When you talk about Trauma and PTSD, depression is going to be somewhere in the mix as a symptom. Depression is also one of the most complex symptoms related to trauma, as it has multiple effects:
Most Post-Trauma symptoms are cyclic, and especially so with PTSD. You first go through a fight/flight nervous system response, which is often offset by a trigger and accompanied by hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger and a whole set of other physical and emotional symptoms.
When this activation phase has run its course, you usually go into freeze mode, due to its overwhelming force, and sink for a period into numbness, dissociation, and depression. Depression here is thus directly related to a “burned out” state after the fight/flight activation, as part of this Post-Trauma symptoms cycle.
Depression can act as a buffer against underlying feelings that are more upsetting emotionally– like extreme guilt, loss, worthlessness and deep hurt. Here, depression acts as dissociation to protect and facilitate, in consciousness, the survival of our fragile, deeply fragmented, fearful selves.
It does, of course, come with a cost and the measure of that cost– depression versus feeling helpless– is often made at an unconscious level.
Disruptive traumatic experiences, and periods that we haven’t had the opportunity or ability to integrate causes a split within us, in our identity. We seem to store these pains in deeper parts of our mind and our body.
The energy that we have available to us on a daily basis is very definitely finite. Keeping fragmented parts of ourselves locked in the psychological past and in our bodies, out of necessity takes up a significant amount of energy. If we are then left with very low energy to deal with the demands of life, family, and work, it should come as no surprise that we might well be coping with depression. In essence, depression relates to a lack of free-flowing energy; whatever the underlying causes of that trapped energy are require our attention.
Unfortunately, depression is so very common in our world today that it is hardly ever recognized and seen in the context of Post-Trauma residue; that it forms part of a set of symptoms due to a coping response like dissociation, fatigue, and anxiety.