage without the right support and treatment. Additionally, having symptoms of depression on top of PTSD symptoms can be disruptive to your everyday responsibilities. This is why it is important to recognize the symptoms and seek help immediately.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder in chronic cases, is a mood disorder that can impact the way you think, behave, and feel. Depression can be caused by hormonal imbalances, genetics, and environmental factors. For example, if depression runs in your family, you might already be at a higher risk for developing symptoms. If you have PTSD or other mental health challenges as well, your chances of becoming depressed greatly increase.
The symptoms of depression vary depending on the type of depression you have. However, the most common symptoms look like:
- Persistent and intense sadness
- Emotional numbness
- Struggles with personal hygiene
- Body aches
- Changes in appetite
- Negative thoughts
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts
All too often, veterans struggle with thoughts of suicide. In truth, veterans are at an increased risk for committing suicide, especially in situations where they have PTSD and depression. This goes to show that veteran-focused treatment for PTSD and depression is essential in keeping veterans alive and well. If you are currently struggling with suicidal ideation, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline to receive free, confidential help. In situations where you are in immediate danger, call 911 for medical assistance.
Since PTSD and depression present similar symptoms, it can take months or even years for veterans to be diagnosed with either or both disorders. As a result, veterans might have symptoms of PTSD and depression for a long time before receiving any type of treatment, which might contribute to the rates of suicide in veterans.
The Connection Between PTSD and Depression
PTSD can have a significant impact on veterans’ lives. As mentioned above, a common symptom of PTSD involves avoidance of specific situations or places. This can put strain on family and friend relationships, which can make veterans retreat inward and break off their social life. For this reason, people with PTSD feel alone a lot of the time. And this isolation only contributes to symptoms of depression.
Additionally, it’s not just the social aspect of PTSD that has an impact on veterans. PTSD is a mental illness that changes the way your brain operates. Any changes to the brain physiologically or hormonally can cause a chemical imbalance. Subsequently, this chemical imbalance can then lead to depression.
When left untreated, veterans with PTSD and depression often turn to drugs or alcohol to avoid or “numb” the painful symptoms. Unfortunately, addiction to drugs or alcohol just make the symptoms worse in the long run and can even increase the chances of having health consequences and suicidal thoughts.
Though PTSD and depression doesn’t occur in all veterans, these two disorders are incredibly common to see together, and, as the information above indicates, receiving treatment is the only way that veterans can fully recover.
Ultimately, PTSD and depression are interconnected through the physical, social, and emotional impact that they can each have on veterans. Since these conditions are so closely related and can both result in unhealthy coping strategies like turning to drugs or alcohol, veterans should receive treatment that addresses PTSD, depression, and any struggles with addiction.
Treatment Programs for Veterans
Luckily, there are treatment programs available in your area that are meant to help veterans. Heroes’ Mile is proud to treat veterans with PTSD and depression as well as addiction to drugs or alcohol. Your treatment plan depends on your exact needs and diagnoses. For example, if you join the residential treatment program, you will most likely begin with safe, medically-supervised detox.
Once you complete the detox process, you will begin working with a mental health professional who is trained to help people with PTSD and depression to learn healthier coping strategies as well as ways to manage the symptoms. The therapies you might encounter, such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are proven to help veterans with mental health and addiction struggles. Further treatment options at Heroes’ Mile include:
- Support groups
- 12-step program
- Family therapy
- Recreational therapy
- Job preparedness training
- Nutrition education
Most importantly, at Heroes’ Mile, you will have the support of veterans who understand exactly what you are going through. Here, you can find recovery from PTSD and depression and even help others along the way.
Struggling with PTSD and Depression? We’re Here to Help
If you are a veteran who is struggling with PTSD and depression, know that recovery is possible at Heroes’ Mile. Please reach out to us by calling 888-838-6692 or ask your questions online today. No matter where you are in recovery, we’ll meet you there and help you along the path.