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PTSD, Depression, & Home Design

Derek Hales

Written By: Derek Hales

Updated on:

PTSD, depression, and other mental health ailments affect millions of people. While you should always seek out professional medical help, you can also help yourself or friends and family who suffer from these conditions.

We spend most of our time at home and that home can help or hinder in your recovery and management of difficult mental health conditions. The following guide details helpful expert resources and information on how to recognize PTSD and depression, and how you can make simple changes to your home’s design and layout that can help improve mental health.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for “post-traumatic stress disorder” and can sometimes occur when people survive a traumatic or life-threatening experience.

PT… post-traumatic. That means after a trauma.

Stress… that describes the feeling people have when thinking about the event.

Disorder… this means that the feeling is chromic and directly related to the trauma. Often times, PTSD can effect members of the military or people in dangerous jobs, like emergency responders.

what is PTSD?
What is PTSD? PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects those who have suffered trauma or a life threatening situation.


Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, as each experience can be very different. Symptoms can be broken down into four different categories:

  • re-experiencing
  • avoidance
  • arousal / reactivity
  • cognition / moods

Re-experiencing symptoms include things like this flashbacks and vivid frightful dreams or thoughts. Avoidance symptoms describes when a person stays away from certain places, objects, or things that are related to the traumatic event. Even avoiding thinking about the traumatic event could be a symptom. Arousal / reactivity symptoms is generally the feeling of being “on edge”. People with this symptom are easily startled, may feel tense, or have difficulty sleeping. Lastly, the cognition / mood symptoms results in the person having a low of interest and general negative thoughts about their life.


To be officially diagnosed with PTSD, you must exhibit signs of all four types of symptoms (at least one re-experiencing symptom, at least one avoidance symptom, at least two arousal / reactivity symptoms, and at least two cognition / mood symptom).


To learn more about PTSD as a disease and how to cope with it, check out our exhaustive list of resources here.

What is Depression?

Unlike PTSD, depression does not require a traumatic event to take hold. Depression can sneak in at any point and the cause is not completely understood. Depression may cause feelings of sadness or a lack of interest in activities that you once enjoyed.

What is Depression?
Depression may cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Depression is not just feeling sad for a short duration.

Sadness vs. Depression

In some cases, people may struggle to differentiate between sadness or grief and depression. There are some key differences between these feelings and a mental diagnosis.

  1. When people feel sad or are grieving, the pain may come in waves. People who are depressed feel consistent lows for two weeks or more.
  2. People with depression may feel an intense lack of self-worth or excessive loathing, where-as in people with general sadness, self-esteem usually is unaffected.
  3. Hopelessness, anxiety, uncontrolled emotions, and suicidal thoughts are all key symptoms of depression. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they last longer than two weeks, you should seek medical help.


  • The Important Difference Between Sadness and Depression: understand the main differences between feeling sad and being clinically depressed
  • What is Depression?: explains the major differences between sadness and depression, risk factor, treatment, and self-help options
  • Am I Depressed?: walks the reader through differences between sadness and depression, different types of depression and signs, treatment strategies, and resources
  • Online Depression Resources: a helpful list of online resources for people struggling with depression with full descriptions of each program
  • Teen Depression: explains the symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, and prevention of teens with depression
  • Postpartum Depression: an online resource for women struggling with postpartum depression including easy-to-read facts, treatment plans, videos, tutorials, clinical trials, and experts who can help.
  • Older Adults & Depression: an overview of depression in aging older adults, including risk factors, treatment options, and links for additional information.
  • Interior Design Use in Alleviating Depression and Anxiety: describes a case study of a redesigned dialysis center in Logan, Utah and how design improves overall patient morale and mental health
  • The Happy Home Makeover: lists seven design tips to help combat depression or signs of PTSD

Design Tips for People with PTSD or Depression

Design can affect PTSD and depression in a number of ways, having a positive or negative impact. Thoughtfully addressing home design can be an effective way to keep these disorders from controlling your life, or the life of someone you love.

Here are some top tips for how to create a design that is sensitive to the needs of people with PTSD or depression.

Increase natural daylight

Natural daylight is jam packed with vitamin D and studies have shown that increased exposure to sunlight increases the body’s levels of serotonin, a natural antidepressant in the brain.

Hang sheer drapes and open the blinds to get as much light as possible during difficult days. If you only have one small window, use it to your advantage. Hang a mirror directly across from the window to create the appearance of additional windows and more natural night.

Natural light to help improve PTSD and depression
Natural light and uncluttered spaces can help improve the symptoms of depression and PTSD.

Add fresh plants and greenery

Adding fresh, living plants is another way to potentially limit the effects of PTSD and depression. As we breathe, people breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Plants are like our soulmates in that they do the exact opposite— they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

They’re essentially the YIN to our YANG. Studies by NASA even showed that indoor plants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours.

House plants to help improve PTSD and depression
House plants can remove toxins from the air in your home and improve mental health.

Remove extra clutter

If you have any extra clutter or stuff, get rid of it. Visual clutter can lead to mental clutter, which can make it hard to sort through feelings and emotions. When sorting through items, consider why you have it in the first place. Does it bring you joy? Does it serve a purpose? If it doesn’t, chances are you won’t even miss it when it’s gone!

Color Theory

Using color to compact depression or the effects of PTSD can be an effective treatment strategy. For the walls, consider painting them a light color to help the light bounce around the space. As we mentioned earlier, lighter and bright spaces are more mentally appealing. If you have a favorite color, try adding special pops of that color throughout your design. A special vase or a cozy throw— seeing your favorite color in your home may help to put a smile on your face.

If you believe that you may be suffering from PTSD, depression or any other kind of intense anxiety, do not hesitate to reach out. Getting help is the first step on the road to recovery and there are many resources available. With proper treatment, PTSD and many forms of depression can be managed.

More Resources

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider,, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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