Untreated PTSD can lead to depression and relationship issues
Many traumatic events, physical and psychological, can cause depression. Often linked primarily to stress and emotional issues, people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are often at a higher risk to develop depression. PTSD can develop after a recent or past trauma, such as warfare, acts of violence, a life-threatening illness, emotional abuse, or the death of a loved one. The main psychological symptoms of PTSD are hyperarousal, avoidance, re-experiencing memories, mood swings and changes in behavior. Untreated symptoms of PTSD can lead to depression.
Someone struggling with PTSD may always be always on high alert, constantly expecting danger in their daily life. This can cause sleep difficulties, decreased concentration and being easily startled by loud or unexpected noise. Emotions become more intense and irrational, angry aggressive outbursts are extremely common. One may have a constant, abnormally heightened state of anxiety that occurs when thinking about the traumatic event that was experienced. Even though the actual threat may no longer be present, their body will respond as if it were.
One of the main symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. Avoidance, in addition to refusing to talk, hear or think about the traumatic event can keep someone struggling with PTSD away from people, places and activities that remind them of the event. It can also lead to withdrawal behaviors, including staying away from people in general, in an attempt to avoid any potential triggers. As a result, the struggle can spiral further out of control, leading to depression and anxiety.
Flashbacks or repeatedly reliving the memory of the trauma can weigh on one day and night. Bad dreams or horrific thoughts that unexpectedly pop into your mind can make them feel as though they are reliving the event for the first time. Whether they are thinking about it or not, memories of the traumatic event can come back to bother and replay. Both can cause feelings of high anxiety, fear, guilt, paranoia or suspicion. These emotions may play out physically in the form of chills, shaking, headaches, heart palpitations, and panic attacks.
Behavior Changes and Mood Swings
Feelings of danger and being under attack can ruin concentration and keep one from starting or completing tasks. This can also lead to trouble sleeping, whether that includes having nightmares or not, as PTSD doesn’t always come with clues like nightmares and flashbacks. One may struggle to remember the key moments of what happened during the trauma, in addition to experiencing blame or guilt over the event and losing interest in activities that would normally be enjoyable. This may result in poorer health and even disabilities, increasing the risk of developing ongoing depressive episodes. Often relationship problems develop as well and couples counseling can help.
Where to Turn
If you are suffering from PTSD and/or depression, it is important to get treatment immediately. PTSD is nothing to be ashamed of and help is readily available to assist you through the process of healing.
Rob Evans, LMFT, LPCC is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience helping men, women, families and couples improve their relationships with themselves and those around him in the Fair Oaks, CA area.