Depression Types An Overview of Situational Depression By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 02, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Situational Depression? Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment Coping What Is Situational Depression? Situational depression involves symptoms of depression that are related to stress. It is not a recognized clinical disorder but is an informal term used to describe what may be more formally diagnosed as a type of adjustment disorder. These feelings of depression are usually triggered by a traumatic event, sudden stress, or major life change. Triggers can include events like a serious accident, divorce, job loss, or death of a loved one. Situational depression may be diagnosed as adjustment disorder with depressed mood. While this condition is characterized by mood-related symptoms, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes adjustment disorder as a type of trauma or stressor-related disorder. Symptoms of Situational Depression Symptoms of situational depression include: Feelings of low mood and sadness Tearfulness; frequent bouts of crying Hopelessness Poor concentration Lack of motivation Loss of pleasure Withdrawing from normal activities Loneliness or social isolation Thoughts of suicide After a difficult life event, whether it is a change in a relationship, the loss of your job, or the death of a loved one, the stress of the situation can cause you to feel sad, helpless, apathetic, lost, irritable, or even hopeless. You might cry frequently, feel listless and unable to focus, or find yourself unable to cope with normal, day-to-day tasks. Things you are normally able to handle seem overwhelming or impossible. Situational depression typically begins within the 90 day period following the stressful event. In most cases, situational depression tends to be short in duration, usually receding by six months after the triggering event. While symptoms usually recede within six months, they may range in severity from milder cases to more severe. Causes of Situational Depression Situational depression begins after some sort of major life change or trauma. Some of the events that may trigger the onset of this form of depression include: Death of a loved one Divorce Relationship problems Relocating Job loss Financial problems Illness Unstable employment Unstable living situation Retirement Serious accidents Natural disasters Social issues at home, school, or work There are certain factors that may increase the risk of situational depression. These include: Having an existing mental health conditionPast childhood stress and traumaExperiencing multiple traumas or stressors at the same timeA family history of depression Situational depression differs from major depressive disorder (MDD) in a few important ways. Where situational depression is triggered by life stressors, MDD often has a range of causes. Situational depression is also shorter in duration, where MDD can be much longer-lasting. If a person has symptoms that meet full criteria for major depression in response to a stressor, they would not be considered to have "situational" depression or adjustment disorder but would be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Common Causes of Depression Diagnosis of Situational Depression In order to be diagnosed with adjustment disorder with depressed mood, these symptoms must also cause marked distress and/or significant impairment in important areas of life functioning. While situational depression tends to be less severe and not as pervasive as major depressive disorder, this does not make the condition any less "real." Situational depression challenges well-being and can make functioning in daily life difficult. Treatment for Situational Depression Talking to your doctor can help determine whether you have situational depression. Fortunately, effective treatments can help you manage your symptoms. These often involve treating the symptoms as well as addressing the stressor that triggered these feelings. Once the stressor has been dealt with, people will begin to adjust, and symptoms generally subside within six months. Situational depression can be a common and natural reaction to a very stressful or traumatic event. The symptoms are usually short-term and start to improve as: Time passesThe individual recoversThe situation improves Mild cases of situational depression can often be handled through self-care and coping strategies. More serious cases may require professional treatment and support. Treatments for situational depression may include individual counseling, group support, and medications to address serious symptoms of depression. In some cases, a combination of psychotherapy and medications may be used to treat situational depression. Psychotherapy approaches may include the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is an effective treatment for depression. CBT helps replace negative thinking patterns with more adaptive ones. It also helps people develop better resilience to stress and improves coping skills, making it helpful for preventing future relapses of depressive symptoms. Medications to treat situational depression may include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Best Online Help for Depression Coping With Situational Depression There are a number of lifestyle changes that may help you cope with situational depression: Eating a healthy, well-balanced dietSticking to regular routinesEngaging in regular exerciseJoining a support group either in your community or onlineStarting a new hobby or recreational activityTalking to friends and family Sometimes situational depression resolves on its own as time passes. People who have good coping skills and resilience may be more likely to recover on their own with adequate self-care and social support. One coping strategy that can be helpful is to put energy toward solving a problem. No matter what sort of stress you are dealing with, looking for things that you can do to improve the situation can help keep you focused on the future. Analyze the situation, consider solutions that might help make things better, and then work toward achieving those goals. This approach also keeps you focused on the aspects of the situation that you can control, rather than dwelling on the things that are out of your hands. If you are having problems dealing with a traumatic event and are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, consider talking to your doctor or a therapist. How to Become More Resilient A Word From Verywell Situational depression can be difficult, but it is important to remember that the things you are feeling are temporary. Good coping mechanisms and the support of your loved ones can often relieve symptoms and help you deal with stressful events. As you recover and the situation gets better, you will likely find that your mood improves over time. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Highlights of changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5. American Psychiatric Publishing. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). Table 3.19, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Adjustment Disorders Comparison; 2016. By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Depression Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.