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PTSD and Depression

Depression is a common problem that can occur following trauma. It involves feelings of sadness or low mood that last more than just a few days. Unlike a blue mood that comes and goes, depression is longer lasting. Depression can get in the way of daily life and make it hard to function. It can affect your eating and sleeping how you think, and how you feel about yourself.

Symptoms of PTSD and depression can overlap, and it is common for those who have PTSD to also have depression. There are effective treatments for both PTSD and depression.

How common is depression following trauma?

Depression is common after trauma. For example, a survey of survivors from the Oklahoma City bombing showed that almost a quarter of the adults had depression after the bombing. This was compared to about 13% who had depression before the bombing.

PTSD and depression are often seen together. Depression is almost 3 to 5 times more likely in those with PTSD than those without PTSD.

Trauma, PTSD, and depression

Depression can sometimes seem to come from out of the blue. It can also be caused by a traumatic event. Trouble coping with painful experiences or losses often leads to depression. For example, Veterans returning from a war zone may have painful memories and feelings of guilt or regret about their war experiences. They may have been injured or lost friends. Disaster survivors may have lost a loved one, home, or have been injured. Survivors of violence or abuse may feel like they can no longer trust other people. These kinds of experiences can lead to both depression and PTSD.

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.

Treatment for depression and PTSD

There are many treatment options for depression. You should see your healthcare provider to help you decide which type of treatment is best for you. In many cases, milder forms of depression are treated by counseling or talk therapy. More severe depression is treated with medicines or with both talk therapy and medicine. 

Certain types of talk therapy and medicine are effective for both depression and PTSD. Since the symptoms of PTSD and depression can overlap, treatment that helps with PTSD may also help improve depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that is proven effective for both problems. CBT can help patients change negative styles of thinking and acting that can lead to both depression and PTSD. There are a few particular antidepressant medicines that work for depression and PTSD symptoms. Click "Treatment for PTSD health sheet" below for more information.

If you think you have PTSD or depression, talk with your healthcare provider. There are effective treatments for both PTSD and depression. Starting treatment is the best thing you can do.

For more information

Getting Treatment for PTSD health sheet

Treatment for PTSD health sheet

Do You Have Thoughts About Suicide?

If you or a loved one has thoughts about death or suicide, call 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) and press 1, or use other emergency services. Or you can chat with a trained counselor online at

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 2/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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