Common Depression Triggers to Look for and Manage

Common depression triggers to look for

Approximately 1 in 10 adults in the United States struggled with a depressive episode each year. While some deal with depression on a long-term basis, others are affected by depression triggers that can stem from past events, traumas, illness and other conditions.

Understanding and identifying these triggers can make it much easier to manage these episodes. Read on to learn more about the clinical definition of depression and how depression can be triggered.

What Is Depression?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is defined as a common mental illness that can affect all aspects of your life and your behavior. You may find it hard to concentrate on any activities you once loved, and it may be so severe that it affects your ability to go to school or work.

While depression can affect anyone at any time, women in their late teens and older are more likely to experience depression at least once in their lifetime compared to men. Depression is also more likely to affect those who have relatives previously diagnosed with depression. Individuals with low self-esteem may have an increased risk of depression, and environmental factors like poverty, abusive relationships and exposure to violence can all be contributing factors.

Some of the most common symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Fidgety behaviors, including pacing
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Lack of energy

What Does It Mean to Be Triggered?

If you’ve ever heard someone say something or experienced an event that reminded you of a past trauma, chances are you’ve been triggered. Triggers can be anything that reminds you of a past event that caused you feelings of sadness or fear. This could include graphic images, specific songs, odors, colors and even certain people. Sometimes, triggers are mild, and an individual can recover quickly, but triggers can also be severe enough to cause panic and extreme distress.

Some people believe that individuals who are triggered tend to be overly sensitive and have a hard time coping. In reality, most triggers are due to a significantly distressing situation.

At the same time, not all trauma results in triggers. In fact, two individuals exposed to similar events may respond very differently depending on their age at the time, whether they have underlying health conditions or mental illness, their family history and the amount of support from family and friends.

Common Triggers of a Depressive Phase

Individual triggers vary depending on the events that happened throughout one’s life. A trigger could involve a single word, the way someone treats you or a physical factor. Some of the most common triggers associated with depressive episodes are:

  • Grief. It’s only natural to feel sad and to grieve the loss of a loved one. The loss of a family member or friend is among the most common triggers of an episode of major depression.
  • Hormonal changes. Pregnancy and menopause cause a variety of hormonal changes in the body. It’s not uncommon for women to experience postpartum depression after having a child and for older women, the lack of hormones in the body can result in mental stress and sadness.
  • Seasonal changes. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically starts in late fall and can last until spring or summer. It usually occurs when the days begin to get shorter and an individual is unable to get outside.
  • Lack of sleep. Sleep helps your body stay alert and active and makes it easier to deal with stress. Sleep disturbances, insomnia and health problems like sleep apnea can trigger a depressive episode.
  • Alcohol or substance abuse. Alcohol and drug use can make symptoms of depression worse. Research shows that individuals with a history of mental illness are 25% more likely to consume alcohol and approximately 70% more likely to abuse illegal drugs.

How to Recognize and Manage Depression Triggers

Depressive episodes that are caused by triggers last weeks to months at a time. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may last for over a year. If you can quickly identify your triggers, these tips and tricks may help you move on more quickly.

1. Track Your Triggers

Keep a diary of your triggers. Log your response during specific events and learn to identify the signs of depression early on.

2. Remain Calm

Triggers can often lead to panic, which can contribute to low moods and other symptoms. Focus on remaining calm and working through your triggers. Focus on breathing techniques, try telehealth appointments or talk to a friend or loved one.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Condition

Learn as much as you can about your depression diagnosis. Understand that the symptoms will soon pass. In your log, keep track of what coping mechanisms work.

4. Exercise Self-Care Techniques

Self-care is an important aspect of both physical and mental health for anyone. Take time for yourself to recharge and relax. This can mean something different for everyone but might include a hot bath, an afternoon walk, reading or yoga. Deep breathing is an excellent way to slow your body down and relieve stress and depression.

Common Forms of Treatment for Depression Triggers

One factor in understanding how depression can be triggered is also knowing when to seek help. Common treatment methods include counseling, meditation and self-help. Some people respond well to massage, acupuncture, hypnosis and biofeedback. Your physician may also recommend an antidepressant if your depression is long term or recurring.

Seeking Care for Depression

It’s normal to go through periods of highs and lows with your moods. Sometimes, these moods go away on their own with a little self-care, including getting enough sleep, exercising and spending time with family and friends. If you find your depression lasts more than 2 weeks and it’s beginning to interfere with normal activities, it may be time to seek help from your physician or a mental health professional. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek help immediately.

At Restore Mental Health, we can help you identify the source of your depression and determine the type of treatment that’s right for you. Contact us 24/7 to speak to one of our trained professionals who can connect you with the help you need as soon as possible.