It’s not uncommon for people who experience a traumatic event to become depressed. Painful experiences such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, a medical illness or losing everything in a natural disaster can cause so much distress that they trigger clinical depression.
Clinical (or major) depression is a serious illness that affects every aspect of an individual’s life, including their personal and family relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. The symptoms of depression include a very low mood that pervades every aspect of life, and a preoccupation with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Insomnia, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, unexplained physical problems and thoughts of suicide are also common symptoms of depression.
The link between depression and trauma is very significant. One of the most prominent links between trauma and depression is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can occur after a person experiences a horrific event or a series of traumatic events. PTSD manifests itself in several ways, including depression. Painful, traumatic events can leave a person struggling to find a way to cope with and process their feelings.
Coping with Depression after Trauma
Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re feeling sorry for yourself, and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. There is no easy way to cope with depression after trauma, but there are some things you can do to make the healing process easier to bear. Here are some helpful tips from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (www.dbsalliance.org):
* First, allow yourself time to grieve. Don’t try to rush your recovery.
* Ask for support from people you trust. Talk to friends and family about how you feel and don’t try to hide or deny your feelings.
* Keep your daily routine. Even if you don’t feel like it, do your best to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
* Continue taking any prescribed medications. Discontinuing medication or changing the amount you take can make your situation worse.
* Stay physically active. Even light exercise such as walking can help minimize the physical effects of stress.
* Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs to cope with the stress. If you’re unable to stop drinking or using, talk to a trusted friend, family member or health care provider, or contact a recovery program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or an addiction treatment facility.
* Get help for yourself if you need it. Don’t feel ashamed, afraid or guilty about talking to a doctor, therapist or anyone else if you need to. Be honest about all of your symptoms. You have every right to feel the way you do.
* Consider taking medications. There are many effective medications available to treat depression today, and there is no more shame in taking medication for depression than there is in taking medication for diabetes, asthma or other medical conditions.
* Psychotherapy or ‘talk therapy’ is an important part of treatment, which can work alone in some cases. A good therapist can help you work through your feelings and develop skills to help your recovery.
Getting Help for Depression and Trauma
If you think a traumatic event has caused you to develop depression, the first thing you should do is see a family doctor to properly diagnose your depression. If depression is diagnosed, the next step is seeking treatment at a facility trained in treating mental health issues such as depression. Here you’ll receive cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy, and medication (if needed) to help you properly deal with your feeling and emotions regarding the traumatic event and help you on the road to recovery from depression. Break the link between depression and trauma and call a mental health professional today.