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.
Depression trigger #1: Losing a job
Why: 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.
Depression trigger #2: Sexual issues
Why: 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.