Every time I have relapsed into an episode of clinical depression, the first question I always get is, “What caused it?” There is sometimes a trigger, but not always. I grow somewhat annoyed that most people categorize depression as “situational” all of the time, not as a biological condition that can come without a cause.
Karen Swartz, M.D., Director of Clinical Program at The Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, compares depression to asthma when asked to explain the difference between situational depression and “endogenous” (biological) depression. “An asthma attack may be triggered by something in the environment (such as allergens from dust mites and pets) but may also occur with no obvious trigger,” she writes in a Johns Hopkins Depression & Anxiety Bulletin. “Either way, you treat the attack the same way. Depression is no different.”
Once a person is diagnosed with clinical depression it is the severity of the illness that dictates the treatment strategy, not if it was caused by an outside trigger or not.
Depending on whether or not the depression is mild, moderate, or severe, the physician usually recommends psychotherapy, medication, or both. In cases where the depression is clearly situational, psychotherapy is especially helpful in teaching a person new responses to the same or similar triggers. With severe depression, it is often best to avoid digging into issues in a person’s life because he or she is not capable of seeing situations accurately. Once the depression lifts, a person can revisit triggers that caused the depression.
Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.