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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.

Many symptoms of depression overlap with the symptoms of PTSD. For example, with both depression and PTSD, you may have trouble sleeping or keeping your mind focused. You may not feel pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy. You may not want to be with other people as much. Both PTSD and depression may involve greater irritability. It is quite possible to have both depression and PTSD at the same time.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Depression?

The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit your doctor. Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression. A doctor can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation.

The doctor may refer you to a mental health professional (Psychologist, Psychiatrist), who should discuss with you any family history of depression or other mental disorder, and get a complete history of your symptoms.

You should discuss when your symptoms started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, and whether they have occurred before and, if so, how they were treated. The mental health professional may also ask if you are using alcohol or drugs, and if you are thinking about death or suicide. A plan for your treatment will then be determined.


Treatments

Once diagnosed, a person with depression can be treated in several ways. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.

Medication: Antidepressants primarily work on brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and norepinephrine. Other antidepressants work on the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Scientists have found that these particular chemicals are involved in regulating mood, but they are unsure of the exact ways that they work. The latest information on medications for treating depression is available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.

NOTE Caution Regarding St. John's Wart: The extract from the herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been used for centuries in many folk and herbal remedies. Today in Europe, it is used extensively to treat mild to moderate depression.

However, recent studies have found that St. John's wort is no more effective than placebo in treating major or minor depression.

In 2000, the FDA issued a Public Health Advisory letter stating that the herb may interfere with certain medications used to treat heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and those used to prevent organ transplant rejection. The herb also may interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.

Psychotherapy:

Several types of psychotherapy, or "talk therapy", can help people with depression. Two main types of psychotherapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), are effective in treating depression.

CBT helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps people interpret their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way.

It may also help you recognize things that may be contributing to the depression, and help you change behaviors that may be making the depression worse.

Continue Reading Depression & PTSD: Page 3

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