- It is important to recognise that nearly every individual can be stressed and depressed by certain events.
Most people experience a rapid ‘spontaneous’ resolution within days or weeks.
- Some do not – so that the depression persists – with the ‘stress’ either maintaining the process or having initiated processes that will not simply be resolved by ‘the passage of time’.
- Past and long-standing stresses (called distal stressors) can increase the chance of an individual developing depression in later years. The most clearly established past stressor is that of an uncaring parent or an abusive parent. The lack of parental care may result in the child developing a low self-esteem and thus being vulnerable to develop depression in adult life.
- The death of a parent in childhood does not appear to be a distinct stressor – it may cause depression at the time but it does not necessarily lead to depression in adulthood in any direct way.
- Most individuals who develop non-melancholic depression usually describe an important and understandable life event that occurred before the depression started.
- The events that are most likely to ‘trigger’ depression are ones where the individual’s self-esteem is put at risk, compromised or devalued. For most adults, self-esteem is closely linked to an intimate relationship as well as in other important areas, such as a job. Thus, the break-up of a relationship or a marriage or loss of job are a very common triggers for depression.
- Other individuals develop depression when they feel a sense of ‘shame’, such as when they feel that they have not lived up to their own or others’ expectations, thus reducing their self-esteem.
- Identifying and understanding the meaning of the life event stressor can be all-important in assisting the individual to recover from the episode.
- The impact of life events upon melancholic depression is not always clear. They may serve to may trigger the depression – or rekindle it – rather than cause it.
If you are depressed, it can be helpful to find out whether stress contributes to the depression either by:
- Its severity – so that you feel under ‘too much stress’ – in which case generic stress management programs may be helpful; or
- Its ‘salience’ or particular meaning to you – so that a particular event or set of circumstances is likely to trigger stress in you and may do so repeatedly if re-exposed to those triggers – in which case it can be helpful to seek sophisticated counselling or psychotherapy to identify what those triggers are and why they produce the stressful reaction.