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Recognising Triggers of Your Own Depression

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 24 Sep 2013 | comments*Discuss
Depression Depressive Episode Illness

When someone is already on the edge of depression there are many triggers that can push that person over the edge into a depression or related mental health illness. The vulnerability that you might be feeling can make you more susceptible to a depressive episode when a stressful event occurs. Any change in your life, even a desired one, can trigger depression. Sometimes it can even be a combination of physical and environmental triggers that prompt a depressive episode. It's important that you are able to identify triggers of your depression so that you can:

  • Avoid those triggers within your control
  • Deal with the triggers early on to prevent them from worsening
  • Obtain outside help when needed

Some of the more common mental triggers of depression include:

  • Recent bereavement
  • Poverty issues
  • Job loss and financial woes
  • Victim of crime
  • Moving to a new home
  • Hormonal changes (eg. menopause)

Who Is Most At Risk For Relapse?

Some people are more susceptible to a depression relapse and these tend to be individuals who have experienced depression in the past. People who suffer from dysthymia depression, a long-lasting depression of at least two years, are more likely to suffer future depressive episodes. Also most at risk are those individuals who have a family history of depression. At higher risk for recurring depression are people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Being more susceptible does not mean it is inevitable that you will suffer from depression again; it simply means that you will need to be more careful and aware of your depression triggers.

Seasonal Changes

Seasonal changes related to outdoor light levels prompt a mood condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This occurs typically during the wintertime when light is reduced and symptoms are generally the same as those experienced with clinical depression or dysthymia. Short of moving, you obviously can't change the weather, but if you know that your depression tends to coincide to low-light winter periods, you can address the cause. Utilizing light therapy can help to prevent the weather from triggering your depression by regulating your moods.

Chronic Pain and Illness

Some triggers are related to physiological changes in the body that are out of a person's control. Physical changes can still, however, prompt mental changes and depression. Medical conditions such as stroke, cancer and hormonal illnesses can all lead to a depression. The person suffering chronic pain can become exhausted and frustrated dealing with the physical illness on a day-to-day basis and this makes recovery more difficult. The mental strain can trigger depressive episodes so it's important to adopt a healthy lifestyle, both through diet and exercise where possible, as well as a support network to help you address the emotional challenges.

Relationship and Family Problems

For many people, their relationships and families comprise a substantial focus in their lives. Therefore, problems arising can have a huge impact on mental health and daily functioning. If you find that you are dealing with frequent confrontations and arguments, consider counselling as an option to obtain some objective guidance. The stress of dealing with family conflict can trigger a depressive episode and it's best to address the problems right when they begin rather than let them progress.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and illegal drugs can temporarily subdue an individual's emotional distress but eventually, they can harm a person's physical and emotional well-being, leading to depression. They tend to momentarily suppress emotional distress and numb pain, but when the effect wears off, emotions can become more severe and unpredictable. In addition, they can have detrimental effects when combined with various medications used for depression. Substance use is often implicated as a trigger for severe mental health breakdowns, so avoiding alcohol and other drugs can help you to keep depression at bay. Instead, try to find alternate ways of approaching stress such as:

  • Talking therapies: Speaking with a counsellor or even just 'venting' to family or friends can help you to reduce anxiety and work through problems.

  • Exercise: Endorphins, your body's 'feel good' chemicals, are released during exercise and this can help improve moods. It's a healthy alternative to alcohol or stimulants.

  • Partaking in an enjoyable activity: If you feel anxious and are drawn to a drink, try to find a relaxing and enjoyable activity to boost your mood. You'll help to avert depression rather than use a substance that will likely trigger it further.

Negative Situations and Toxic People

Negative people can leave you feeling negative about yourself, which puts you at risk for depression, particularly if such people are around you on a regular basis. Try to avoid those 'friends' who are critical and negative, particularly those who consistently have unpleasant things to say about others. If you can surround yourself with encouraging and positive people, you can avoid the transference of negativity from toxic people, and keep your moods up and depression away.

Defeatist Thinking

Defeatist ways of thinking involve constant self-criticism and negativity. Such mental patterns tend to reduce self-esteem and prevent you from reaching your full personal potential, both in character and in areas such as work and relationship.

Eventually, this type of thinking can lead into depression because it clouds your vision of yourself and the world around you. If you sense yourself making harsh personal judgements, consider writing down the judgement and then crossing it out and replacing it with a positive and encouraging one. For example, instead of saying 'I didn't get that job; I'll never amount to anything,' consider replacing it with 'That job clearly wasn't a fit and I'll work hard to get one that is right for my skills and talents'.


Loneliness and isolation can be enormous triggers for depression and they have a circular effect in that:

  • The more isolated you are, the more you feel depressed and alone.

  • The more depressed you feel, the more you may want to withdraw and maintain isolation.

If you really don't want to venture outside, consider just even having a friend come to your home to sit and chat over tea. You might try to take small steps, like going outside for a five-minute walk one day, and increasing this to a ten-minute walk the next. If you begin to sense that you are feeling lonely, don't be afraid to reach out to those close to you for support, as this can help you to prevent a depressive episode.

Some triggers of depression are not within your control but you can still identify these and take steps to cope, thereby easing the stress and preventing a depressive episode. Try to avoid those triggers you can control and seek out alternate situations that contribute to good mental health and well-being. By actively taking part in preventing and managing depression, you can gain greater enjoyment from life.

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I like these tips.. Its very useful for every one
wuc - 24-Sep-13 @ 5:29 AM
Although, in places, there is recognition that some depressions are unavoidable, the main thrust of the article is about reactive depression. I would imagine that quite a number of depressions are not reactive but chemical or endoginous. The sort of depression that haunts you and where darkness is visible for no specific reason.
none - 29-Nov-11 @ 10:34 PM
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