This type of reaction is often referred to as situational depression. Unlike major depression, where you are overwhelmed by symptoms of depression for a long time, situational depression usually goes away once you have adapted to your new situation.
Understanding situational depression
Situational depression is usually considered an adjustment disorder because the person affected is having problems adjusting to a situation rather than true depression. But if situational depression is left untreated, it could develop into a major depression.
Situational depression means that the symptoms are set off by some set of circumstances or event which could lead to major depression, on the other hand it may simply be a period of grief or dysfunctional adjustment.
However situational depression may need treatment if emotional and behavioural symptoms reduce normal functioning in social, familial or occupational arenas.
Who gets Situational Depression and Why?
Situational depression is common and can happen to anyone; about 10 percent of adults and up to 30 percent of adolescents experience this condition at some point. Men and women are affected equally. The most common cause of situational depression is stress. Some typical events that lead to it include:
• Loss of a relationship,
• Loss of a job,
• Loss of a loved one,
• Serious illness,
• Experiencing a traumatic event such as a disaster, crime or accident.
What are the symptoms of situational depression?
The most common symptoms of situational depression are a depressed mood, tearfulness, and feelings of hopelessness. Children or teenagers are more likely to show negative behavioural symptoms such as fighting or truancy.
Other symptoms include:
• Feeling nervous,
• Having physical symptoms such as headache, stomach ache or heart palpitations,
• Missing work, school or social activities,
• Changes in sleeping or eating habits,
• Feeling tired,
• Abusing alcohol or drugs.
How is Situational Depression Diagnosed and Treated?
A diagnosis of situational depression, or adjustment disorder is made when symptoms of depression occur within three months of a stress causing event, are more severe than expected, or interfere with normal functioning.
Your doctor may conduct tests to rule out other physical illnesses, and you may need a psychological evaluation to make sure you are not suffering from a more serious condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or a more serious type of depression.
The best treatment for situational depression is counselling with a mental health professional that is much more likely to view depression as a reaction to negative life events.
The goal of treatment is to help you cope with your stress and get back to normal. Support groups are often helpful. Family therapy may be especially important for children and teenagers. In some cases, you may need medication to help control anxiety or for trouble sleeping.
Many people struggle with social isolation, financial limitations, or chronic health problems. These can be overcome by making changes in attitudes, behaviours, and interpersonal functioning.
If you have situational depression, you should know that most people get better within about six months of the stressful event. However, it is important to get help, because situational depression can lead to a more severe type of depression or substance abuse if untreated.
For many people with situational depression, the coping skills they learn in treatment can become valuable tools to help them successfully face the future.
Author: Agnes Hove Chiweshe
About the author
Agnes Hove Chiweshe is the Chief Executive Officer of Asher Health (Pty) Ltd, a South African Health and Wellness and productivity management Solutions organization. She possesses a Master of Science (MSc) Degree in Strategic Management, a Business Management (BBA) Degree and a Diploma in Nursing. She has over 10 years Management Consulting experience specializing in Organizational Development, Strategic and Organisational Planning, IT/ Business alignment, Business Process Improvement, interpreting strategy, Employee Wellness and the management of Human Capital.