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15 Common Depression Triggers & How to Manage Them

by | Last updated Mar 18, 2021 at 10:59AM | Published on Feb 22, 2021 | Mental Health

woman with depression

Depression triggers can happen all the time. As of right now, almost 10% of Americans live with depression. The World Health Organization believes depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Thankfully, depression is a treatable mental health condition, and there are various ways people can manage or control these depression triggers to prevent depression relapse. 

Understanding Depression

Most people think depression only occurs after a specific situation. However, people can develop depression even when everything around them is perfectly fine. Depression is the result of various biochemical changes in the brain that can produce these symptoms. In addition, depression can also be the result of:

  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Physical health problems
  • Brain dysfunction
  • Medication side effects
  • Stressful life events
  • Various triggers
  • Family history of depression
  • Alcohol abuse or drug abuse

15 Depression Triggers & Tips to Manage Them

Identifying depression triggers can help people healthily manage them. This helps them prevent major depressive episodes, adverse side effects, and other devastating consequences. These are some of the most common depression triggers and strategic tips on managing them with positive reinforcements. 

1. Grief and Loss

Grief and loss, also known as bereavement, is one of the most common situational triggers. The issue with grief and loss is that these are normal responses to life situations. It’s challenging to distinguish between sadness and depression. It’s essential to look for signs of anger, anxiety, and an inability to perform daily activities. 

How to manage it: Losing someone is never a comfortable experience. For those with depression, it’s essential to seek support or counseling to come to terms with the loss. If someone is already taking medication for depression, adjusting their doses during this grief might be beneficial. 

2. Rumination

Grief can also advance to what we know as rumination. This happens when grief gets out of control. People dwell on the grief rather than try to manage it. For someone with rumination, grief becomes an obsession that ends up interfering with their everyday life. Rumination increases people’s risk of worsening their depression and promotes suicidal ideation.

How to manage it: Usually, family members and friends of those with rumination are the ones that notice the symptoms. In this case, psychotherapy, medications, and sometimes hospitalization might be necessary to prevent a suicide attempt. 

3. Rejection

Humans have an innate need for acceptance and approval from others. Rejection can be triggering for those with low self-esteem. Some people are even more sensitive to social rejection and respond intensely to these feelings. Unfortunately, someone with depression often struggles with symptoms like depressed mood, social isolation, and lack of energy, all things that make them more likely to be rejected. 

How to manage it: Dealing with rejection is difficult even for those without depression. It’s essential to surround yourself with a positive support group that understands your condition. Coming up with positive affirmations and mantras to use when struggling with rejection can help someone remain calm and positive without the situation affecting their self-esteem. 

4. Stress

Stress is one of the most common causes of depression. In particular, stress releases cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, which changes brain cells. Stress activates the immune system to release cytokines that are linked to depression. 

How to manage it: Chronic stress has many negative consequences, even in otherwise healthy individuals. Practicing various stress coping mechanisms is critical to remain calm and balanced. Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and other alternatives such as exercise or listening to music can help control stress levels. 

5. Financial Problems

Money problems and financial difficulties can increase stress and trigger depression. One study following the effects of money on mental health found that a drop in income increased the risk of depression. Financial difficulties can also lead people to unhealthy habits such as gambling in efforts to fix their situation.

How to manage it: Financial difficulties are stressful and pressing. It’s important to talk to family, friends, and even a therapist about the situation. At the same time, it’s important to find healthier coping mechanisms to manage the situation. Walking, spending time in nature, and a change of scenery can help people feel calmer and manage their stress. 

6. Life Transitions

Even positive life transitions can be triggering. Things like a job promotion can involve more stress. Moving to a new city means leaving some friends and family members behind. At the same time, getting divorced, losing a job, or other negative transitions can trigger depression. This is mostly known as adjustment disorder when someone develops depressive symptoms after life changes.

How to manage it: When the change is manageable, say, a move to a new city, it’s important to start addressing the situation beforehand. Talk to a therapist about your fears or worries of moving to a new city. When these changes are not predictable, it’s important to focus on managing the emotions after the fact. As always, a support group, the right coping mechanisms, and the common depression symptoms’ alertness are essential to control the situation. 

7. Illness

Estimates say that illnesses contribute to 10 to 15 percent of all cases of depression. Sometimes the illness itself may cause depressive symptoms, it could be a traumatic experience, or it can happen as side effects of the medications. Still, co-occurring diseases are relatively common. 

How to manage it: It’s important to recognize the correlation between illnesses and mental illness. If the symptoms of depression are triggered by medication, consider talking to your doctor to find alternatives. Sometimes, when there’s no other medication option, psychotherapy alongside drug treatment might be needed to manage the symptoms. 

8. Substance Use

Addiction and depression are tightly related. Many of the mental and physical changes seen in depression appear in substance use disorder. They also share many risk factors and have overlapping triggers.

Substance abuse and depression are a vicious cycle that feeds on each other when there’s no treatment. People with depression use drugs to self-medicate, which can trigger depression symptoms; thus, it becomes an endless cycle. 

How to manage it: In this case, seeking help for substance abuse with a dual-diagnosis program that addresses co-occurring disorders like these is critical. Failing to treat depression and alcohol and drug abuse simultaneously won’t help address the core issue, and people are more likely to relapse in the future. 

9. Lack of Sleep

Interestingly, sleep deprivation is closely associated with depression. About 75% of people with depression have insomnia, and another 40% have hypersomnia (sleep excessively). One study found that people with insomnia have a higher risk of depression by four times. 

How to manage it: Sleep problems are relatively common in general. Creating a sleep routine is one of the best ways to help with this issue. When people follow this routine, it’s easier to regulate sleep hormones and promote healthier sleep. Natural remedies can also be helpful. If not, various medications can help with insomnia and sleep disturbances overall. 


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10. Hormonal Changes

Hormones play a critical role in the onset of depression and its symptoms. Women, in particular, experience a rollercoaster of hormonal reactions during their period. Older women may also undergo hormonal changes as they approach menopause; having a baby can also be triggered. Hormones regulate many of the brain’s functions and can be the trigger of depressive symptoms. 

How to manage it: Keeping a journal can help you identify hormonal patterns that point to your cycle’s critical days that affect depression. Also, talk therapy can help people learn coping mechanisms for these symptoms. Hormonal medications or antidepressants may also be an option. 

11. Seasonal Changes

Another common depression trigger is seasonal changes. For example, during winter, many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of seasonal depression. So far, a decrease in vitamin D levels alongside sun exposure is known as the culprit of this condition. However, other factors like seasonal loneliness, holidays, and situational stress can also play a role.

How to manage it: To control SAD symptoms, it’s important to up your vitamin D intake during the season, particularly in areas where nights are longer. Spending time outdoors, at least one to two hours a day, can also help manage the symptoms. Finally, some people might benefit from light therapy, which mimics the effects of the sun.  

12. Relationship Issues

Being in a toxic relationship, having marriage problems, and going through a divorce can be an increasingly stressful situation. Not only is it emotionally stressful, but these situations also trigger life changes that can be scary. Relationship issues can lead to many stressful situations, result in traumatic experiences, and even lead to self-harm thoughts. 

How to manage it: For couples, seeking counseling therapy may help save the relationship. In a divorce, particularly those with children, seeking family therapy is key to get through the adjustment period healthily. 

13. Poor Habits

Not everyone associates having poor habits with depression. However, having a poor diet can directly affect hormones and mood. Certain foods, significantly those high in fat, can exacerbate feelings of lethargy. Many studies have proven the relationship between a poor diet and depression symptoms. 

How to manage it: Make sure to follow a nutritional-dense diet with food choices that promote hormonal balance. However, it’s important to stay away from junk food, fried foods, sugars, and overindulge in unhealthy options that can trigger depression symptoms. 

14. Sexual Problems

Stress and lack of sexual desire often coexist with depression. Sexual problems often cause ridges in relationships that can worsen anxiety and intensify depression symptoms. In addition, sexual issues also affect the self-esteem of both individuals in a relationship. 

How to manage it: First, discuss with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying physical or medical causes. For those with depression, lack of sexual interest can also be a side effect of antidepressants. In this case, consult with your provider about changing medications to address this issue. If not, consulting with a sex therapist can help people find coping mechanisms with this issue and explore different options to regain their sex life. 

15. Not Following Treatment

Last but not least, not the following treatment is a common depression trigger most people ignore. It’s relatively common for those with depression to stop taking their medications. Some people do it after they see a noticeable improvement.

However, some people experience negative side effects of antidepressants, such as lethargy, null moods, and an overall downer attitude. Both are common reasons people cite for not following treatment. 

How to manage it: Of course, the best way is to stay in treatment. However, it’s also important to remember that if you believe treatment isn’t working or feel it’s affecting your health negatively, talk to your doctor about it. Besides, most of the time, your doctor will try different medications, adjust the dose, or propose alternative therapies that can help in treatment. 

You are not alone. You deserve help.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute is an industry leader in addiction treatment. Our team of top addiction experts specialize in dual diagnosis treatment and are committed to ensuring that our patients are treated individually. Call us today to start your recovery journey.

In the end, no matter what, seeking help is always the best solution. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our licensed therapists can help you or a family member with depression. Overall, we use a comprehensive and personalized approach that adapts treatment plans to fit your unique needs. More than an addiction center, our dual-diagnosis programs cater to mental health and substance use disorders together, so we can ensure long-lasting recovery for our patients. 

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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