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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Veterans who return from combat deployments often experience occasional symptoms of sadness and "feeling down." However, when these symptoms do not go away and instead persist and possibly worsen, then depression may be the cause.

Depression is a common illness. About 17% of the general population in the United States experiences depression at some time in their lives, and it is more common among women than men. Some research * has shown that exposure to combat trauma may increase the risk of developing depression.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities one used to enjoy
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and/or thoughts of death or suicide


It is important to get early treatment for depression before symptoms may become severe and affect one's daily life. There are many effective treatments for depression including:

  • Medications
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Behavior modification
  • Social support
  • Recreational therapy
  • Relaxation therapies


If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important that you seek medical help right away. Other ways to cope with depressive symptoms include:

  • Engage in mild activity or exercise.
  • Participate in religious, social or other activities that you enjoy.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Spend time with loved ones and confide in trusted friends or relatives. Try not to isolate yourself.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will improve before your depressed mood does.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Avoid alcohol or illicit substances that may worsen your mood.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.



*Links will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs web site. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.