Situational Depression

Strategies for Getting Better

Situational depression, also known as “adjustment disorder with depressed mood,” can happen to anyone at any age and occurs when someone has a hard time coping with a major change or event.

Situational depression often goes away in time, especially if the affected individual is able to talk about the issue. As the person begins to adjust to the situation, their deep sadness may gradually lift, leading to recovery. However, if recovery does not occur within a few weeks, the more severe condition of clinical depression may develop, which can be more difficult to resolve.

Signs and symptoms of situational depression can overlap with those of clinical depression, but typically resolve sooner. If symptoms seem particularly pronounced or long-lasting, treatment can help.

Common signs of situational depression include:

  • Sadness, tearfulness
  • Feeling nervous, tired or hopeless
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches or heart palpitations
  • Behavioral signs such as arguing and fighting more or skipping school/work
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Using alcohol or drugs

A person who experiences situational depression can usually overcome it through counseling that helps improve attitude and perspective, daily behaviors and interpersonal functioning, but it is important not to leave it untreated for too long. Medication can also help if the symptoms are severe, talk with your doctor.

Whether the diagnosis is situational depression or clinical depression (or another condition), seek depression treatment and ongoing support. Studies show that 60% to 80% of all cases of depression can be treated effectively with structured forms of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication.

For those with situational depression, ruminating over the negative things that have happened in your life without seeking help may make matters worse.

“Rumination makes you much more likely to develop depression,” says David Sack, MD, chief medical officer of Promises Behavioral Health |

Dr. Sack notes that treatment can help you break the cycle of depressive thoughts by getting you into healthier and more optimistic thought patterns.

Don’t just notice the things that go bad, he advises. Make a point of noticing the things that go well. Dr. Sack also recommends mindfulness meditation and yoga to complement counseling or psychotherapy. These are proven techniques for keeping thoughts in the moment and breaking negative cycles of thought, especially those tied to upsetting events or situations.

Exercise and hobbies may help treat situational depression. Situational depression is a natural response to a traumatic event.

The condition usually resolves:

  • as time passes after the stressful situation or event
  • as the situation improves
  • when the person recovers from the life event In most cases, situational depression is only short-term. Mild cases of situational depression often resolve without active treatment. However, some strategies can help a person reduce the effects of situational depression.

A few helpful lifestyle changes include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • keeping to regular sleeping habits
  • talking to loved ones
  • joining a formal support group
  • taking up a hobby or leisure activity

People who find it difficult to recover from a traumatic experience might wish to seek consultation with a psychotherapist.

If the issue revolves around family dynamics or difficulties, family therapy is another option.

People with severe situational depression might receive a prescription for medications including antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Always talk to your doctor is you are experiencing situational depression.