Situational Depression and What It Means
Experiencing difficulty adapting to a particular situation or event in life, such as the passing or sickness of a loved one, losing employment, or facing financial troubles, can result in situational depression. It is important to understand what this type of depression entails, ways to overcome it, and preventative measures you can take.
What is situational depression?
Situational depression is a form of depression that arises due to short-term stress and links to a specific traumatic event or sequence of events. This type of depression falls under the category of adjustment disorders and can make it challenging to cope with daily life after experiencing a traumatic event. Some doctors refer to it as reactive depression.
Situational depression is distinct from clinical depression or a major depressive episode. Traumatic events usually trigger situational depression and usually have a shorter duration. Examples of such events include:
- marital or relationship difficulties like divorce or fighting
- situational changes such as having a baby, going to school, or retirement
- experiencing financial problems or job loss
- the death of a loved one, social issues at work or school
- life-threatening events like physical assaults or natural disasters
- medical illness, or
- living in an unsafe neighborhood.
There are also other factors that can elevate your risk of developing depression. These factors include:
- irregularities in brain structure and chemistry
- hormonal imbalances
- changes in genetics
- pre-existing mental health condition
- experiencing childhood stress and trauma
- facing multiple stressors or traumas simultaneously, and
- having a family history of depression.
Your past life experiences influence your way in handling stress. If you have experienced significant stress during childhood, have pre-existing mental health issues, or are facing multiple difficult life situations simultaneously, your chances of developing situational depression are higher.
If situational depression persists and does not improve over time, it may progress into more severe and prolonged clinical depression.
What are the symptoms of situational depression?
The symptoms of this type of depression can differ from one individual to another. It can exacerbate stressful situations in life, leading to disruptions in daily routine.
Some common signs of depression include:
- experiencing a persistent state of sadness and low mood
- frequently crying or feeling like crying
- feeling hopeless
- struggling with concentration
- lacking motivation
- losing interest in activities that once brought joy
- withdrawing from social situations
- feeling isolated or lonely, and
- having thoughts of suicide.
Situational depression typically tends to ease over time following the stressful event, and you may begin to feel better and more optimistic. If it continues for an extended period without treatment, it may progress into clinical depression.
How to diagnose it?
If you are going through situational depression after experiencing a significant change or disturbance in your life, it is advisable to speak with your doctor. Your doctor will examine your symptoms, health history, and recent events in your life to make a diagnosis.
To diagnose, your doctor will look for three crucial factors:
- Symptoms must begin within three months of a known triggering event.
- Symptoms must result from stress that is much more significant than what is typically normal and must cause disruptions to daily life, work or school performance, and social interactions.
- Symptoms must be distinct from those caused by other disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Once there is a diagnosis that you have situational depression, your doctor will suggest a treatment plan based on the intensity of your symptoms. In certain instances, depression may resolve on its own without requiring any specific treatment. However, in more severe cases of situational depression, it may be necessary to use a combination of chemical use and therapies to help in recovery.
What are the treatments?
Consulting with your doctor can assist in identifying whether you are experiencing situational depression. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available that can help manage your symptoms. These treatments typically focus on both treating the symptoms and addressing the underlying stressor that triggered these feelings.
Once the stressor has been appropriately dealt with, people generally start to adjust, and symptoms usually improve within six months.
Treatment for situational depression may involve several approaches, such as individual counseling, group support, and chemical use to address severe symptoms of depression. In some cases, doctors employ a combination of psychotherapy and oral treatments to treat situational depression.
Psychotherapy treatments for situational depression may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which demonstrates to be an effective approach to managing depression. The objective of CBT is to replace negative thinking patterns with more constructive ones and enhance coping skills.
Doctors also prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety treatments to alleviate the condition.
Situational depression is often a common and natural response to very stressful or traumatic events. The symptoms are usually short-term and tend to improve over time as the individual recovers and the situation improves.
If you suspect that you are experiencing depression, visit Mindshift Psychological Services to receive the right diagnosis and treatment. You may check out our website to learn more about our different treatment programs. You may also contact us at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.