It’s clear that PTSD, as a war injury, has finally gained acceptance by the US Government as a treatable condition. Many in the World War 2, Korea and Vietnam generations suffering from such a brain injury were largely written off with “shell-shock”, given a pittance, and promptly forgotten about. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way as a nation, especially as psychiatric science progresses.
PTSD and Depression
It is very common for veterans suffering from PTSD to also exhibit symptoms of depression as well. It has been speculated that the symptoms of depression and the treatment of those symptoms can also affect the outcome of the PTSD treatment. In attempts to find a correlation between symptoms and treatment of depression and PTSD, the National Institute of Mental Health funded a study performed on a number of PTSD patients that were giving only the FDA approved antidepressant drug Zoloft and PTSD patients who received therapy sessions geared toward helping them deal with the initial trauma and how to handle the aftermath.
Social support, both positive and negative, from family and friends was also taken into account for this study. The main purpose was to keep track of sudden increases and decreases in depression symptoms as well the factors that led to these changes and how they affected the resulting outcome in PTSD treatment. At the beginning of the study, the patients were asked to rate their depression symptoms such as loss of interest in hobbies and daily activity, problems concentrating, sleeping difficulties, appetite increase or decrease, sadness and suicidal thoughts, and then rate them again at the conclusion of the study to aid in analyzing the outcome of the treatment. Those patients receiving the therapy sessions were asked to fill out an evaluation of these symptoms levels before each individual session as well.
“Those who had a positive support system… had a greater, more rapid reduction in depression symptoms and a more successful outcome in their PTSD treatment.”
The Importance of Social Support and PTSD
It was found, as would be suspected, in regards to social support, that those who had a positive support system that provided positive reinforcement and encouraged patients to talk about and confront issues that were causing worry had a greater, more rapid reduction in depression symptoms and a more successful outcome in their PTSD treatment. Those having a negative social support system where they received blame or negative feedback when discussing issues often showed greater spikes in depression symptoms and a more difficult time overcoming their PTSD.
It was also found that both test groups (medication recipients and those receiving therapy) had fluctuations in the amount and severity of depressions symptoms. However, those who had a more rapid decrease in symptoms of depression seemed to fair better than those whose depression symptoms gradually decreased in the overall improvement in regards to PTSD. An increase in depression symptoms that proved to be transient or fleeting did not seem to have a negative effect on the overall treatment of the patients.
This study brought to light the importance of fostering and increasing the amount of positive social relationships PTSD patients had even when the symptoms of depression would make patients hesitant and less likely to pursue these relationships. It is an important part of the recovery process to push through these symptoms to allow the benefits of supportive relationships to have a greater positive effect on the overall treatment outcome. It was also shown that patients should continue with therapy even when they felt they were not making progress because of a temporary increase or worsening in depression symptoms as this was not an indication that the therapy treatment was not beneficial or working as intended.
For more information, you can find complete PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury resources at Warrior Lodge, the Ultimate Military Resource Online.