Depression Triggers

10 Biggest Depression Triggers -- and How to Turn Them Off
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It's downright scary: More than 20 million Americans can expect to suffer from depression in the coming year. But you don't have to be one of them if you're alert to the events and situations that can turn the blues into something more serious.

Here, the 10 most common depression triggers -- and what to do to prevent them from dragging you down.

Loss of Job and Depression

Why losing a job may trigger depression: In addition to causing financial stress, losing a job can jeopardize your sense of identity and feelings of self-worth. Unemployment and financial stress also strain marriages and relationships, bringing conflict that compounds stress and unhappiness.

Who's most vulnerable: Statistics show that the older you are or the higher you were paid, the longer it's likely to take to find work again. Also, those employed in downsized industries and fields, such as the auto industry, may have to retrain or start over in a new field, which can be frightening and can undermine self-confidence.

What helps: Connect with others in the same situation, whether it's through a job skills class, training program, or job-search support group. Also, if you can afford it, use a career counselor or coach to help you create a plan, stay accountable, and feel supported. Experts also recommend building a support network by reaching out to friends and colleagues and setting up regular events throughout the week. The more you can structure your time with lunches, walks, and other get-togethers, the better. Try signing up for a morning exercise class or schedule regular morning walks to get you going each day.

If time goes by and it doesn't look like you're going to find a replacement job quickly, consider volunteering. It's not only a way to boost your self-esteem and get out of the house but it's also great for learning new skills and making new connections.

Sexual Problems and Depression

Why sexual problems may trigger depression: According to sexual health expert Beverly Whipple, professor at Rutgers University and author of The Science of Orgasm (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), depression and sexual problems are interrelated in a vicious cycle. Sexual problems and sexual health issues can trigger depression by removing one of the most effective outlets we use to feel good. But many of the most common antidepressant medications, particularly the group of drugs known as SSRIs (brand names Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa) can sabotage your sex drive and make it harder to achieve orgasm.

Who's most affected: Loss of an active sex life due to age -- or health -- related issues can trigger depression in both men and women, but men may feel the loss more acutely. That's because sexuality is more central to a man's sense of identity, says Whipple: "When a man experiences a loss of libido or sexual dysfunction, his entire sense of self may be affected."

What helps: In a nutshell, get medical or professional help. While talking about sex and the health of our "equipment" isn't easy for any of us, it's essential to breaking the cycle before it leads to depression. If you're experiencing physical changes that are contributing to a loss of interest in sex or to performance issues, it's essential to bring them up with your doctor. And if the problem stems from relationship or other emotional issues, make use of a couples counselor or sex therapist.

If you let embarrassment or shame prevent you from speaking up, you're denying yourself one of the most effective weapons against depression. Recent studies show that having regular orgasms relieves stress, prevents prostate cancer, and releases feel-good brain chemicals that protect against depression. One of Whipple's many studies even shows that regular sex increases your pain-tolerance threshold, reducing chronic pain.

“Empty Nest” Syndrome and Depression

Why “empty nest” may trigger depression: Two of the hardest things to deal with are loss and change, and when a child leaves home you're suddenly hit with both, all at once. "Your entire routine changes, from the minute you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night," says Celestino Limos, dean of students at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. "Parents tend to focus on all the practical details of getting a child ready for college, but they're unprepared for how much the rhythm of their own lives changes from day to day."

Who's most vulnerable: Women seem to suffer more acutely than men, perhaps because their self-identity is more closely associated with being parents, experts say. But men can suffer an acute sense of loss as well, and they may be less prepared for the onslaught of emotions. Those who are divorced or otherwise single are much more likely to be lonely once the kids are gone, but married couples may also find themselves struggling, particularly if the marriage is rocky or they've developed a tag-team approach to family life and don't share many activities and interests. Parents of only children are also more vulnerable.

What helps: Plan in advance. Parenting experts suggest that parents begin exploring independent interests during their child's last year of high school. Sign up for a class one night a week, or subscribe to a travel magazine and think about trips you might want to take.

When your child leaves home, give yourself a few weeks of quiet time to grieve, but don't spend too much time alone. Set up regular events you can look forward to. Organize weekly walks with friends, join a book group, or sign up for a yoga, pilates, or dance class. Plan your weekends ahead of time, so you're not caught off guard with time heavy on your hands. Try something completely new, such as a cooking or language class. When you discover a new interest or passion, having more time available becomes a good thing rather than a liability.

Alcohol and Depression

Why alcohol abuse triggers depression: Recent research backs up what addiction and depression experts have long argued: Alcohol abuse and depression are often linked in what's called a "dual diagnosis" or, colloquially, "double trouble." The reason for this complicated interaction is the effect alcohol has on mood. When you stop into your local tavern for a cold one, you might think you're staving off the blues with some camaraderie and relaxation. But alcohol acts as a depressant in the central nervous system, triggering depression in those who are susceptible.

Who's most vulnerable: Those already prone to depression or those prone to overusing alcohol are at greatest risk. In either group, the combination of alcohol abuse and depression is dangerous. According to studies, between 30 and 50 percent of alcoholics suffer from major depression. And the relationship works the other way too: Studies have found that alcohol use causes relapse in people with depression, and that when people with depression drink they're more prone to suicide.

What helps: Cut back on drinking and seek help for alcohol abuse or addiction. "There's a reason we've got the stereotype of the weepy drunk," says Liliane Desjardins of Pavillion International, a treatment center in Texas. "Alcohol triggers a mood crash." But people who drink too much rarely attribute their misery to drinking, she adds. Instead they blame it on other people and factors.

There's only one solution: Cut back and see if, over time, you feel better. If you repeatedly promise yourself or others not to drink and your efforts fail or your drinking brings other negative consequences into your life, you may need help to stop. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs are effective for some people. Others need the physical restriction and concentrated services of a residential alcohol rehabilitation facility or the supervised medical detox of an inpatient program. No matter what type of alcohol treatment program works for you, you'll find it has the additional benefit of preventing depression.

over 1 year ago, said...

while these are all real what is seemingly always left out if our inabilty to accept certain people for who they are born to be or who they would like to become. While some member of a family are included some are excluded.this inequality leads to depression, suicide.Often this is based on certain religious beliefs that are misinterpreted or even distorted this is painful, cruel and torturous for those who are the constant target. Why doesn't the author address this? Surely it should have... Show more while these are all real what is seemingly always left out if our inabilty to accept certain people for who they are born to be or who they would like to become. While some member of a family are included some are excluded.this inequality leads to depression, suicide.Often this is based on certain religious beliefs that are misinterpreted or even distorted this is painful, cruel and torturous for those who are the constant target. Why doesn't the author address this? Surely it should have made the list. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Wonderful article on so many levels. I lost my job after 23 years --- painful galore. Harassment --- now called Bullying in the Workplace and resulting PTSD. Hope these sites can be helpful to another... Wonderful article on so many levels. I lost my job after 23 years --- painful galore. Harassment --- now called Bullying in the Workplace and resulting PTSD. Hope these sites can be helpful to another... Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I have the opposite problem. My youngest 23 yr old son will not move out!! I want an empty next so badly!! I have the opposite problem. My youngest 23 yr old son will not move out!! I want an empty next so badly!! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

There's BIG difference between situational and clinical depression. I've tried most, if not all of the suggestions above over the 45 years I have suffered from this chronic illness. I find this article patronizing. "I became a vegan, and *poof*, my depression disappeared!!!" There's BIG difference between situational and clinical depression. I've tried most, if not all of the suggestions above over the 45 years I have suffered from this chronic illness. I find this article patronizing. "I became a vegan, and *poof*, my depression disappeared!!!" Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I lost my only child in a car accident 7 years ago, my mom ten months later and my job 2 months after that, my husband is dying before my very eyes of Parkinson's. I'm a full time care giver for a lady who's 107. I'm exhausted 24-7. Not enough pills in the world to help me. I lost my only child in a car accident 7 years ago, my mom ten months later and my job 2 months after that, my husband is dying before my very eyes of Parkinson's. I'm a full time care giver for a lady who's 107. I'm exhausted 24-7. Not enough pills in the world to help me. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Great, I guess for everyday common "I have the blues because...." depression. Too bad nobody seems to know what to do about my deep chemical imbalance depression. Meds don't touch it neither do therapists because if they did you wouldn't go anymore and they'd lose money! what is the use of an anonymous reply if you're asking for all my info anyway???? Great, I guess for everyday common "I have the blues because...." depression. Too bad nobody seems to know what to do about my deep chemical imbalance depression. Meds don't touch it neither do therapists because if they did you wouldn't go anymore and they'd lose money! what is the use of an anonymous reply if you're asking for all my info anyway???? Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I find some of this elitist. I am the *only* caregiver for my ex-partner. She has many physical, mental, and financial challenges (mostly in that she is too poor to pay for a home attendant and not poor enough to quality for Medicaid). There is no one to "delegate" tasks to. Either I do what needs doing or she has to pay someone. She is poor and I am near-poor as an underemployed (partly due to caregiving) semi-retiree. I have no siblings. No one is going to buy me a "present" of a... Show more I find some of this elitist. I am the *only* caregiver for my ex-partner. She has many physical, mental, and financial challenges (mostly in that she is too poor to pay for a home attendant and not poor enough to quality for Medicaid). There is no one to "delegate" tasks to. Either I do what needs doing or she has to pay someone. She is poor and I am near-poor as an underemployed (partly due to caregiving) semi-retiree. I have no siblings. No one is going to buy me a "present" of a spa visit or anything else. I was angrier after reading these suggestions than I was before. I *do* set boundaries. I don't live with her and do most of my caregiving on weekends although I never know when she will be too weak to get to an appointment and I will have to drop everything and take her. I don't give her money other than to pay for the cable tv, cell phone, and vet bills for the cat. But it would be better if suggestions were also geared to the under-resourced caregiver, not just people with money and families. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I have six out of the 10 triggers mentioned. Dang, it's a wonder I'm still here. I have six out of the 10 triggers mentioned. Dang, it's a wonder I'm still here. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I know this is obvious, but what about death of a loved one - especially a child or spouse? What helps? I know this is obvious, but what about death of a loved one - especially a child or spouse? What helps? Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I do not understand why family deaths are not mentioned: when I was 15, my father was killed in an accident, in 68 my brother died in Vietnam, then just over 10 years later, my only son and oldest daughter were killed in an auto accident at 22 and 24, shortly after my husband was diagnosed with Parkinsons, and I was his caregiver until he died in 2011 of Parkinsons and Alzheimers. and I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years later. So I have dealt with depression all my adult life. I do not understand why family deaths are not mentioned: when I was 15, my father was killed in an accident, in 68 my brother died in Vietnam, then just over 10 years later, my only son and oldest daughter were killed in an auto accident at 22 and 24, shortly after my husband was diagnosed with Parkinsons, and I was his caregiver until he died in 2011 of Parkinsons and Alzheimers. and I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years later. So I have dealt with depression all my adult life. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I buried my 8 year old little boy 20 years ago...he died unexpectedly...I just lost my home of 15 years and I am in a lonely hell. No meds or amount of therapy gets through with things like this. Some people NEVER recover. I buried my 8 year old little boy 20 years ago...he died unexpectedly...I just lost my home of 15 years and I am in a lonely hell. No meds or amount of therapy gets through with things like this. Some people NEVER recover. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

The biggest case of situational depression is simply poverty and the largest group are the disabled as SSI pays an existence wage not a living wage The biggest case of situational depression is simply poverty and the largest group are the disabled as SSI pays an existence wage not a living wage Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

To me, this article is just addressing situational depression, not horrific depression as a disease. I don't suffer from it, but my husband does and has for over 30+ years. He just finished up a round of ECT (10) and that in its self is horrific as well! When meds fail, you'll try anything. He did have great results with ECT back in 2005, so if you have never tried it, it might be worth a shot, but it isn't working now for him. I am researching more thru diet and supplements. It would... Show more To me, this article is just addressing situational depression, not horrific depression as a disease. I don't suffer from it, but my husband does and has for over 30+ years. He just finished up a round of ECT (10) and that in its self is horrific as well! When meds fail, you'll try anything. He did have great results with ECT back in 2005, so if you have never tried it, it might be worth a shot, but it isn't working now for him. I am researching more thru diet and supplements. It would be nice to find an open MD, that would embrace all kinds of treatments, not just Western medicine, but we live in the world of Big Pharma, which controls everything! if you are suffering, PLEASE don't give up! I hope that you have a support system, that really understands what you are going thru and not telling you to just "snap out of it!" It makes me so mad, when family members elude to this! Find someone that really cares and keep searching and reading everything; you are your own advocate! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

what about death and loss of many people in the last few years....feel like I have lived in another "holocaust" what about death and loss of many people in the last few years....feel like I have lived in another "holocaust" Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

having read this guidance some time ago. forced focus on applicable issues makes me actually want to work on my mental health. unusally difficult as I am not normally prone to "join" or reflect in this realm. trigger of loneliness due divorce not of my asking mixed with spousal infidelity - and kids grown and on their own. paths. having read this guidance some time ago. forced focus on applicable issues makes me actually want to work on my mental health. unusally difficult as I am not normally prone to "join" or reflect in this realm. trigger of loneliness due divorce not of my asking mixed with spousal infidelity - and kids grown and on their own. paths. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

In the last year i lost my dad,mom and my best girlfriend. I recently lost my first grandchild to be. I'm so deeply sad i have no one to turn too. Nobody understands. In the last year i lost my dad,mom and my best girlfriend. I recently lost my first grandchild to be. I'm so deeply sad i have no one to turn too. Nobody understands. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

One of the best of the best simple plain language articles ever! A light went on after reading this short, specific, very well written article!!! Thank you One of the best of the best simple plain language articles ever! A light went on after reading this short, specific, very well written article!!!
 
 Thank you Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Cymbalta doesn't help jack! Cymbalta doesn't help jack! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Reminders about the value of support groups. Reminders about the value of support groups. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

pss: if you can't get out to see a social worker, then have one come to your residence. Perhaps start with that before my the other suggestions. pss: if you can't get out to see a social worker, then have one come to your residence. Perhaps start with that before my the other suggestions. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

For chronic pain, with the associated depression, I have been put on Cymbalta, which helps greatly with the chronic pain (it's a side effect, evidently) Good news is that it's now available in generic. If you haven't tried it, talk with your Dr. Acupuncture also greatly helps with chronic pain, as long as you find a good traditional practitioner. For chronic pain, with the associated depression, I have been put on Cymbalta, which helps greatly with the chronic pain (it's a side effect, evidently) Good news is that it's now available in generic. If you haven't tried it, talk with your Dr. Acupuncture also greatly helps with chronic pain, as long as you find a good traditional practitioner. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

ps: after you get insurance, find a REALLY good pain management doctor. ps: after you get insurance, find a REALLY good pain management doctor. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I, too, have been enduring and dealing with chronic pain conditions for over 30 years....and unable to work for the last 15 years. The only things that I MIGHT be able to help you with are these:......................................1. for your conditions and situation, you should be able to get SSD (Social Security Disability), which includes insurance, and you pay co-pays. SSD judges almost ALWAYS denies one's first request. The 2nd time might require an SSD attorney (who gets paid out... Show more I, too, have been enduring and dealing with chronic pain conditions for over 30 years....and unable to work for the last 15 years. The only things that I MIGHT be able to help you with are these:......................................1. for your conditions and situation, you should be able to get SSD (Social Security Disability), which includes insurance, and you pay co-pays. SSD judges almost ALWAYS denies one's first request. The 2nd time might require an SSD attorney (who gets paid out of the money you are awarded)....and a REALLY good letter from your M.D. etc.......If not SSD, then check in to other types of govt. sponsored programs designed for your age...............................................2. When you get insurance from one of these programs, then have your doctor schedule a myelogram with CT scan for your stenosis.....which might require surgery, but will ease that pain. (I had a laminectomy done on one of my discs with buldging spinal stenosis, and it greatly eased that pain, but I have more back problems besides)............................3. Find a MD that is particularly knowledgeable about medications to address all of your conditions, perhaps starting with your depression. Hide