No Wonder You’re Depressed…Situational Depression Part #5

Understanding the relationship between mood, attitude, and PTSD

Most of us believe that it is the external circumstances and events of our lives that influence mood. The truth is mood is also influenced by attitude. This factor of “attitude” is more than just a psychological state. Attitude is, to a large degree, a response to complex biochemical processes that give one reaction or another greater importance. Luckily, as complex as all of these interacting variables is, science has identified many of the biological conditions that most greatly influence mood changes.

Depression often appears as a response to illness. It is natural for physicians and other health care workers to view depression or stress in patients as a normal and healthy response to life challenging events like a stroke, heart attack, or cancer. However, there is a thin line that separates a normal sense of anxiety, stress, and a feeling of “the blues” from serious clinical depression. Sometimes, in fact, the former may mask the latter. When this is the case, depression may interfere with a patient’s recovery.

According to Dr. Rex W. Cowdry, acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health, “When the depressed mood is fixed and pervasive, and severely interferes with normal function, it’s something that should be recognized and evaluated as possibly a separate clinical entity,” (January 17, 1996, NY Times)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of situational and mood affecting depression that occurs in and after an intensely stressful event such as an experience in the military or police services, terrorism, major accidents, school yard bullying, or other threats on a person’s life

Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight or flight response.

These symptoms last for more than a month after the event. Young children are less likely to show distress but instead may express their memories through play. A person with PTSD is at a higher risk of suicide and self-harm.

Children are less likely than adults to develop PTSD after trauma, especially if they are under 10 years of age. Diagnosis is based on the presence of specific symptoms following a traumatic event.

Prevention may be possible when counseling is targeted at those with early symptoms but is not effective when provided to all trauma-exposed individuals whether or not symptoms are present. The main treatments for people with PTSD are counseling (psychotherapy) and medication. Benefits from medication are less than those seen with counseling. It is not known whether using medications and counseling together has a greater benefit than either method separately.

Various forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy have been found to be helpful for PTSD. CBT seeks to change the way a person feels and acts by changing the patterns of thinking or behavior, or both, responsible for negative emotions.

In California support groups built around ‘surfing’ has been found to be helpful for a soldier with PTSD


To reach out to others, use online resources —, —

If you think about hurting yourself or suicide please contact 1–833–456–4566 in Canada.

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