How do you know if you feel bad because you have situational depression or if there’s something wrong with your brain and body?
Do you feel bad because you are going through a bunch of life transitions, you just lost your job, and are fighting with your spouse? Or is it because you aren’t eating right and your sleep is messed up?
The answer is, it depends.
It’s not always so black and white.
This video and post will go over the difference between situational and biological/physical depression and how they interact with each other.
Physically OK, Situationally Not
When you are depression free from a physical standpoint, you are free from the biological problem of feeling like crap no matter what your external circumstances are.
However, some people have everything working properly in their bodies but events in their life are causing havoc on their emotional state.
For example, one of my best friends just died and it was probably suicide, I just learned that I am now struggling with bartonella or possibly lyme disease, I’m in a new town with hardly any friends, and under a lot of stress.
I felt really down, overwhelmed, sad, low energy, for a good 2-3 weeks. I felt out of control with everything going on and dealing with all the stressors. As I worked through the situation, despite nothing changing physically, the cloud starts to lift and the darkness goes away.
This could be you if you are moving to a new town, going to a new college, and having fights with your parents. This could be if you are having a major breakup. This could be if you just lost your job and you aren’t sure what you are going to do next.
Situational depression is when your external circumstances affect how you feel. It resolves itself through working through the problem, getting help, acceptance, feeling emotions, changing your cognitive thoughts, etc.
Physically Depressed Despite Having A Great Life
Situational depression is vastly different from biological depression. With biological depression, you would be trapped in a state of depression regardless if whether or not you were living in a mansion with no worries or if you had every worry in the world.
For example, if you had a severe magnesium deficiency, you could be depressed with anxiety for years until you resolve the magnesium deficiency. It doesn’t matter how great your life is, your body needs more magnesium to be in balance and function properly.
Having depression that is biological means that your brain isn’t going to work right no matter what you do in the external world. It doesn’t matter if you are jumping out of a plane if you’re deficient in amino acids and b vitamins, your brain won’t even be able to produce the neurotransmitters to feel any pleasure at all.
I had depression really bad for about 11 years. At first, I thought it was all my fault and that my life just sucked. I tried riding a fast motorcycle, skydiving, running a marathon, etc. and I never felt happy at all. I did all the therapy in the world and still didn’t feel any different.
That’s because physically my body wasn’t working right. It would be like having a really good map, great friends as passengers in the car, and trying to get to a different state when your car’s engine has a leak. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have with you, or how much money you have, you aren’t getting to your destination as long as the car (your body) isn’t running properly.
This is also why antidepressants tend to work really well for a short-time, because they are changing what is happening inside your body, and therefore you see the world completely differently.
Unfortunately, they often come with a lot of side effects and in the long-run don’t solve the root problem. Then you are left still feeling horrible and now you have to deal with weaning off the antidepressant.
Solving the actual root causes of your depression can come in many different forms, from vitamin/mineral deficiencies, being allergic to certain foods, hormonal issues, etc.
When you have situational depression, you can fix the depression by changing your mindset or your lifestyle. If you have depression that is caused by physical root causes, it can only be fixed when you fix the root causes.
Situational Depression Can Lead To Physical Depression, and Vice Versa
Sometimes I have people ask me if they should be doing therapy also. The answer is always yes, if it helps you. Getting as much help and support as you can is always a good idea.
Depression isn’t always just 100% situational or 100% biological.
Being physically depressed to where you have no energy can make it so you miss days at work. This causes you to lose your job. You then dig yourself into a hole and lose touch with friends, and now you are in both a physically and situationally bad place.
If someone you love dies and you lose your home, the stress can wear you out. Being worn down can cause you to become depleted of b vitamins, and now the situation just caused your body to break down and physically it isn’t running properly.
Both your situation and your physical state play into each other. You can have situational depression and biological depression. They interact. You always want to be able to attack depression from all angles.
The only thing I have noticed, however, is that society as a whole has done a really good job at providing resources for helping people with situational problems, and very little on fixing the root causes physically.
If someone has physical root causes, it doesn’t matter how much therapy you do. No matter how many hours you spend with a therapist, that won’t change a vitamin d deficiency. You just need to take vitamin d.
How To Stay Free From Both Types of Depression
You want to attack depression from all angles. Get as much of the right type of support as you need and make sure you are fixing the physical root causes simultaneously.
Make sure that when you start to feel good, don’t let all your good habits drop. Keep doing what you need to do such as supplementing with the right supplements, getting tests done at the doctor, eating healthy, etc.
We are sold on the idea of quick fixes and band-aid solutions. One quick cognitive trick to feel better in 30 seconds! One little blue pill that will solve all your problems!
The truth is, that can work for a short while, but it’s never long-lasting. I get probably 3-5 emails every single day from someone that has been on antidepressants for a few years and now they feel worse then before and are dependent on a medication. Then we have to wean off of it which is hard and painful.
Instead of quick fix, think of fixing the root causes and building a base of solid nutrition so your body can function right.