PTSD And Depression: Coping Strategies For Trauma Survivors

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
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Mental health conditions can be challenging to manage

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is considered by many to be a psychological disorder that can occur after an individual experiences, witnesses, or is exposed to details of a traumatic event. Those living with PTSD may experience distressing memories, dreams, or flashbacks related to the traumatic event, which can lead to other co-occurring symptoms or conditions (such as depression).

Despite the possible feelings of overwhelm that survivors may feel, we want to encourage all reading this article that it can be possible to experience recovery and support as one heals from trauma—and it can be possible to learn how to live well and wholly after surviving a traumatic event.

Read on to learn more about PTSD, depression, and supportive strategies for survivors.

Exploring the connection between PTSD and depression

While PTSD and depression are considered by many to be two separate mental health conditions, they can co-occur. Current research estimates that approximately half of individuals who are living with PTSD are also experiencing major depressive disorder (MDD). 

One explanation of this comorbidity is the possible symptom overlap between PTSD and MDD as conditions. 

Another explanation may lie in the possible connection between trauma and both PTSD and MDD. While trauma is not necessarily always a precursor to depression, research suggests that traumatic events can increase the risk that an individual would develop major depression later in life.

Managing PTSD and depression

Whether someone is surviving the effects of PTSD, depression or both jointly, there are steps individuals can take that may help them to effectively manage the symptoms of both. 

We do want to note: Sometimes, one treatment approach may have positive effects on both PTSD and depression. You may also need to experiment to determine which option best suits your needs. However, the journey can be worth it—and it can be possible to live well, even if you feel overwhelmed right now. 

Here are a few ways that many can mitigate the possible strain that can be associated with both PTSD and depression. 

Regular exercise

Although both depression and PTSD can result in low energy, engaging in aerobic exercise can provide numerous benefits that can counter these effects. Aerobic exercise, in this context, generally consists of planned activities that can elevate one’s heart rate, including jogging, cycling and swimming.

A review of related literature suggests that aerobic exercise may offer numerous benefits to those living with PTSD as well. For example: Vigorous exercise may help with symptoms of hyperarousal and avoidance. 

While not all of the reviewed studies were thought to have showed a link between exercise and decreased PTSD symptoms, the varying methodologies may explain this. Studies that included more details about the type of exercise often showed correlations between high-intensity exercise and the reduction of symptoms—but no correlation between low-intensity exercise and symptoms. 

Since studies that did not show a reduction in symptoms after exercise did not include details about the type of exercise, it can be possible these participants took part in gentle exercises.

Let yourself feel


After experiencing a traumatic event, you may notice a myriad of unexpected emotional, physical and mental reactions. These can include feelings of being alone or feeling like no one understands how or what you're feeling. You could also experience bouts of confusion or anger. You may not understand why you're feeling this way, and also be tempted to ignore or distract yourself from these feelings.

In these moments, it can be helpful to practice self-compassion. By doing so, you can recognize that experiencing these emotions can be difficult and you deserve to show yourself patience and kindness. 

Find a support system

If you’re living with PTSD and depression or are experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be helpful to find a support system. Having people to talk to can help you feel less alone and can offer support you as you begin to seek professional help. 

Additionally, having others around you can be helpful if you need support to complete daily activities like eating and scheduling appointments.

Show yourself kindness

Even with treatment, symptoms of PTSD and depression can vary from day to day. With that said, showing yourself extra care during these tough days may help you manage your symptoms.

It can be helpful to try to be gentle with yourself as you are going through this sometimes-up-and-down process. You may aim to speak positively to yourself, and you may realize that it can be okay to lessen your responsibilities in tough moments.

Even if your symptoms have greatly diminished, it can still be helpful to realize that the effects of trauma may come back in waves. You may go a few days or weeks without many symptoms, only to have intense feelings of dread or anger return after you experience a trigger. If you find this to be the case in your experience, you may try to show yourself grace in these moments and accept how you are feeling.

Practice patience

It can take time to find the right way to manage your PTSD and depression. The same treatment approach and/or medications may not work for everyone—so understanding that it could take time to find what helps you can be helpful to many.

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Mental health conditions can be challenging to manage

You can seek help via online therapy

No matter where you are on your journey with PTSD and/or depression, it’s generally never too late to seek help. Both of these mental health conditions can be challenging to live with—but help is available. A licensed professional may be able to support you as you find ways to manage the symptoms that are part of living with PTSD and/or depression. 

Both PTSD and depression can sometimes make it difficult to find the energy or drive to leave the comforts of home. Online therapy can provide a way for you to connect with a licensed counselor from the comfort of your own home or safe place.

Is online therapy effective? 

Research suggests that individuals living with PTSD may experience a reduction in symptoms after partaking in internet-based treatment. One study found details that suggested that those involved in an online treatment program showed “clinically significant reductions in PTSD severity and symptomatology”.

Online therapy can also be helpful for those living with depression, and may offer comparable benefits when compared to in-person methods, according to recent research.


PTSD and depression are generally recognized as two separate mental health conditions that can sometimes occur together. While they can both present serious challenges, those who are living with either of these conditions can learn how to manage their symptoms. Survivors may find benefit from engaging with online therapy, which can facilitate support from the comfort of one’s home or safe place. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need. 
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