Situational Depression: What We Need To Know About Situation-Specific Depression?

Last Update on September 29, 2023 : Published on October 2, 2023
Tips to Cope with Situational Depression

During my teenage years, I appeared for a medical entrance examination, and sadly I failed at it. At that point in my life, I thought my life was over! It took me a lot of months to get over the failure. My life became so miserable that I couldn’t explore other career options. I was counseled by a mental health professional for weeks and I found that I struggled with situational depression.

Situational depression is not a formal diagnosis but it’s a term to describe a specific type of depression that developed in response to a specific event or situation. Depression is one of the common mental health issues faced by approximately 280 million people in the world.

Surprisingly, situational depression is one of the underdiagnosed mental health conditions. In this blog, let’s take a deep look at situational depression along with coping tips shared by mental health professionals.

What is Situational Depression?

Situational depression is a short-term type of depression caused by a specific situation. Situational depression can also be referred to as reactive depression.  It can develop right after experiencing a stressful or traumatic event.

In psychology, situational depression comes under the type of adjustment disorder. it can be so strong and severe that it can interrupt your everyday functioning after experiencing traumatic depression.

Situations That Increase the Risk of Developing Situational Depression

  • Chronic illness
  • Sudden death of a loved one or family member
  • Relocating to a new city or country
  • Relationship problems
  • Problems at work or school
  • Career-related issues
  • Demise of a pet

Understanding the Difference Between Situational and clinical Depression

Situational Depression Clinical Depression
Situational depression is developed due to a direct response to a specific event. Clinical depression may develop for no specific reason
Generally caused by major or sudden changes in life such as the sudden death of a loved one Symptoms of clinical depression and situational depression are quite the same.
Temporary or short-term type of depression that subsides after adjustment. Symptoms are more severe as compared to relocation or situational depression.
Increased risk of self-harm or suicidal ideation Increased risk of self-harm or suicidal ideation
Symptoms are quite similar to clinical depression or other types of major depressive disorders Clinical depression is a part of major depressive disorders.

Symptoms of Situational Depression

Symptoms of situational depression are quite similar to clinical depression but the major difference is that they vary from different personalities to personalities. It usually depends on the severity of the situation and the intensity of handling such situations in life.

Situational depression can result in reduced overall quality of life. below-listed are some of the common symptoms of situational depression:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Constant crying
  • Constant worrying
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to complete regular tasks (such as bathing, resting, eating, and others)
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Lack of interest
  • Lack of proper sleep or insomnia
  • Reduced social activities or interactions
  • Suicidal ideation or self-harm

Note: If the information presented in this article, triggers suicidal thoughts, we request you to please contact: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For support and assistance from a trained mental health advisor, call 988. For emergencies, call 911

Causes of Situational Depression

Situational depression can be caused by different stressful situations such as:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Experiencing natural disasters or life-or-death experiences such as accident or physical assault
  • Family issues
  • Financial issues
  • Job loss
  • Situational changes having a baby, retiring, getting engaged, and more
  • Social issues at work or school
  • Struggling with chronic illnesses
  • Sudden death of a loved one

Higher Risks Associated with Situational Depression

  • Inner childhood wounds
  • Unresolved trauma
  • Existing mental health issues
  • Multiple life problems occurring at the same time
  • Brain changes or brain structure changes
  • Abnormal hormonal changes
  • Genetical changes
  • Having a family member with a history of depression
  • Ongoing stressors

Diagnosis & Treatment of Situational Depression

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorder 5th Edition Updated Version (DSM-5-TR), situational depression is developed after experiencing a series of stressful events or traumatic events.

If you think you or your loved one might be struggling with situational depression, the first step to take toward treatment is to connect with a registered and experienced mental health professional.

In order to be diagnosed with situational depression, you must be experiencing:

  • Behavioral or emotional symptoms for more than three months after a stressful event
  • Symptoms associated with major or severe stress
  • Symptoms must be interrupting your regular quality of life
  • Symptoms must not be colliding with other mental health conditions such as grieving or social anxiety disorder

During the diagnosis of situational depression or any type of depression, your mental health professional is likely to conduct an assessment or questionnaire related to:

  • Symptoms
  • Medical or mental health history
  • Family history
  • Comparison of symptoms to rule out the presence of other mental health conditions

Coming forth to the treatment of situational depression, below are the common and effective treatment options for situational depression:


Medications are prescribed to treat specific symptoms such as depressive episodes, stress, or anxiety. Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and dopamine reuptake blockers are generally prescribed by a professional or physical health provider to treat situational depression.


Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the front-line treatment option for situational depression as it helps in learning coping mechanisms and enhancing resilience towards stressful events.

Generally, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is applied to cope with the symptoms of situational depression and address negative thoughts that trigger the response. Additionally, below are some commonly used therapies for overcoming situational depression:

  1. Psychodynamic therapy
  2. Family therapy
  3. Couples therapy
  4. Group therapy

Self-Help Coping Tips for Situational Depression

Below-listed are quick self-help coping tips for overcoming situational depression along with psychotherapy or medications:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Keep your body active throughout the day
  • Focus on eating nutritious meals
  • Try relaxation techniques for overcoming stress or anxiety
  • Stay connected with your loved ones
  • Try positive affirmations for depression
  • Join a support group
  • Establish a strict routine
  • Avoid alcohol or drug abuse
  • Practice yoga or deep-breathing exercises
  • Try mindfulness-based meditation techniques

Key Takeaway: Finding the Right Support

In some severe cases, situational depression can cause a higher risk of self-harm or suicidal ideation, during such cases:

If you’re dealing with a teenager or children with suicidal ideation or situational depression, follow the guide: Parent’s Guide to identify suicidal thoughts in children

I hope this blog helps you understand what is situational depression and how to cope with it. For more such content, connect with us through all social media platforms.

Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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