Situational depression is a type of depression that is temporary and based on a particular source of stress. It usually develops after you’ve experience a traumatic event or series of events. Also known as reactive depression, this disorder makes it difficult for people to readjust to normal life after trauma.
Situational depression can be caused by a wide variety of events including problems at work, problems at school, relationship problems, family problems, the death of a loved one, serious illness, or relocating.
Situational Depression Symptoms
How situational depression is experienced can vary from person to person. The disorder can amplify the stress of events in your everyday life. Severe cases of situational depression may make it hard for you to function, and can even disrupt the flow of your day-to-day life.
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worrying, feeling anxious or stressed, and feeling overwhelmed are all emotional symptoms of situational depression. These can occur so often, and be so severe, that they start to affect other areas of your life.
These emotions, in addition to feeling overwhelmed, may cause someone suffering from the disorder to cry constantly. They also may retreat into their home and avoid social situations with friends and family. They may also experience trouble carrying out daily activities like going to work or paying their bills and, in severe cases, may even experience suicidal thoughts.
It doesn’t matter whether an event is positive or negative. If that event is stressful, it can cause the manifestation of situational depression. Major life events like retirement, moving, having a baby, divorce, etc. can all be triggers for situational depression.
Money problems, death in the family, living in a dangerous area, life-or-death experiences, issues at work or school, and medical illness can all cause the onset of the disorder as well.
Everyone experiences at least one of these events in their life at one point or another. So why doesn’t everyone suffer from situational depression? Experiences from your past affect the way you handle stress.
For this reason, someone may be more prone to situational depression if they’ve suffered a lot of childhood stress, have existing mental health problems, have a family history of mental health problems, or are experiencing several difficult circumstances in their life at the same time.
In addition, there are biological factors that put you at higher risk for situational depression. These include differences in your brain structure or chemistry, hormonal issues, or genetics.
Situational Depression Diagnosis
As mentioned before, situational depression occurs after experiencing a life event that is traumatic or stressful. There is no exact timeline on when the symptoms of situational depression will occur, but experts say if symptoms start to manifest within 3 months of a traumatic event, it could be situational depression.
Feeling higher stress levels than normal after a particular life event can also be a sign that you are dealing with situational depression. When dealing with this disorder, stress from events at work or school may start to cause issues in your relationships. You may also be suffering from situational depression if you are experiencing depression symptoms not related to another mental illness.
If you start to see that symptoms are making it difficult for you, or a loved one, to take care of daily responsibilities, treatment may be required. Treatment is usually a combination of medications and therapy.
The medications typically recommended for situational depression are selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft or Celexa. Another option would be a dopamine reuptake blocker. It’s best to talk to your doctor about what medication, if any, will work best for you.
Therapy is typically the preferred treatment method for situational depression. Rather than just medicating the problem, therapy sessions can help give the patient tools to cope with the disorder. It can also help them to become more resilient to negative triggers.
Building these coping mechanisms and tools will help a patient to combat further episodes of situational depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common therapy used to do this.
Basic changes in a person’s lifestyle can also help to fight the symptoms of situational depression. Getting enough sleep, watching your diet, exercising regularly, regularly “unplugging” and relaxing more, and leaning on your friends and family for social support can all help to beat situational depression.
Situational vs. Clinical Depression
Situational therapy is brought on by a particular moment in time that can cause stress or trauma in an individual. They feel overwhelmed by the situation to the point where they can’t cope with it normally. Once the situation is solved, or some time passes, the symptoms of depression usually go away.
Where clinical depression differs is that there is no definite cause. Clinical depression can be a daily battle for most of a person’s life. Situational depression can also develop into clinical depression if left untreated. Likewise, clinical depression can be made more severe by a bout of situational depression.
Dangers of Depression
With any sort of depression, situational or clinical, there is a risk for the person to develop suicidal thoughts. They can also become very withdrawn. If someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, and not talking to those around them, this can be a recipe for disaster.
Be mindful of any irregular behavior patterns in the person, and if they start to say things that are dangerous (i.e. they talk about doing harm to themselves) you may need to get involved.
If you feel they are an immediate risk for harming themselves, or someone else, call 911. If you’re not with the person currently, go to where they are and stay with them until help arrives.
While you are there with them, make an effort to remove any weapons, prescriptions, or other harmful objects from their home. Stay with them, talk with them, but don’t yell or judge them. Sometimes just having a familiar face to listen to them can go a long way in prevention.
If you think someone may be considering suicide, but it’s not an immediate threat yet, you can get help from a suicide prevention hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. They are a great resource to help in a situation like this.
If you need any other resources on situational depression, or are considering clinical depression treatment, contact Just Believe Recovery Center. We are more than willing to help you with whatever you need to get started on the road to recovery.