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.
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:
- 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.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: an overview to PTSD including, signs & symptoms, childhood PTSD, risk factors, treatments & therapies, self-help, and future research.
- What is PTSD?: answers a list of questions that people may ask about PTSD; including unusual ones like ‘Will people with PTSD get better?’
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: an in-depth list of possible symptoms of PTSD and provides real-life examples of what it might look like for different people
- 10 Things You Should Know About PTSD: a list of unusual facts about PTSD and how to better understand the disorder
- PTSD Frequently Asked Questions: a list of common questions that people ask about PTSD
- Helping Someone With PTSD: a guide to better helping a loved-one with PTSD through easy-to-implement tips
- Relationships & PTSD: learn how trauma affects relationships and other frequently-asked questions regarding PTSD and relationships
- Experience Design for PTSD: a research project how the human experience can serve as a catalyst for design efforts to healing trauma
- Environmental Design for a Trauma Recovery Program: an experiment that takes a closer look at design and how it impacts the recovery of adolescent girls who are victims of sex-trafficking.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Unraveling the Sun’s Role in Depression: how sunlight and naturally help to treat and prevent depression
- Sunlight and It’s Effect on Anxiety: how sunlight increases serotonin levels and Vitamin D, which play a role in reducing anxiety
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.
- Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better: explains why indoor plants are good for your mental health as well as ways to create your own personal plant sanctuary
- 12 Powerful Plants for Anxiety and Stress: the top 12 list of plants that may help you treat your PTSD, depression, or general anxiety / stress
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!
- Why Mess Causes Stress: details the metal cost of clutter and how it may be affecting your overall mental health
- Clutter & Depression: describes the relationship between clutter and depression and how to manage it
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.
- Color and Psychological Functioning: a review of how color and mental awareness work together and the relationship between them
- From Color To Emotion: details how colors effect human emotion through color theory, chromatures, and experimentation
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.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: a 24/7, free and confidential support line for people in distress or dealing with an urgent crisis
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: a website dedicated to the prevention of suicide due to PTSD, depression, or other mental health condition
- Depression Resource Map: a detailed map that lists resources across the US that aid in the treatment, care, and support of people with depression
- Postpartum Support International: a resource to find local support groups across the US of women dealing with postpartum depression following childbirth