There is a lot of information on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in those who’ve suffered a traumatic event, but very little information on what happens to people who develop experiencing co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and depression.  This is important because numerous studies have found that there are high levels of depression after certain types of traumatic events, which include:

  • Physical and sexual abuse in childhood
  • Natural disasters
  • Man-made disasters
  • Wartime combat exposure
  • Exposure to terrorism

Exposure to Traumatic Events Common:

Experiencing at least one traumatic event in a lifetime is fairly common.  It is estimated that 39% to 89% of the population at large experience at least one traumatic lifetime event. In fact, depression is highly likely after experiencing a traumatic event.  One problem with the results of these studies is that there is no pre-trauma information on the level of depression in the subjects studied.

The Study:

In a recent study involving 1,054 subjects from an urban area, participants were assessed at two points in time, one year apart. Exposure to trauma and severity of depression were objectively measured both times. While not all subjects suffered from co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and depression, those of interest met the primary criterion for these disorders.  There were 19 possible traumatic events experienced by the subjects during their lifetimes which were discussed during their first interviews. The events were categorized into four broad groups of trauma:

  1. Assaultive violence – Violence perpetrated intentionally against the victim by a perpetrator. This could be being stabbed or shot, raped or another assault of a sexual nature.
  1. Other shocking experiences or injuries – These would involve an external cause like an injury, an illness or something from nature. This might be a serious car accident that the subject was involved in, or a natural disaster. It could also be witnessing a violent act against someone else.
  1. Finding out about traumatic events that happened to close friends or family members – This could be learning that a close friend or family member was very the victim of a very serious physical attack.
  1. The sudden and unexpected death of a close family member, loved one or good friend.

The Findings:

Having exposure to traumatic events during the one-year gap between the interviews was common. Over half of the subjects, 54.3% reported being exposed to at least one of the four types of traumatic events as follows:

  1. The traumatic event most frequently reported was the sudden and unexpected death of a family member, loved one or good friend (38.1%).
  1. The second most frequent event was learning of traumatic events that happened to family members or close friends (19.4%).
  1. The third most common traumatic event experienced was other shocking experiences or injuries (17.7%):

6.7% said they witnessed someone being seriously injured or killed.

7.3% were involved in assaultive violence events

4.8% reported being the victim of a mugging or threatened with a weapon

Overall there were 33.4% of the participants who said they were involved in one traumatic event during the follow-up phase. There were 11.1% that reported experiencing two traumatic events, and 9.8% of the subjects reported experiencing three or even more traumatic events during the follow-up period.

Risk Factors:

People exposed to assaultive violence events like a sexual assault or being personally threatened with a weapon and for subjects who had been injured or who had direct experience with a shocking event like a serious accident or who witnessed a violent event, also reported more severe depressive symptoms. This suggests that post traumatic stress disorder and depression are related.  Furthermore, the quantity of traumatic events that were experienced during the follow-up was also associated positively with the severity of depression, further indicating that cumulative trauma increases the risk for co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The fact that there was this strong positive relationship between the quantity of traumatic events during the 1 year follow-up and a change in the severity of depression corroborates prior results of a “dose response” relationship between the quantity of lifetime traumatic incidents and depression.  This indicates the basic importance of cumulative trauma and the risk it poses for an increase in co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and depression. The factors associated with an increase in the severity of co-occurring post traumatic stress disorder and depression were:

  • Interpersonal violence
  • Being injured
  • Other traumatic events directly experienced

Effective Treatment is Available:

Because our treatment for depression and anxiety programs rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in seven peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.

Unfortunately, in Tennessee, about 3.7% of all adults will have serious thoughts of suicide.  Furthermore, less half of all individuals with any mental condition in Tennessee will receive mental health treatment.  Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting. It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience PTSD and depression differently and therefore the presence of depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, including PTSD, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.

Treatment for depression and PTSD can be highly successful.  People who have completed our program have provide very high consumer satisfaction scores and reviewsCall us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.