What Are the Causes of Situational Depression?

You know that depression can be a serious condition. But do you know that there’s more than one type of depression? What most people are thinking of when they talk about depression in a clinical sense is major depression. But other types of depression should also be taken seriously.

One such type of depression is situational depression, which can be serious, and can also happen to anyone. Take a look at what you need to know about the causes of situational depression.


The Difference Between Situational Depression and Major Depression

Situational depression and major depression look very similar. They both have many of the same symptoms, such as feelings of sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest in friends and activities, excessive crying, and changes to sleeping and eating habits.

The most important difference between situational depression and major depression is the cause. Situational depression is a response to some identifiable factor – a stressor or change in circumstances that precipitated the depressed mood. Major depression is more complex, but it may be due to an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain or genetic predisposition, possibly in combination with environmental factors such as life stressors or alcohol and drug use.

Major depression also interferes with the depressed person’s ability to function for an extended period of time, while situational depression can often be resolved in time as the depressed person adapts to or resolves whatever triggered the depression in the first place.

Situational depression can lead to major depression, however, if it’s left untreated. It’s important to take situational depression seriously for that reason alone. It can also lead to other problems, like alcohol or drug dependency, and can complicate existing mental or physical health problems by making the depressed person less likely to seek medical help, take care of themselves, or follow a doctor’s treatment plan.


Stressors That Can Trigger Situational Depression

Some of the common stressors that can trigger situational depression include divorce, death, serious injuries or health problems, job loss, a major change in financial circumstances, and certain major life changes, such as retirement. However, triggers vary greatly depending on the person. Events or stressors that might trigger one person might have very little effect on another person, and vice versa.

Situational depression occurs when the stress of a particular event exceeds a person’s ability to cope with stress. That means that even seemingly happy events, like marriage or the birth of a new baby in the family, could be triggers for some people, even if those events wouldn’t be stressful for other people in the same situation.


How to Treat Situational Depression

When it comes to treating situational depression, the goal is often to give the depressed person tools to better understand and cope with their situation. Psychotherapy is often effective in treating situational depression. In cases where the depression was triggered by family or marital conflict, family counseling may be the most appropriate route to help everyone involved learn to navigate and resolve conflict.

Support groups can also be a helpful resource for people who are dealing with situational depression. Because situational depression is triggered by a specific life event, it can help to talk things over with people who have experienced the same or a similar life event. Support groups can be a good place to find resources and connect with people who understand where you’re coming from and can give you advice or support from a place of experience.

Often, people with situational depression can be helped through strengthening their coping skills and adjusting to new life situations. However, in some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to help the depressed person manage their depression. Commonly used medications include SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors) and dopamine reuptake blockers.

Not everybody needs medication, and only you and your doctor can decide if medication is the right choice for you. You may need to try more than one medication or dosage before finding the formula that works for you, so keep in mind that if the first thing that you try doesn’t work, it may just mean that you need to try something different.


What To Do When You Experience Life-changing Events or Trauma

Not everyone who experiences life-changing or traumatic events will experience situational depression, and some people may not experience situational depression after some life-changing events or traumas, but may after others. When you experience a stressor that changes your life in some way or puts new pressure on you, there are some things you can do that may help.

Start by acknowledging your feelings about the event or change. Don’t try to force yourself to live life as normal when it’s not. Your feelings are valid, so take the time to feel them. Cry, if you need to, and allow yourself time to heal and adjust to your new normal.

Make an effort to eat nutritious food, maintain a good sleep pattern, and exercise. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t always do those things, just do the best that you can. Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a crutch during a difficult time. Instead, reach out to the people who care about you and stay connected to them instead of isolating yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Take the time to get a check-up from your primary care physician – your physical mental, and emotional well-being are closely connected, and it’s important to take care of all of those aspects of yourself. And if you’re having trouble locating therapy, support groups, or other resources in your community, your physician is a good place to start when it comes to getting recommendations or referrals.



Situational depression is difficult, but it is a treatable condition. The important thing is to take it seriously and seek out help. Don’t feel like you need to just get over it or handle it on your own. With support and therapy, you can overcome it!