The Relationship Between Mood Disorders and PTSD

PTSD is a condition that affects up to 6% of the adult population at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  In one given year, about 12 million people will experience PTSD symptoms, often at the same time as substance use disorder or a mood disorder like depression. While having both PTSD and a mood disorder can be a unique challenge, there are treatment options that can help you manage your symptoms and live a full, rewarding life.

What Is PTSD?

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PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a psychiatric condition that people can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms of PTSD fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Intrusive memories: PTSD can cause people to have vivid flashbacks of the event that caused the condition. People with PTSD might also experience upsetting dreams or intrusive memories that interfere with their ability to function.
  • Avoidance behaviors: People with PTSD might change their behavior to avoid seeing or hearing things that remind them of the traumatic event. Avoidance behaviors can interfere with the person’s ability to do their job, enjoy outings with friends, or engage in relationships.
  • Mental and emotional process changes: A person with PTSD might have difficulty with their memory recall, especially concerning the traumatic event. They might also have low energy or feel detached from the world around them.
  • Physical and emotional reactions: Reactivity symptoms change the way a person with PTSD responds to external stimuli, like noises and smells. They might engage in reckless activities or become fearful of their surroundings.

What causes PTSD?

Any event that causes major emotional trauma can cause PTSD, and common causes include:

  • Physical assaults or acts of sexual violence.
  • Accidents involving cars, planes, or other vehicles.
  • Animal attacks.
  • Traumatic medical procedures.
  • Mass tragedies, including shootings.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Incidents in military or police service.
  • Neglect or abuse.

What Are Mood Disorders?

Mood disorders are mental health conditions that affect a person’s ability to regulate their emotions, like major depression and bipolar disorder. These conditions affect people of all ages, although the symptoms of a mood disorder are often different for adults and children. Untreated mood disorders can negatively impact your energy level, personal relationships, and ability to work. Common treatment methods for mood disorders include lifestyle changes, talk therapy, medication, and alternative techniques. As every patient’s brain is unique, many mental health practitioners recommend a combination of different treatment methods to achieve the best results.

Is There a Connection Between Mood Disorders and PTSD?

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), people who have a mood disorder are more likely to develop PTSD than the average population. This type of disorder can affect alter how the brain processes trauma, triggering post-traumatic stress more often than a non-affected person. This population may also be more likely to experience traumatic events that can cause PTSD. 

The connection between PTSD and depression can also go the other direction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSA), people who have experienced one or more traumatic events have an increased risk of depression later on in their lives. The strain of coping with PTSD symptoms can trigger the onset of major depression and addiction disorders. When someone has both a mood disorder and PTSD, health specialists typically say their conditions are comorbid.

How Do You Treat PTSD and Mood Disorders?

PTSD shares similarities with mood disorders in that a customized treatment approach often has the greatest chances of success. Here are some common elements in a treatment plan for PTSD and mood disorders:

Neuropsychological Assessment

The first step in treating PTSD comorbid with a mood disorder is to get a neuropsychological assessment by a reputable mental health practitioner. During these assessments, patients complete tasks and answer questions that tell a psychiatrist about their mental health. A neuropsychological assessment might also involve sharing details about the patient’s PTSD and the events that triggered it. At the end of the assessment, the psychiatrist understands more about the patient’s unique needs, which allows them to create a treatment plan to help them.

Medication

Some patients with both PTSD and a mood disorder respond well to psychiatric medication as a part of their treatment plan. It’s important to remember that mood disorders and PTSD aren’t just chemical imbalances, so medication rarely resolves a patient’s symptoms fully. An expert medical professional might work with a patient to find a medication or combination that helps them engage with other parts of the treatment plan, like therapy and lifestyle changes. As medications can cause side effects, a psychiatric professional might monitor the patient closely after they begin a medication regimen.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is a useful part of treatment for many patients with PTSD and mood disorders. Talking to a trained mental health professional, like a psychologist or neuropsychologist, can help a patient understand the cause of their trauma and learn coping mechanisms to live a healthier life. Neuropsychologists often recommend lifestyle changes or alternative therapies that might help the patient. These sessions can also allow the patient to see how far they’ve come and set recovery goals for themselves.

Lifestyle Changes

Changing your activities can help you work through trauma and manage the symptoms of a mood disorder. Often, psychiatric professionals recommend a variety of lifestyle changes for patients based on their symptoms, age, and treatment goals. For example, regular exercise can boost serotonin levels in the brain, which can help with depression. Dietary changes can ensure that you get the right nutrients for your mind and body while finding a healthy sleep schedule can increase your energy levels.

Contact NeuroHealth Arlington Heights Today

Working with a team of experts can help you find the right treatment plan for PTSD and mood disorders. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, contact us online today to learn more about what NeuroHealth Arlington Heights can do for you. You can also call us at 847-584-1824.