PTSD vs. Depression | Similarities, Differences, Causes

Medically Reviewed

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after someone has gone through trauma. While going through trauma is not rare, about six out of every ten men (60%) and five out of every ten women (50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Unfortunately, women are more likely to experience child sexual abuse and sexual assault, while men are more likely to experience physical attacks, accidents, disaster, combat, or to witness death or injury.

PTSD can happen to anyone, and if you are experiencing PTSD, you should never take it as a sign of weakness. Various factors will increase the odds that someone develops PTSD; many are not under that person’s control. For example, if you are directly exposed to trauma or injured in a severe accident, you are likely to develop PTSD as a result.

Nearly seven or eight out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives, and in a given year, eight million adults are struggling with the disorder. About ten of every 100 women will develop PTSD in their lives compared to four of every 100 men. While PTSD can cause depression, there are some similarities and differences we should look into.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) reports that major depressive disorders affect 17.3 million American adults. That is approximately about 7.1 percent of the U.S. population 18 or older every year.  A similarity with PTSD is that major depressive disorders are more prevalent in women than men. Unfortunately, the statistics go on to show that 1.9 million children between the ages of three and 17 have diagnosed depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and contributes to the overall global burden of disease. In addition to that, neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States, with major depressive disorders as the most common. While depression contributes to $100 billion to U.S. employers each year, we must distinguish the difference between PTSD and depression.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

The Mayo Clinic defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event – either experienced or witnessed. Most individuals who go through traumatic events will have temporary difficulty coping and adjusting to their lives. Fortunately, with proper self-care and a little bit of time, they are likely to get better. However, if symptoms continue to get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your daily routine, you may have PTSD.

Symptoms Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms can appear within a few weeks after a traumatic event, but in some cases, they may not appear until years after the situation occurs. The symptoms can cause severe problems in work or social situations or relationships.

PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: avoidance, intrusive memories, changes in physical and emotional reactions, and negative changes in thinking and mood. Symptoms will vary over time from one person to another.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Reliving the traumatic event like it’s happening again (flashbacks)
  • Recurrent, unwanted memories of the event
  • Upsetting nightmares about the event
  • Severe emotional distress or reactions that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Trying to avoid thinking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places
  • Negative thoughts about yourself
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Inability to maintain close relationships
  • Feeling detached from friends and family
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Guilt or shame

What Is Depression?

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that may cause severe symptoms affecting how you think, feel, and handle daily activities. Some of these include eating, sleeping, or working. A diagnosis is made when symptoms are present for at least two weeks. Some forms of depression, however, are different, and they may develop under unique circumstances. These include:

  • Postpartum depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Signs And Symptoms Of Depression

If you have been experiencing the symptoms we list below nearly every day, most of the day, for two weeks or longer, you may be struggling with clinical depression. These include:

  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • Persistent anxiety, sadness, or feeling empty
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities and hobbies
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, and helpless
  • Decreased energy – increased fatigue
  • Moving or talking slowly
  • Feeling restless
  • Unable to concentrate, remember, or make decisions
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Difficulty sleeping, oversleeping, or early-morning awakening
  • Thoughts of suicide, death or suicide attempts

Not everyone who is depressed will experience all the above-listed symptoms. Some individuals may only experience a few symptoms, while others experience many. The severity and frequency of symptoms will vary on the person and their particular illness. Other symptoms can vary depending on the stage of the illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression that is caused by a traumatic event, you must seek help immediately. Suicidal thoughts can be dangerous and require immediate attention.

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