Was My PTSD Misdiagnosed as Depression?

Mental health treatment should be supportive and kind. It should be challenging yet educational and healing. If not, a person’s mental health may be more harmed. Proper treatment and diagnosis are necessary for healing. However, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression often get misdiagnosed, as some professionals mix up the symptoms. Alter Behavioral Health begins with an assessment and diagnosis to make sure this does not happen to you during treatment.

PTSD: The Experience and Symptoms

Experiencing something traumatic, such as being abused or a car crash, can linger and develop into PTSD. Not all experiences of trauma cause PTSD, although symptoms may begin within three months of the initial event but can occur years later as well. If you have PTSD, you may experience one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Having flashbacks or re-experiencing the trauma, causing a person to relive the trauma or have persistent thoughts and dreams
  • Avoidance of  thoughts, people, or places that remind of the trauma
  • Reactivity, which causes quick reactions, such as angry outbursts
  • Altered cognition and mood, distorted thoughts or feelings about oneself or the world, or not remembering parts of the trauma

You can get treatment to heal from PTSD, but it takes effort and time to finish. Three of the most effective trauma-focused therapies include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Helps make connections between thoughts, emotions, and behavior to understand how trauma affected you and change how you feel
  • Exposure therapy: Exposing yourself to the memories by talking about them again and again, or in some cases, visiting places, to lessen the severity of the memories
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): This uses repeated sounds or movement to focus the brain while you talk through the trauma to work through the feelings

Describing Depression

Depression alters a person’s outlook on life, motivation, and enjoyment of activities, people, and life in general. While “I’m depressed” gets thrown around in conversations as a replacement for “I’m bored” or “I’m sad” a lot, depression is serious. There are five main types of depression:

  • Major depression: Where you experience episodes of depression symptoms, such as listlessness or lack of motivation
  • Persistent depression: This is when major depressive episodes occur frequently
  • Clinical depression: When a person experiences depression throughout their life, almost by default
  • Bipolar depression or manic depression: Intense swings between positive or energetic and depressive
  • Postpartum depression: Occurs in some women after giving birth

While these five types of depression can look similar, they affect a person’s life at different intensities. Everyone experiences depression differently, especially if they have past trauma in their life. Common symptoms of all types of depression are:

  • Negative persistent feelings, such as sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, or people
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking or movement
  • Reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide

Depression vs. PTSD

PTSD and depression often get mixed up because PTSD can cause depression or depression-like symptoms. However, they are two very different disorders.

Depression can be debilitating, whereas PTSD often triggers the fight-or-flight response. A person can freeze and not know what to do or be able to move when having a PTSD flashback. Alternatively, depression can cause manic energy or avoidance. They sound similar but affect a person’s life differently.

Someone may naturally start managing their PTSD, as most people will adapt and learn to survive the trauma. With PTSD, a person may be distracted from memories and thoughts. They may be able to put off a flashback with the help of others. In comparison, depression makes a person not want to exist or show up in their own life. Even with all the coping skills in the world, depression without professional help can be dangerous.

Dangers of Misdiagnosis

Someone can go through their life with a misdiagnosis, thinking they need to heal certain parts of themselves and missing other parts that need healing. Misdiagnosis can cause a person to deny symptoms because it is not part of their disorder. It can cause repression of memories because they do not align with the diagnosis.

When depression and PTSD are mixed up, a person may only be working on their outlook on life, not knowing there are traumatic memories that need exploring. That can cause turmoil in their life, such as being reactive to people and not understanding why.

Treatment for PTSD at Alter Behavioral Health

Receiving treatment for PTSD includes a supportive and comforting environment, around-the-clock medical and mental care access, focused treatment, and peer support. Alter Behavioral Health provides more than treatment, but helps connect you to community services, helps you build skills for a successful life, and helps you plan for after treatment. They also have you work closely with your treatment team to make sure your therapy and treatment goals are being reached. When they are not, you and your therapist will work together to make changes so you can be successful.

You will also receive whole-person treatment at Alter Behavioral Health. While some therapists or treatment programs only look at and treat the symptoms of the disorder you are there for, whole-person healing looks at you as a whole. This includes your emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and occupational wellness. If one or more of those areas of your life are suffering, it will affect your disorder and you as a whole.

Being misdiagnosed can be harmful to your mental health. At Alter Behavioral Health, we prioritize assessment and diagnosis upon entering our program for accurate diagnosis. When you have an accurate diagnosis, you can get the correct type of treatment to change your life. With evidence-based care and a safe place to heal, whether from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, we have the program for you. Contact us today at (866) 691-4386 to hear about our program options. With a nationally recognized program, you can trust us with your healing. Only you can make the ultimate step to improve your life, but we will be right there with you, helping along the way.