PTSD and depression
If you have either of these mental health problems, it is possible you have the other. You may need to treat both of them.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger.
Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events include:
- Combat or terrorist attacks.
- Violent crimes, such as rape, child abuse, or a physical attack.
- Serious accidents, such as a car wreck.
- Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, flood, or earthquake.
After going through a traumatic event, you may feel upset by things that remind you of what happened. You may have nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event and feel like it's happening all over again. You also may avoid situations that remind you of the event, and you may feel numb or lose interest in things you used to care about.
Depression happens more often than any other medical problem in women who have PTSD, and it occurs often in men with PTSD.1
Depression can make you feel overwhelmed, sad, or hopeless. You may feel like your problems are piling up, and you can't fix them. These symptoms can last for a long time, or they might come and go. Being depressed doesn't mean you're weak, and it doesn't mean you're just feeling sorry for yourself. It is a problem that can be helped.
Common symptoms of depression are:2
- Feeling sad or hopeless.
- Losing your interest in or not getting pleasure from most daily activities.
Other symptoms of depression include losing or gaining weight, sleeping too much or too little, and feeling unworthy or guilty.
- Take this short quiz to check for symptoms of depression.
- For more information, see the topic Depression.
If you think you have PTSD or depression, talk to your doctor. Starting treatment is the best thing you can do.
Both PTSD and depression can lead to suicide. Call 911 or other emergency services if you (or someone you care about who has depression or PTSD):
- Plan to harm yourself or others.
- Talk, write, read, or draw about death, including writing suicide notes and talking about items that can harm you, such as pills, guns, or knives.
- Buy guns or bullets, stockpile medicines, or take other action to prepare for a suicide attempt. You may have a new interest in guns or other weapons.
- Hear or see things that aren't real.
- Think or speak in a bizarre way that is not like your usual behavior.
Take any warning signs of suicide seriously.
- Kessler RC, et al. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52(12): 1048–1060.
- American Psychiatric Association (2000). Depressive disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text rev., pp. 349–381. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Last Updated: January 21, 2009
Author: Jeannette Curtis