Facing Situational Depression

About 11.5 percent of people experience what is called situational depression.  Situational depression refers to symptoms of depression that emerge as a result of a specific change or event in one’s life.  Situational depression typically follows a significant event such as a death, divorce, move, or loss of employment.

While situational depression is often a result of something difficult or traumatic, this is not always the case. This is because even when we make our own decision to make a major change (such as leaving home for college, getting married, deciding to have a baby or switching careers), it is not unusual to find ourselves experiencing depressive symptoms as we adjust to this change. Individuals suffering from situational depression who seek out professional help are often diagnosed with what the DSM-IV-TR refers to as an Adjustment Disorder. 

What does Situational Depression look like?

Situational depression symptoms are likely to show up within 90 days of the triggering event. Those at greater risk for situational depression are individuals who are young, have a low educational level, are single, are students, and are from urban areas. Symptoms may include:

●     Anxiety

●     Aches and pains

●     Heart palpitations  

●     Missing work, school, or other social activities 

●     Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits   

●     Alcohol or drug abuse

Situational Depression versus Major Depressive Disorder

Although symptoms of situational depression overlap with those of a Major Depressive Disorder, there are some important key differences. More specifically, symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder are more severe, pervasive and long lasting than those of situational depression. If tackled early on, in most cases, situational depression will dissipate once an individual has adapted to the change or stressor that brought about the symptoms in the first place. However, if the distressing signals one is experiencing are not addressed or if the life change results in ongoing difficulty, symptoms will likely become more intense and may result in a Major Depressive Disorder.


It is easy to attribute symptoms of situational depression to stress that will go away with time.  However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed here and if these symptoms have lasted for a period of two weeks or more, you need relief.  The earlier you seek treatment, the easier it will be to resolve your distress. Obtaining an outside professional opinion will help you to clarify what is going on and develop a plan about what to do about it.

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy” or “therapy”, is a reliable resource for those who desire support in adjusting to the stress and change that we all will eventually confront. A good therapist is there to help you learn coping mechanisms for your unique situation and to help you feel more in control over what is going on in your life. Having a professional in your life whose sole role is to carefully listen, support and guide you toward making positive change, can be an instrumental part of adapting to life’s twists and turns. 

Call Dr. Arian Elfant

Dr. Arian Elfant is an Uptown New Orleans-based therapist that specializes in grief, trauma, and treatment of anxiety and depression. Dr. Elfant can help you work through your situational depression. Contact her with all any questions online or call her directly at (504) 319-6800.