The coronavirus pandemic has caused an array of negativity, but perhaps one of the biggest has been the collective, underlying feeling of grief.
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People are sad about the state of the world, losing loved ones, restrictions and mask rules. We’re grieving our old sense of normal, long lost routines and all of the changes this year has brought.
With all this considered, it’s no wonder that a global pandemic is the perfect storm for situational depression. But unlike clinical depression, this type of sadness is often triggered by a traumatic or stressful event or change in your life.
Behavioral health therapist Jane Pernotto Ehrman, MEd, RCHES, ACHT, discusses what situational depression is and how to treat it.
You might have already experienced episodes of situational depression in the past without even knowing what it was. Triggers can include:
“Many people are experiencing situational depression right now because of COVID-19 without even realizing what’s actually happening to them,” says Ehrman. “You might be asking yourself ‘why do I feel so sad or angry?’ or ‘why am I so exhausted all the time?’ or maybe you’re having a hard time focusing on work or school.”
Depression and anxiety can be scary for everyone, but especially if you’ve never experienced it before. To these people, the feelings can be daunting and they might feel like they’re losing control.
Ehrman says situational depression varies from person to person, but it can include:
Situational and clinical depression are similar, but not the same.
Typically, people with situational depression will notice mood improvements a few days or weeks after the stressful event has ended or enough time has passed. However, it’s possible that if the event triggering the situational depression continues, or if the person never fully addresses it, it could turn into clinical depression later down the road.
The good news is that situational depression is an adjustment disorder, which usually makes it somewhat short-lived. Many times, the event or stressor that is triggering your depression will end or enough time will pass that it will resolve on its own.
Some people can manage situational depression themselves. Often times learning to cope with the situation involves making a deliberate plan and lifestyle changes.
Ehrman recommends these actions:
Sadness is a normal human emotion. We all feel sad from time to time, especially when unfortunate events happen or things change.
So if you’re still sad, but able to get up, get dressed and go to work every day – how do you know when it crosses the line and you should seek help?
Ehrman says that if you’re noticing that your situational depression seems to be lasting for several weeks with no real breakthroughs, it might be time to talk to someone who can help you cope better.
Talking about your problems or feelings with someone who isn’t personally involved can ease your recovery and help you identify triggers. A professional therapist understands that it might be hard for you to talk about what you’re going through, but they won’t judge you or rush you.
Often times a therapist can help you determine if what you’re experiencing is just a funk, or if it’s something much more serious. And just because the world is going through a global pandemic doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence. People go to therapy for reasons big and small.
“Depression is a lot like looking at life through a keyhole,” explains Ehrman. “If all you can see is your problem or your struggle – you lose sight of perspective and everything else that’s going on around you. People with really strong depression have lost the capacity to imagine a future. If you start to feel that way and like your sadness has started to affect everything, it’s a red flag to get help.”