What Can Trigger Depressive Episodes?

What is depression?

Alcohol abuse puts someone at risk for depression.
Alcohol abuse puts someone at risk for depression.

Depression, also called major depressive disorder, is characterized by periods of low mood called depressive episodes. A depressive episode lasts for at least 2 weeks and can go for several weeks or months up to a year at a time. It is usually triggered by one or more of the following factors:

  • Loss: Loss can be of anything, such as a job, money, a loved one, a relationship, or any cherished possession. This is the most common trigger of depression. Large surveys have found that about 44% of depressive episodes are preceded by some kind of interpersonal loss. This interpersonal loss may include the death of a loved one, divorce, or even the moving of a best friend to a far-away place.
    • Job loss: People vulnerable to depression who have been fired from their jobs often feel embarrassed and worthless.
    • Losing a loved one: Losing a loved one seems to be a devastating experience. While some grieve and come to terms with the fact of their loss and keep going, others may suffer from depressive episodes.
    • Divorce or breakup: A divorce or a breakup (especially in the case of a toxic relationship) may be stressful enough to trigger depressive episodes.
  • Targeted rejection: Deliberate rejection of one person from another
  • Empty nest: Parents go into depression when their adolescents leave their homes.
  • Caregiver stress: Caring for a family member with chronic illness
  • Retirement: One's search for identity and marital problems may trigger depression.
  • Delivery of baby: Postpartum depression
  • Menopause: Estrogen decline may trigger depressive episodes.
  • Winter blues: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year.
  • Holidays: If people stay alone on holidays, it can trigger depressive episodes.

What puts someone at risk for depression?

Some people survive the loss of a loved one by grieving for a few months while not spiraling into depression. While for some, even a minor event, such as a recent breakup, can seem like a catastrophe leading them to depression. Certain risk factors make such people vulnerable to depression. These factors include the following:

No matter what triggers depression, people can always get help. They can visit a psychiatrist or talk to a mental health therapist. It is also necessary that people follow a healthy diet, stay physically active by exercising, get some sun, and get 7-9 hours of undisturbed sleep every day. Such a healthy lifestyle not only cuts down an individual's risk of falling prey to depression but also helps heal their soul.


Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, Medication See Slideshow
Halverson, J.L. "Depression Clinical Presentation." Medscape. <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286759-clinical#b4>.

Scientific American. "Researchers Take a Closer Look at the Most Common and Powerful Triggers of Depression." <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/triggers-of-depression/>.