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triggers and depression
Posted by andrew.philip66
15th Jul 2015

Whenever I have a depressive episode, or even just a day of low mood, the inevitable question, asked by professionals and friends alike, is always "and what was the trigger?" The question is asked in such a way as to suggest that this trigger is some kind of mind altering holly grail. The tone being that if only I was smart enough to identify this mystery trigger I would be able to eliminate it and, therefore, rid myself of the scourge of the depression that has shaped the past ten years of my life.
Though well-meaning, the question irritates me. Firstly, it implies that not only am I depressed but I must, also, be dim-witted. Why would I have failed to work out for myself that, if there is a specific factor causing my depression, why would I not have tried to identify and eliminate this myself. Like many people with depression, I have spent countless hours self analysing (undoubtedly a trigger in itself) and trying different strategies in order to prevent a downward spiral.
Secondly, the suggestion that you can identify a trigger, or number of triggers, and by simply avoiding them you can save yourself from depression is to simplistic a notion. Depressive episodes are the result of a complex relationship between an individuals internal thoughts and factors within the environment. The importance of each factor can vary greatly for each individual and for each recurring episode, without there being any clear pattern.
It is well documented that certain life events, such as bereavement, put a great deal of stress on to an individual and this can result in the development of depression. However, this would be reliant on the presence of other factors, otherwise one would expect everyone effected by the trigger of a major life event to become depressed. In addition, it is difficult to predict how a person with a history of depression will react to possible "triggers". An example of this occurred to me last year when a close relative died. At the time my mood was quite low. Many of those around me were concerned that the bereavement would impact on me and result in a further deterioration. Fortunately for me it didn't. Yet at other times I have spiralled down into depression by what might have been seen as a minor hiccup. But, I believe, that is because many other factors were involved in determining the outcome.

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