Situational Depression: Symptoms & Causes | Banyan Mental Health
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Situational Depression: Symptoms & Causes

Situational depression may occur as a result of a traumatic event or series of events. Similar to the progression of trauma to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), situational depression may progress into clinical depression if not treated. Today our Boca mental health facility is going over what situational depression is, its symptoms, causes, and how it’s different from clinical depression. 

Situational Depression Definition

Also known as circumstantial depression or situational mood disorder, situational depression is a type of adjustment disorder that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event or series of events, like the loss of a loved one. Similar to clinical depression, situational depression can make it difficult for you to jump back into your normal routine after a traumatic event. 

Common events that trigger situational depression include: 

  • Problems at work or school
  • Loss of employment 
  • Illness
  • Death of a loved one
  • Moving
  • Relationship problems
Situational depression is quite common, so much so that you’ve probably experienced it at least once. 

Situational Depression Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person and also depend on the contributing event. Circumstantial depression can magnify the intensity, pain, and stress of particular life events to make them seem much worse than they really are. 

Common situational depression symptoms include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Lack of enjoyment in normal activities
  • Constant worrying or anxiety
  • Crying regularly 
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating 
  • Trouble carrying out daily tasks
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Avoiding social situations and interactions
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Neglecting important matters like paying your bills or going to work or school
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone who has recently experienced something traumatic or difficult, try to get them help. While situational depression may not be permanent, seeking therapy can help the individual get through their symptoms and prevent their condition from progressing to a more serious mental disorder. 

Causes of Situational Depression

Stressful events, both positive and negative – such as moving to a new place versus losing a loved one – can trigger situational depression. Common causes of situational depression include:

  • Relationship or marital problems
  • Divorce
  • Retirement
  • Moving away to go to school 
  • Having a baby
  • The death of a loved one
  • Social issues at school or work
  • Near-death experiences like physical assault, car accident, combat, or natural disaster
  • Medical illness
  • Living in a dangerous area

Previous life experiences, such as childhood trauma, can also increase your sensitivity to stressful situations in the future and increase your likelihood of developing situational depression. Other common risk factors of situational depression disorder include: 

  • Childhood trauma
  • Underlying mental health problems
  • Experiencing several difficult situations at a time 
  • Abnormalities in brain structure and chemistry 
  • Hormonal imbalance 
  • Changes in genetics

You are also more likely to experience situational depression if you have a family history of mental illness, especially that of depression or anxiety. 

How Long Does Situational Depression Last?

It’s difficult to say how long situational depression lasts. The severity and duration of symptoms depend on the individual, their family history of mental illness, whether they have any underlying mental health issues, and the severity of the situation that triggered these symptoms in the first place. 

Nonetheless, situational depression is believed to last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), you may have situational depression if you: 

  • Have emotional or behavioral symptoms that develop within three months of the event
  • Feel more stress than normal after the event
  • Experience severe issues in your relationships and performance at work or school
  • Experience depression symptoms that are not caused by another mental disorder or part of the normal grieving process following the death of a loved one

Situational depression may not even kick in until a month or two after the event has occurred. Symptoms may cease once the person has healed or the situation has somewhat been resolved, such as signing papers and finalizing a divorce, for instance. 

However, if your symptoms occur every day for more than six weeks, persist longer than a few months, or you begin to have suicidal thoughts or attempts, reach out for help immediately. 

Situational Depression vs. Clinical Depression

Although situational and clinical depression may feel similar, they aren’t. The difference between clinical depression and situational depression is that situational depression is caused by a stressful or traumatic event, while clinical depression is a mood disorder that can occur with or without a specific stressor. 

Also referred to as depression or major depressive disorder, clinical depression is usually more severe than situational depression and may also last longer. Unlike clinical depression, circumstantial or situational depression usually improves after enough time has passed since the stressful event. 

Clinical depression, on the other hand, can severely impair the way you live your life. It can disrupt your sleep, eating habits, relationships, performance at work and school, and overall lifestyle. 

People with this form of depression also have a higher risk of suicide, and situational depression can become clinical depression if it persists for a certain length of time or isn’t treated.

Situational Depression Treatment Options

If your symptoms of situational depression persist, then you may have a more serious condition. If you’re finding it difficult to carry out your usual tasks and activities, speak to a doctor right away. 

Although some people with depression may receive medication for their symptoms like antidepressants, psychotherapy is also important in the recovery from situational depression. Our residential mental health program in Boca is available to people with depression and other disorders like anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and more. 

Our mental illness treatment in Boca Raton, FL, incorporates various therapy programs, including cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy, to help patients understand the source of their conditions and develop effective coping strategies. At our Banyan Mental Health facility, we offer all the recovery resources you and your family will need to heal from the impact of mental illness. 

For more information about our mental health treatment in Florida, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763. 

Related Reading: 

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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