Many of us have heard that other people complain that they suffer from depression after a breakup, divorce, or a horrible day or week. But are these people dealing with depression? When we are not able to cope with a stressful event, we experience symptoms of sadness, fear, or sometimes hopelessness – in this case we deal with situational depression. Unlike major depression, when you experience symptoms for a long period of time, this kind of depression usually goes away as soon as you experience other emotions and feelings – it is about positive ones.
What is Situational Depression
Situational depression is a short-term form of depression that can happen because of various stressful changes in your normal life, such as divorce, retirement, change or loss of a job and the death of a family member or close friend. This type of depression is sometimes referred to the condition as an adjustment disorder. A person suffering from situational depression may have symptoms that are more or less similar to someone who suffers from major depression; however, there are some differences between the effects and treatment of these two disorders.
Causes of Situational Depression
There are different events and situations in our lives either pleasant or unpleasant, and we are not always capable to deal with unpleasant ones. As a result, they take control over us. Situational depression takes place when we have not yet adapted to the changes brought about by these events and situations and included them into our whole life experiences.
Situational depression is not uncommon and may occur in everyone’s life — about 10% of grownups and up to 30% of adolescents go through this condition at some life stages. Unlike other types of depression, men and women experience situational depression equally.
The most common cause of situational depression is stress. Some common events that cause it include:
- Breakup or divorce
- Loss of a job
- Death of a loved one
- Serious health problems
- Experiencing a terrible event such as a natural disaster, crime, or accident
Symptoms of Situational Depression
Most people suffering from situational depression develop symptoms within roughly 90 days following the event or situation that leads to depression. Taking into consideration the individual’s characteristics these symptoms can vary and resemble the symptoms of major depression. But people with situational depression experience few of symptoms mentioned below.
The most common symptoms of situational depression are low mood, tearfulness, and feelings of hopelessness. Children or teenagers are more likely to show behavioral symptoms such as fighting or skipping school. Some other symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous
- Recurring bouts of crying
- Unfocused anxiety
- Loss of concentration
- Somatic symptoms such as a headache, stomachache, or heart palpitations
- Escaping from social activities
- Changes in sleeping and eating
- Feeling exhausted and worn-out
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
However, this depression usually goes away after some period of time, but these symptoms should not be ignored and must be treated, otherwise it may lead to major depression.
Differences between Situational and Major Depression
Major depression is also known as clinical depression or major depressive disorder. Many of the symptoms of major depression are more or less interchangeable with the symptoms of situational depression. However, people with major depression experience at least five symptoms simultaneously, and also have forms of these symptoms that are much more severe ones that influence on the ability to perform simple functions of everyday life. In addition, major depressive disorder can have symptoms not typically found in people with situational depression, including delusions, hallucinations and other forms of psychotic disturbance. While you can be diagnosed with major depression because of symptoms that last during two weeks, most people suffering from major depression experience bouts of symptoms that recur or reappear for a long period of time.
Major depressive disorder often occurs because there is something wrong with the brain chemistry, and in some cases, the development of depression may take place because of genetic factors. However, environmental factors and external situations generally play a role in the appearance of major depressive symptoms, even in people with a known chemical or genetic predisposition. Many of these factors and situations – including divorce, serious health problems, and death of a loved one – are more typical to those associated with the beginning of situational depression. In addition, some people with major depression develop symptoms in connection with chronic sleeping problems or the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
Different Treatment Approaches
In many cases, mild forms of situational depression will vanish on their own if you do something in order to minimize their effects. It is important to change your lifestyle. This includes:
- getting regular physical exercises,
- eating a nutritionally well-balanced diet,
- establishing regular sleeping habits,
- discussing your situation with close friends or loved ones,
- joining a formal support group
- and participating in a hobby or other pleasurable leisure activity.
If your symptoms influence on your life and/or last for a long period of time, you should seek professional help. If you experience severe situational depression symptoms, your doctor may also decide to treat this type of depression with medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
Psychotherapy or the use of antidepressant medications is beneficial for people with relatively mild forms of major depression. In more serious cases, it may be required treatment with a combination of these two methods. In addition, some people with severe symptoms of major depression require hospitalization in a psychiatric facility or require treatment with a form of controlled electrical stimulation known as electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT.
Some people suffering from situational depression may experience symptoms for longer than six months. It happens when another emotionally or physically unpleasant event takes place during the normal recovery period. If you or your loved one feel that you are depressed in the aftermath of a major life change, don’t hesitate to seek professional help so you will be able to deal successfully with your situation and overcome your symptoms.