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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between PTSD and depression?

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    Experienced in acute care of adults with mood and personality issues. Special interest in trauma related psychological injury (PTSD, ASD emergency services and military personnel … View Profile

    The first paragraph of the DSM_TR-IV states:

    The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
    (1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others
    (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
    This is not always the case with depression. Depression can occur alongside PTSD as can substance abuse or self harm.

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    Dr Pippa Mitchell

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist, Social Worker

    Pippa works with older adolescents and adults experiencing a range of psychosocial difficulties such as depression, anxiety, stress, adjustment and relationship problems. She has a … View Profile

    This is actually a tough question, as trauma can be extremely complex. Frank has given you the criteria on which PTSD is diagnosed, but often trauma can manifest in different ways, not just through flashbacks, nightmares, etc., outlined in the DSM-IV TR. Complex trauma is a specialist area, and there are lots of great books out there to read in this regard.

    PTSD is classified as an Anxiety Disorder, and treatment usually involves cognitive and behavioural strategies such as exposure. In the case of complex trauma, treatment tends to be more relational or skill-based than cognitive. Depression is a Mood Disorder, and whilst CBT is a highly recommended treatment, other modalities such as ACT or Mindfulness are extremely useful too.

    Hope that helps.

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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Great answers from others here. I would just add that if you have experienced trauma, you may be suffering from PTSD AND depression, and/or other mental health issues as well. What's most important is to find help from someone who can carefully assess this (psychiatrists are the professionals best suited to assessing this and giving you a diagnosis) in order to provide the best and most effective treatment for you and what you are dealing with. If you have experienced trauma over time, especially in childhood, and if you have been through trauma that has happened through relationships (i.e. someone abused and/or neglected you) then you may benefit from finding someone who is skilled in diagnosing and treating complex trauma, as Dr Pippa Mitchell has mentioned.

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