Situational Depression

Situational depression is characterized by depressed mood that follows after a stressful event. It should not be mistaken for clinical depression (major depressive disorder) or dysthymic disorder (chronic form of depression that is less severe than clinical depression). In this form of depression, the physical and behavioral symptoms must develop within three months of the onset of the stressor. The symptoms must not be linked to any other medical condition.

Contributing Factors

Situational depression occurs in response to stressful events, which could include:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Financial loss
  • Traumatic Events (accidents)
  • Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition
  • Witnessing a natural calamity or a crime
  • Family crisis
  • Divorce/Breakups
  • Life-changing events such as marriage, becoming a parent, etc.

It must be noted that the stressor need not always be a negative event. It could even be a positive event that causes stress. For instance, even a wedding or purchasing a house could trigger stress.

Symptoms of Situational Depression

People of all age groups could be affected by situational depression. The characteristics might vary in case of children, adolescents, and adults. Children and adolescents are more likely to exhibit behavioral symptoms than adults. Though the loss of a loved one is bound to cause sadness and other negative emotions, in case of an adjustment disorder, the symptoms are more severe than expected. The symptoms that might be experienced by the affected individual might include:

  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Crying spells
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue/Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Indecisiveness
  • Diminished interest in activities that one enjoyed earlier
  • Sleep-related problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

In case of children and adolescents, the symptoms are placed under the following categories:

In case of an adjustment disorder with depressed mood, the following symptoms might be experienced:

  • Depressed mood
  • Tearfulness
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Situational Depression Vs. Clinical Depression

As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), the criteria for major depressive disorder includes the presence of at least five of the following nine symptoms for a period of at least two weeks:

  • Depressed mood
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Significant change in weight (weight loss or weight gain) when not dieting
  • Change in sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia)
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent suicidal thoughts

The affected individual must experience either depressed mood or diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities. These symptoms must have an adverse effect on the patient’s ability to lead a normal life. Also, these symptoms must not be linked to any other medical condition.

Clinical depression could be attributed to chemical imbalances in the brain. At times, one might be genetically predisposed to depression. Depression could even be a symptom of mental health disorders. Needless to say, it could be triggered by certain events or traumatic experiences.

On the other hand, a person affected by situational depression need not experience all the aforementioned symptoms. Moreover, the symptoms that he/she experiences resolve when the triggering factor or event resolves, or once the affected individual has learned to adapt to that situation. Usually, the symptoms resolve within 6 months of the termination of the stressor. However, the symptoms could persist for a longer period, if one is exposed to the stressor for a long period, or the stressor has long-lasting consequences.

If you’re struggling with situational depression and in need of help contact Lighthouse Counselling Vancouver to receive your free consultation.  For more information click here, or call 604-809-5848.  Help is just a click away!