How Trauma Can Lead to Depression

trauma and depression

When an individual undergoes a traumatic event, he instantaneously becomes more prone to a host of related and persistent symptoms. The lasting emotional and mental effects of trauma are liable to effect the way one interacts with others, perceives the world around him, and operates in his day-to-day life. Individuals who continue to experience extreme symptoms of stress long after a traumatic event has come to a close may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving traumatic events through recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive memories
  • Avoiding experiences that may conjure memories of the trauma
  • Physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and panic attacks

Depression and PTSD

Depression and PTSD frequently co-exist, and when they do, their symptoms will often overlap. A study of Vietnam War veterans which was conducted 40 years after the war and published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2015 found that nearly one-third of all veterans who suffered from PTSD concurrently suffered from long-term symptoms of severe depression. Symptoms of co-occurring PTSD and depression include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Strain on interpersonal relationships
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or change in sleeping patterns
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

In a study conducted by researchers at The University of Liverpool in 2013, traumatic life events were found to be the single greatest cause of both anxiety and depression.  According to The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, individuals who have undergone traumatic events personally or who have witnessed a string of traumatic events are far more likely to suffer from depression. It is important to not that an individual does not necessarily need to experience trauma firsthand in order to be gravely affected. Over the course of the past several years, a long string of deeply traumatic events occurred throughout the nation – events that have been widely covered by the news and media. Shootings in schools, movie theatres, workplaces, and night clubs, natural disasters, drug-related homicides, and a wide variety of other disturbing and devastating incidents have not only impacted those who were directly involved, but left a lasting impact on many others.

Indirect Trauma – Lasting Consequences

Of course, the majority of American citizens who witness such occurrences (even many who witness the occurrences firsthand) will be able to go about their lives with no professional intervention. There are those, however, who may experience a dramatic shift in perception, and ultimately fall into a state of deep depression as a result. The way they view the world will change, and they may begin to live in a constant state of fear of anxiety. Anxiety disorders, in turn, can lead to depression.

If you believe that you or someone close to you is not coping with a traumatic event (or a string of events) in a healthy way, there are several red flags to look for.

Indications that professional help should be sought include:

  • Missing an abnormal amount of work or school days
  • Experiencing major and unexplainable shifts in mood – mood swings may begin to cause problems in interpersonal relationships
  • Change in eating patterns – significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Lack of sleep, resulting in an inability to productively function in day-to-day life
  • Avoiding and withdrawing from friends and family members
  • Intrusive thoughts pertaining to harming others or hurting oneself

Trauma Recovery

Unfortunately, unexpected trauma is often a part of the human experience – and depression is a very common result. The most effective way to deal with symptoms of trauma is to be able to recognize them, and to ask for outside help whenever necessary. Many individuals who undergo a traumatic event will experience a major shift in their attitude and outlook on life. They may become disillusioned, mistrusting, or excessively fearful.

If you are struggling with depression or any other unresolved symptoms of trauma, know that what you are experiencing is normal and expected, and that there is help available.

Call us today for more information regarding our male-exclusive program of trauma and addiction recovery.