Depression Triggers: Causes and Influences

Depression is a widespread mental health issue that comes in different shapes: short-term depressive episodes, long-lasting feelings of sadness called major depression, and dysthymia – a less severe but chronic form of depression. It’s beneficial to know the differences among these to handle them properly. We will focus on common depression triggers, exploring what causes […]

Depression is a widespread mental health issue that comes in different shapes: short-term depressive episodes, long-lasting feelings of sadness called major depression, and dysthymia – a less severe but chronic form of depression. It’s beneficial to know the differences among these to handle them properly. We will focus on common depression triggers, exploring what causes depression and why understanding these triggers matters.

It is important to understand that there are many people who live with depression and that it is possible to learn how to manage it with proper medication and treatment.

Depression vs. Depressed Mood vs. Dysthymia

Depression (major or clinical depression) is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. A diagnosis of depression requires the presence of symptoms for a minimum of two weeks, and it has a profound impact on a person’s ability to function.

A girl sitting on a bed, worrying about depression triggers.
The more you know about depression triggers, the easier it will be to fight them.

Depression affects around 280 million people around the world – approximately 3.8% of the population. 5% of the overall adult population ((4% of men and 6% of women) and 5.7% of people over the age of 60. Some of the most typical symptoms of depression include:

  • Continuous sadness or a feeling of emptiness.
  • A marked decrease in interest or pleasure in all or most activities.
  • Significant weight changes or appetite disturbances.
  • Sleep disturbances (either insomnia or excessive sleeping).
  • Physical restlessness or slowed movements.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide attempts.

A depressed mood is a different condition. It is a temporary experience of feeling low, and it doesn’t fulfill the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression. It is a common reaction to normal ups and downs in life and doesn’t make a person dysfunctional. People who suffer from this condition feel sad or hopeless, but these feelings are temporary and are often caused by specific life events.

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Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder) is a milder chronic form of depression that can greatly impact life quality, and it requires ongoing treatment or support. It lasts for years, and it affects a person’s ability to function in their daily life, though less severely than major depression. People with this disorder have a constant feeling of unhappiness or lack of fulfillment and some other symptoms like fatigue and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. 

It is important to distinguish between these conditions in order to understand and address mental health concerns. While they all relate to feelings of sadness, the intensity, duration, and impact on daily life differ significantly. Recognizing these differences ensures that people can search for the most suitable form of support and treatment, contributing to overall well-being and mental health management.

a person holding his head in his hands thinking about what triggers depression
Depression triggers are very complicated and can arise from a blend of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Identifying Depression Triggers

So, what triggers depression? It’s important to note that depression triggers are very complex, and they arise from a blend of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors. Elements that could cause depression are events, situations, or circumstances that can lead to the onset or worsening of depressive symptoms. They can vary to a great extent in different individuals.

Here’s a closer look at each type of common depression triggers: physiological, psychological, and environmental.

  • Physiological Triggers – Genetic predispositions, chemical imbalances in the brain, and physical health problems that can influence mood and behavior.
  • Psychological Triggers – Personal history (such as trauma or abuse) and patterns of negative thinking can significantly impact a person’s susceptibility to depression.
  • Environmental Triggers – Life events like the loss of a loved one, financial problems, or significant changes in life circumstances play a big role in triggering depressive episodes.

Identifying common depression triggers is one of the most important steps in the treatment process, but it’s equally important to distinguish depression from other conditions that share similar symptoms. Conditions like bipolar disorder, reactions to severe stress, and trauma can mimic depression, making differential diagnosis vital. A thorough evaluation helps ensure that people receive the correct diagnosis and the most effective treatment plan. This approach not only helps in addressing the current symptoms but also in developing strategies to manage potential depression triggers in the future.

a woman in bed holding her head on her knees thinking about common depression triggers
Identifying depression triggers is one of the most important steps in the treatment process.

What Can Trigger a Depressive Episode?

Many elements might affect depression differently in each individual, as it is a very complex disorder. If you are able to recognize them, you may be able to prevent or better manage depressive episodes. Here are some examples of  what can trigger a depressive episode:

  • Grief and Loss,
  • Hormonal Changes and Social Roles,
  • Stress and Life Events,
  • Illness and Health Issues,
  • Substance Use,
  • Social and Economic Factors.

Grief and Loss

Some feelings and emotions we normally experience can become depression triggers in some cases. For example, grief can be a depression trigger. While it is a normal response to loss or a sad event, it can evolve into more severe conditions such as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder. If that happens, the affected person needs additional support to learn how to cope with depression and treat it.

Hormonal Changes and Social Roles

Women are statistically more likely to experience depression. Two main reasons for that are hormonal fluctuations and societal pressures. Hormonal changes across the lifespan (including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause) can all influence trauma and depression among women. Societal expectations and roles can also place a unique strain on women. That further increases their vulnerability to depressive episodes.

Men are 63% less likely to develop depression than women, as reported by NCBI. Over 10% of pregnant women and women who have just given birth experience depression. Postpartum depression treatment in Florida offers specialized care for women who are struggling with common early pregnancy anxiety or severe postpartum depression.

a pregnant woman touching her belly and thinking about common depression triggers
Hormonal changes, including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause, are believed to be common depression triggers.


Stress is a common depression trigger, whether it arises from daily challenges or significant life changes. This happens due to its physical effects on the body and brain. Particularly, hormonal changes brought on by stress are seen in almost 70% of those who suffer from depression. When the adrenal glands, pituitary, and hypothalamus don’t function properly to regulate mood and emotion, the cumulative effect of sustained stress or the shock of sudden negative events can overwhelm your ability to cope. That can often lead to depressive symptoms.

Cortisol – the stress hormone released during stress – causes physical alterations in brain cells. In fact, stress can alter the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is known to shrink in depressed people. Psychological stress also triggers the immune system. This includes the release of immune system molecules linked to depression. These immune molecules play a role in developing symptoms of mental illness because they are active in brain tissue, especially the hippocampus.

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Life Events

Even positive transitions can be harmful to a person’s emotional state. Since people are habitual beings, even positive life changes may cause stress by forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. For instance, getting promoted at work may require leaving a comfortable, known position for one that is challenging and new. Being surrounded by strangers and leaving behind familiar people may be part of the new employment. In addition, there can be a significant learning curve and increased stress. Together, these factors cause stress, which can lead to depression even in the case of a favorable situation.

Negative life changes, like getting fired or going through a divorce, can cause an adjustment disorder. That is a type of depression in which depressive symptoms occur as a result of some stressful life change.

People should be ready for and expect the difficulties that come with life transitions. Those who are struggling to cope can think about reaching out to their friends and family or perhaps seeking counseling. They should also be on the lookout for any depression symptoms that can follow these life transitions.

a man looking in the distance and thinking about what can trigger a depressive episode
Life transitions are one of the most common depression triggers

Illness and Health Issues

Physical health problems and the stress of dealing with chronic illness can lead to depression. This relationship is often reciprocal, with depression potentially making the condition worse or recovery more difficult. The psychological impact of living with health issues, coupled with the physical strain of treatment, can significantly affect one’s mental well-being.

Substance Use

Substance use can profoundly impact mental health. It can lead to depression or make it worse. The treatment must take into account comorbidity (the co-occurrence of depression and substance addiction disorders) and address both issues.

Social and Economic Factors

Some social and economic factors (lower socioeconomic status, marital status, and early life experiences) are also common depression triggers. They are important risk factors, but they do not directly cause depression. Symptoms of social anxiety and depression need to be properly diagnosed by medical specialists to be treated. Understanding the link between these symptoms and individual vulnerability facilitates creating more targeted and effective interventions.

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Differential Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step in creating an effective treatment plan is the accurate diagnosis. Differential diagnosis is especially important because some physical conditions like thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, or some other mental health disorders can have symptoms similar to depression. Any other underlying issues need to be identified and treated alongside depression. That comprehensive approach to care provides the correct treatment and addresses all aspects of the person’s health.

The cause of depression is a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. That doesn’t mean that anyone exposed to these factors will develop depression. Recognizing what triggers depression is important to tailor the treatment to each person. The best approach is usually a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and some lifestyle changes. This approach supports recovery best and improves the affected person’s quality of life.

Treatment Options and Support

As mentioned, depression treatment often involves a mix of medication, therapy, and adjustments to lifestyle. The medications most often prescribed are antidepressants that balance the brain’s chemicals, while therapy sessions provide support for dealing with emotional and behavioral issues. Some lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly are also important in this comprehensive approach. If you are looking for quality support, search for mental health clinics Florida doctors recommend and the ones that offer a range of services tailored to individual needs. This is a way to ensure that each person receives the care that best suits their situation.

a therapist and a patient talking about his common depression triggers
Depression treatment often requires a comprehensive approach that combines medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments.

For people who are looking for options beyond traditional medicine, there are some alternative treatments that have gained popularity recently. For example, acupuncture for depression can be beneficial in some cases. Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing process and balances energy pathways. It can also provide relief for some people. While they cannot substitute professional medical advice, alternative treatments can be a part of a holistic approach to managing depression.

When it comes to finding comprehensive depression treatment in Florida, there are many options and resources. We Level Up Tamarac FL provides an integrated approach to treatment, combining medical, psychological, and supportive therapies tailored to your needs. Recognizing the importance of professional help is the first step toward recovery. With the right support and treatment plan, managing depression becomes a more comfortable process, leading to improved mental health and well-being.

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Self-Care Advice to Deal With Depression

In order to control depressive symptoms and improve general well-being, self-care is extremely important. Always remember that you are not alone and that there are many people who have gone through what you are experiencing. You might consider joining a support group as it has proven to have multiple benefits. Here are some more tips:

  • Do something that you used to enjoy.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Prioritize sleep and rest. 
  • Minimize alcohol consumption and drug use.
  • Talk about your feelings to someone you can trust.
  • See a healthcare professional.

Dealing With Common Depression Triggers

Depression is a serious issue, and in order to deal with it, you need to learn how to recognize its triggers. Knowing when to seek help can make a significant difference in your recovery. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you need to consider seeking a professional evaluation. Resources like We Level Up Tamarac FL are available to offer support and treatment options tailored to your needs. Remember, getting informed about common depression triggers is a vital step in moving towards a healthier life. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.

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Search We Level Up Tamarac FL for Depression Triggers Topics & Resources

Abate, K.H. (2013). Gender Disparity in Prevalence of Depression Among Patient Population: A Systematic Review. Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences, [online] 23(3), pp.283–288. Available at:

Albert, P. (2015). Why is depression more prevalent in women? Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, [online] 40(4), pp.219–221. doi:

National institute of Mental Health (2023). Depression. [online] National Institute of Mental Health. Available at:

World Health Organization (2023). Depressive Disorder (depression). [online] World Health Organization. Available at: