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An image of a person sitting in front of a screen | Depression Triggers

Many life events, even positive events, can act as depression triggers. If you find your depression being triggered often, it is time to seek depression treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the primary cause of disability worldwide.

APA (American Psychological Association) reports that:

  • One in six adults will experience depression at some stage in life.
  • 7% of the U.S. population suffers from a major depressive episode in any given year.

Depression typically first presents in the late teens or early 20s, although it can manifest at any time. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with depression with genetics playing a significant contributory role.

How can depression be triggered, then?

What Triggers Depression?

If you have been wondering “Can depression be triggered?” There are many possible causes.

Biochemical, structural, and physiological changes can occur in the brain, triggering depression. There are multiple causes for these brain changes, including:

  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Physical health problems
  • Side effects of medications
  • Disruption to mood regulation mechanism in the brain
  • Stressful life events
  • Negative life events
  • Depression triggers (see below)

Situational causes can also bring on a recurrence of depression.

Common Triggers for Depression

There are many common triggers for depression. Identifying your personal triggers for depression can help you to prevent a depressive episode from developing. If it’s too late for that, being aware of a depression trigger can help you to determine when you need treatment.

Here are ten leading depression triggers:

  1. Grief and loss
  2. Stressful life events
  3. Major life transitions
  4. Chronic illness
  5. Weak dietary habits
  6. Insufficient exercise
  7. Poor quality of sleep
  8. Substance use
  9. Financial stress
  10. Quitting depression treatment

1) Grief and loss

Any form of loss can trigger depression. Bereavement is the most common form of loss associated with the development of depressive episodes.

While sadness and grief are normal and healthy responses to loss, if the symptoms of depression persist, you should consult your healthcare provider.

Depressed feelings following a personal loss can either precede depression or develop into a depressive episode. It is also possible to suffer grief and major depressive disorder concurrently.

2) Stressful life events

Stressful life events, whether positive or negative, can often trigger depression. Common examples of these triggers include:

  • Job loss
  • Financial stress
  • Getting married
  • Relationship breakups
  • Addition of new family member
  • Graduation
  • Relocating
  • Experiencing violence
  • All forms of abuse
  • Major disasters
  • Retirement

3) Major life transitions

All life transitions can negatively impact mood, even when the transition is positive. Change can push you out of your comfort zone, sometimes leading to stress and depressed mood.

Imagine a job promotion that involves leaving a familiar job for one that is more challenging and unfamiliar. Being surrounded by new people and facing a steep learning curve at work can trigger stress and affect mood.

When life transitions are negative – getting divorced or losing a job, for example – stress and depression often follow. Adjustment disorder is a stress-related condition that can cause depressive symptoms to develop after life transitions. In some cases, adjustment disorder later develops into major depressive disorder.

4) Chronic illness

Research shows that chronic illness is consistently implicated in a heightened prevalence of depressive disorders and depressive symptoms. Researchers estimate that chronic medical conditions could contribute to between 10% and 15% of all diagnoses of depression. There are several possible causes of this correlation between chronic illness and depression:

  • Some illnesses can cause depressive symptoms – hypothyroidism, for example.
  • It can be traumatic and depressing to receive a diagnosis of HIV, cancer, or multiple sclerosis.
  • Some medications – antibiotics, heart medications, and hormones – may cause depression.
  • Some illnesses like heart attack, erectile dysfunction, and Parkinson’s disease are associated with depression.

Many chronic illnesses or their treatments can act as triggers for depression. Conversely, depression can slow recovery in many illnesses, and can also increase the risk of death in some illnesses. Illness and depression have a reciprocal relationship.

5) Weak dietary habits

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly are both vital for sound physical and mental health.

This review of studies suggests that certain foods could reduce the risk of depression. Researchers concluded that other foods could increase the risk of depression.

The following dietary habits could reduce the risk of depression:

  • Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and fish
  • Limiting intake of processed foods
  • Following a specialized anti-inflammatory diet
  • Balancing your diet
  • Ensuring you get enough fatty acids, magnesium, and folic acid

The following dietary habits could increase the risk of depression:

  • Excessive intake of processed foods
  • Consuming too much added sugar – in soda, for instance
  • Eating too many foods known to trigger increased inflammation
  • Failing to get enough exercise – see below

6) Insufficient exercise

This 2020 review of research indicates that depression could be an effective treatment for major depressive disorder in some adults. Results were variable, though, and more research is required to understand the role of exercise more fully.

Much research shows that exercising can increase mood. Physical exercise causes the release of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) associated with positive mood.

7) Poor quality of sleep

Depression and disturbed sleep patterns can be interrelated. The symptoms of depression can impede sleep, while consistently poor sleep can contribute to the development of depression. As with many co-occurring conditions, it is not always possible to determine which came first.

According to Sleep Foundation, of adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder:

15% have hypersomnia (sleeping too much, especially during the day)

20% suffer from obstructive sleep apnea

75% experience insomnia

During depressive episodes, some people will cycle between hypersomnia and insomnia.

8) Substance use

SAMHSA’s NSDUH 2020 reports that 17 million adults in the United States experienced both mental illness and drug addiction (substance use disorder) in 2020. When mental illness and addiction co-occur, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

People diagnosed with depression are more likely to use alcohol or depression. People diagnosed with substance use disorder often find their mood is impacted by drug use.

When those grappling with mental health disorders like depression self-medicate their symptoms with substances, this provides nothing but short-term relief. Self-medication will not address the underlying cause. It is also likely to inflame depression, while introducing the additional problem of addiction.

9) Financial stress

Financial problems can cause depression. This longitudinal study found that low household income is associated with mental health disorders like depression. Additionally, researchers concluded that a reduction in household income can trigger depression.

10) Quitting depression treatment

Some people find that straying from depression treatment can trigger a recurrence of symptoms.

If you are prescribed antidepressant medications, you should not stop using the medications without consulting your physician, even if you are starting to feel better.

An image of a man sitting in front of a lake at sunset | Depression Triggers

How to Manage Depression Triggers

An awareness of depressive episode triggers is essential for properly managing those triggers. The more you know about yourself or a loved one struggling with depression, the more easily you can act accordingly.

If you are subjected to a trigger that you are powerless to immediately change – a life transition, a chronic illness, or unexpected financial hardship – you can still take steps to reduce the stress induced by the event.

If you feel stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed by something in your life, consider the following steps:

  • Use positive self-talk: Reassure yourself that what you are going through is only temporary. Your depressed mood will lift.
  • Practice self-care: If you feel depression triggers looming, double down on nurturing yourself. Take a long soak in the tub with some bubbles and soothing scents. Light some aromatherapy candles. Meditate. Take a brief walk outside to connect with nature. Stimulate your senses and pamper yourself in the face of any depression trigger.
  • Reach out for help: It might be tempting to spend time alone when you are feeling depressed, but social isolation can inflame depression triggers. If you are having problems in your life, reach out to a trusted loved one. Consult your healthcare provider. Request a referral to a mental healthcare professional.

Alternatively, explore your many options for depression treatment.

Get Depression Help at Los Angeles Therapy Network

If you are suffering from depression, remember that:

  • Depression almost always responds favorably to treatment.
  • Psychotherapies like CBT and DBT can alleviate symptoms of depression and help you to cope more robustly.
  • Medications can be highly effective for the treatment.
  • There is no need to battle depression alone.

Reach out to Los Angeles Therapy Network and discover more about our depression treatments programs and the various forms of therapy that could help you conquer major depressive disorder.

For more information and immediate help if required, call 833.604.1287 today.

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