Situational Depression Explained

situational depression

Everyone feels sad at some point in their life. When that sadness does not go away, it could be a type of depression. Situational depression can have longer lasting and more serious symptoms than sadness, which is usually a temporary condition. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to learn more about situational depression and especially how you can get help.

Clinical Depression, Grief, and Situational Depression

There are differences between depression and the grief we may feel after a devastating event. In particular, clinical depression is a serious depressive disorder that is not necessarily related to any specific stressor. The symptoms associated with clinical depression are usually more severe and are more likely to be associated with problems functioning in daily life, at work or at school for example. Individuals with clinical depression are also at greater risk of suicide.

Grief is an individual’s natural response to a loss. Grief also involves a process, as a person will move through different stages while managing their grief. Even though the stages and the rate of progression will differ with each person, there is a point at which the grief is accepted and the individual is able to move on with their life. People experiencing grief are able to find some level of joy and happiness in the things they love to do, while people with depression struggle with finding any kind of enjoyment in life.

Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder, is usually the result of a specific tragic or stressful event or an extraordinarily unpleasant experience. It can last from several weeks to several months after the event or experience.


Any event that a person finds especially stressful can trigger situational depression. For example, the condition can be brought on by:

  • A natural disaster
  • A traumatic injury, sustained in an accident or assault
  • The loss of a job, expected or unexpected
  • Rejection by another individual or by an entity, such as rejection of a job application
  • Financial issues
  • The death of a loved one.


A depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, and tearfulness are common symptoms of situational depression. Other symptoms can include:

  • Missing work or social activities
  • A feeling of nervousness
  • Physical symptoms such as stomachache, headache, or heart palpitations
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • A feeling of being tired
  • Using and abusing drugs or alcohol.

COVID-Related Depression

One natural disaster that we’ve all been through this past year is the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are struggling to deal with the uncertainty and isolation of this traumatic event. The pandemic has been a major cause of grief, both for lost loved ones as well as for lost jobs and the loss of a sense of normalcy in everyday life. It has also been the source of situational depression for a number of individuals who are struggling to deal with the serious and sudden disruption in their lives.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Census Bureau in mid-2020 shows that approximately 28% of all adults in the US reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder and 24% said they had experienced the symptoms of depressive disorder in the past seven days. These numbers are a significant increase over the previous year. In mid-2019, a similar survey found that 8% of adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder and 6.5% reported they had experienced symptoms of depressive disorder in the previous seven days.


Situational depression can be treated. Although the condition usually resolves as time passes, as your situation improves, or when you recover from the traumatic event, you may need to reach out for help to manage the depression. If you are experiencing the symptoms after a traumatic event or as a result of the pandemic and you are finding it difficult to recover, there are treatment options available for you.

Typically, situational depression is treated with mental health counseling or psychotherapy. The therapy might be combined with medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or dopamine reuptake inhibitors, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Counseling or therapy alone, however, can often be the answer you need for your situational depression.

Mental Health Treatment at HVRC

Understanding and recognizing the signs of situational depression can mean the difference in your mental and physical health. If the condition has led to a substance use disorder, it is especially important to get the right treatment for both issues. The professional team at Hemet Valley Recovery Center focuses on your needs as you face unique psychological, medical, and social challenges in your life.

Please contact HVRC for help beginning a journey of recovery. We invite you to take the first step toward healing with our dedicated team of professionals.