Clinical vs. Situational Depression

What is the difference between situational depression and clinical depression?

As the name implies, situational depression is generally brought on by a stressful situation. In this case, the person feels overwhelmed by a situation that also exhausts their coping abilities. The symptoms often subside as the situation comes under control or becomes more manageable. This is much different than clinical depression where there is no identifiable “cause.” Sometimes, people will start with a situational depression that develops into a clinical depression. Similarly, people with clinical depression may experience an overwhelming situation that worsens their depressive symptoms.

Situational depression is a short-term, stress-related type of depression. It can develop after you experience a traumatic event or series of events. Situational depression is a type of adjustment disorder. It can make it hard for you to adjust to your everyday life following a traumatic event. It’s also known as reactive depression.

Events that can cause situational depression include:

  • problems at work or school
  • illness
  • death of a loved one
  • moving
  • relationship problems 

Symptoms of situational depression vary from person to person. Situational depression can magnify the intensity of stressful life events. This stress can cause severe disruption to your daily life. 

Common symptoms of situational depression include:

  • sadness
  • hopelessness
  • lack of enjoyment in normal activities
  • regular crying
  • constant worrying or feeling anxious or stressed out
  • sleeping difficulties
  • disinterest in food
  • trouble focusing
  • trouble carrying out daily activities
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • avoiding social situations and interaction
  • not taking care of important matters like paying your bills or going to work
  • thoughts or attempts at suicide

Clinical depression can last for a long time. It may require more long-term management and an in-depth treatment plan.

A doctor may recommend a combination of psychotherapy or psychological counseling and medication to treat clinical depression.

A primary care physician or psychiatrist can prescribe medicine or make a referral to a mental health professional if they feel that the individual requires this level of care.

In severe cases, especially if a person tries to self-harm, they may need to stay in the hospital or attend an outpatient treatment program until symptoms improve.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can also support recovery.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 16 million people in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2015.

Situational depression occurs after life-altering events, but clinical or major depression has a range of causes and is a longer-term condition. With a healthful lifestyle and the right treatment plan, both forms of depression are manageable.

In either case, you should not allow any depression to go on for long periods as it can very well be progressive as these articles bring out.

As always, please do not self-diagnose.  Seek help from a professional counselor or doctor if you are struggling with any form of depression.

Sources: Medical News Today/Healthline/ Adapted – BH

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