Situational Depression


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Situational Depression: Do you have it?

Situational Depression, also called Reactive Depression and frequently diagnosed as Adjustment Disorder with Depression, is situationally caused. It is a commonly diagnosed form of Depression. It isn't reasonable to expect you will be happy all the time, and many of us experience symptoms of Depression throughout our lives. Adjustment disorders are generally considered more common and short-term, although they can be chronic with longer-lasting stress.


For example, if you lose your job, and you are unemployed, and you can't pay your bills, it seems reasonable that you might experience Depression. To be diagnosed with this, must have symptoms that are considered more than reasonable or demonstrate noticeable impairment in their work, school, or social environment.

We would expect that this Depression would resolve itself at some point after you get a job, and usually, this kind of Depression does. However, situational Depression can lead to a more long-lasting depression. It can sometimes be the trigger for a major depressive disorder that is more long-lasting and has more of a biological piece.

What are some situations that may be triggers?

  • Loss of any kind can be a trigger for situational Depression. For example, women who have children leave home and go away to college may experience a type of adjustment-related Depression we call the "empty nest syndrome."
  • Loss of home or move ( for example an elderly person to a nursing home).
  • Loss of friendships, family relationship, or other social relationship
  • Loss of job through retirement or unemployment.
  • Loss of role. Such as in the case of retirement or the empty nest syndrome.
  • Financial stress and strain, especially in this economy, can be a source of Depression. I know people who have been out of work for two years. Often time what began as something to be adjusted to can evolve into a longer-lasting diagnosis.
  • Relationship stress can be a contributing trigger. Divorce, problems in your marriage, or stress and problems with your family can all be issues that trigger situational Depression.
  • Aging and all the different adjustments that come along with this. For women and men, various aging issues may prompt their Depression.
  • Illness or Medical Problems. Any chronic disease, health problem or diagnosis can cause a and adjustment kind of Depression.


Do you have symptoms of situational depression? 

Do you have some of these symptoms:

  • Weight loss or gain or decrease increase in appetite 
  • A depressed mood 
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities 
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Feeling restless or slowed down 
  • Fatigue or loss of energy 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt 
  • Impaired concentration or difficulty making decisions 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death , thinking of suicide with or without a plan or a suicide attempt

and 

  • Do you think your symptoms are worse  than you would expect, or are you having trouble functioning in your job school or social relationships? 

and

  • Have you had something stressful happen within three months before you symptoms developed?

Then you may be suffering from situational depression and in need of some professional or self help efforts to help you feel better!

Does Situational Depression require Treatment?

People who could benefit from therapy often do not seek it because they think it will pass or their reactions are normal. Depression is something that  is experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives. That, however, does not mean that you can't benefit from help dealing with the situation that is causing your distress. Your perception and perspective of life and its circumstances are what dictates your mood. If you feel less isolated and these feelings are normalized, you can change your feelings and your behavior. Therapy can help you to do these things.

I have found that people who have adjustment-related depression are often the ones who respond most quickly and successfully to treatment. Once you can isolate some of the stresses and causes of your Depression often, you feel relieved. Our distress about the fact that we are depressed, the feeling of things being out of control, often makes the Depression worse. 

Knowing why you are struggling, and that it is normal in times of adjustment frees you up to examine how you can improve your situational Depression by thinking about the stress differently.


I have had clients come in and ask Why have I gotten depressed? Sometimes there is a more endogenous or biological piece to their Depression. This is disconcerting for them. You mean this can happen at any time? Why? How can I stop it from happening in the future, they might say.

When we know why we are depressed, it seems less out of control. A client may say of course! Of course, I am feeling this way. These overwhelming, confusing things happened I have never had to deal with before. I lost my husband, or my job, or was diagnosed with cancer. Now I understand. How can I work directly on coping better with what is?

Identifying the cause somehow allows for the acceptance of the painful situation, their emotional reaction and paves the way for some changes to occur that help eases the Depression.


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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.