Situational depression is a short-term change in mood related to a specific traumatic or stressful incident. This issue may affect you if you have trouble adjusting to an unexpected life change or circumstances beyond your control. While situational depression is usually less severe than clinical depression, it can still impact your quality of life and leave you feeling bereft and joyless. Here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Situational Depression?
One critical difference between situational depression and major depressive disorder is that the former condition has a specific, identifiable trigger. Examples of events that might cause situational depression include:
- The loss of a job
- Grieving the death of a beloved friend, family member, or pet
- Difficulties at work or school
- Health problems
- The end of a long-term friendship or romantic relationship
Situational depression stems from a struggle to adjust to sudden or dramatic life changes. For instance, after a divorce, it might take some time for you to accept your new status and move forward as a single person. Similarly, if you’ve recently received a diagnosis of a chronic health issue like diabetes, you may initially struggle to adapt to the various lifestyle changes that are necessary to manage your condition.
Situational Depression vs. Clinical Depression
Situational depression symptoms typically begin soon after the triggering event, though they could emerge a few months later in some cases. They may include:
- Apathy, lethargy, and extreme fatigue
- Loss of enthusiasm
- Disrupted sleep
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anhedonia, or an inability to take pleasure in formerly enjoyable hobbies
- Frequent bouts of crying
Situational and clinical depression share similar symptoms. However, for people with major depressive disorder, these changes in mood are severe enough to disrupt their daily lives and interfere with their ability to carry out their regular responsibilities.
Additionally, some people with clinical depression have frequent, intrusive thoughts of self-harm or suicide. They may also experience psychotic disturbances such as delusions and hallucinations. These issues are rare with situational depression.
How to Move Forward From Situational Depression
Unlike major depressive disorder, situational depression is only short-term and may resolve on its own as you adapt to your changed circumstances and time heals your wounds. However, you can take active steps to improve your mood and ease your symptoms. Here are a few simple things to try.
- Join a support group: Talking about your troubles with people who have experienced similar challenges might help you gain a sense of perspective.
- Volunteer: Contributing to a cause that’s meaningful to you can be profoundly satisfying and allow you to give back to your community.
- Spend quality time with friends and family: Loved ones can be an excellent source of nonjudgmental support and compassion.
- Work with a therapist: A trained counselor will help you identify maladaptive coping mechanisms and other negativities in your life so you can become a happier, more confident person.
- Care for an animal: Creatures like dogs and horses may not be human, but spending time with them is a proven way to improve your outlook.
- Eat a balanced diet: Did you know the dietary choices you make can play a significant role in improving your mental well-being? Foods like dark chocolate, yogurt, bananas, oats, and berries all have mood-boosting properties.
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