Understanding Situational Depression

What is Situational Depression?

Our lives trigger all kinds of emotions. We know that life will throw painful experiences our way, therefore understanding situational depression is important.

Situational depression is defined as a short-term depressive disorder that occurs in the aftermath of a traumatic life change. Symptoms typically develop within 90 days of a traumatic life experience. Some of the more common triggers of situational depression include, but are not limited to:

  • The death of a friend or a family member
  • The processes of divorce
  • Financial difficulties or job loss
  • A life or death experience like a natural disaster, assault or combat
  • Problems at work, home, or school, a major illness or accident

The Symptoms 

Firstly, you need to know the symptoms. second, and the key to understanding situational depression is to know that it is normal. However, it is important to know the usual symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical symptoms such as stomachache, headaches or heart palpitations
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Sadness or bouts of crying
  • Worry, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Suicidal thoughts

Situational vs. Clinical Depression

Although many of the symptoms of clinical depression and situational depression overlap, there are differences between the two. Those with situational depression have at least five of the symptoms of depression that last two weeks or more. Their symptoms are serious enough to interfere with or degrade the ability to function in their daily lives.

Those with clinical depression often have noted chemical imbalances and may also live with delusions, hallucinations and other types of psychotic disturbances.

Situational depressive disorder is often considered an adjustment disorder, rather than true depression. That’s because a person living with situational depression is more likely to continue with their ability to function.  For mild cases of situational depression, the following suggestions may help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Exercise, which boosts mood-elevating endorphins – even short sessions works
  • Get regular sleep
  • Join a formal support group
  • Set realistic goals and expect gradual rather than immediate results
  • Spend time and confide in a friend or family member
  • Let others help you by not isolating yourself

Treating Situational Depressive Disorder

Left untreated, situational depression can progress to a serious depressive disorder. Depending on the severity of the condition, situational depression typically responds to several treatments. For example, many find relief with therapy, antidepressants, or a combination of medication and counseling. If you recognize the symptoms of situational depression, consider seeing a therapist especially if you recognize the following behaviors:

  • Missing time at work or school
  • Physical symptoms such as racing heart, stomach or headaches
  • Significant changes in your eating or sleeping patterns
  • You are abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with your symptoms
  • Have thoughts of self-harm or suicide

The treatment plan for understanding situational depression is to help you cope with your stressors. A qualified counselor or therapist can help you:

  • Have a better understanding of your emotional health
  • Develop new or improved coping skills
  • End any self-destructive patterns or behaviors
  • Overcome the fears or behaviors that influence your symptoms

Differentiating Between Grief and Depression

Many people, just like you, delay getting treatment. They assume their symptoms are part of a natural process and don’t have a real understanding of situational depression.

To help you tell the difference between sorrow and situational depression, you may want to consider this, any emotion or behavior that interferes with your job, your relationships, and your enjoyment of once pleasurable activities should be evaluated with the help of a qualified professional.

Depression can change the way you think and how your body responds to stress. You do not have to battle the symptoms of situational depression on your own. In Clark County, Washington, contact Real Life Counseling Above all, a therapist will help you learn practical techniques to manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of your situational depression progressing.

Staff Writer

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