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Know Your Triggers of Major Depressive Disorder & Ways to Manage It

Living with major depressive disorder (MDD) have made it difficult for people to go through their daily activities. While major depressive disorder can create a massive disruption in your life, perhaps the most frustrating part about living with this condition is that you never really know when an episode of major depressive disorder will strike.

Even though you are likely to be expecting another episode of major depressive disorder, but no one is ever truly prepared when it happens, managing to catch you off guard every time. Knowing some of the triggers of major depressive disorder and practicing certain self-care tips can help minimize the effects of such an episode, and even help prevent them in the long run. Here’s everything you need to know about how to deal with an unexpected episode of major depressive disorder.

Know Your Triggers of Major Depressive Disorder

An episode of major depressive disorder varies from person to person.(1,2) A person can suffer from multiple episodes of major depressive disorder.(3) If you have gone through an episode recently, there is no way to tell when the next episode will happen. However, it is possible to identify the potential triggers that lead to an episode.(4)

While the severity and symptoms of each person are different, but there can be similarities in the triggers of major depressive disorder.(5)

Knowing your triggers can help you become better prepared for dealing with an unexpected episode of major depressive disorder. Here are some of the most common risk factors for an episode of major depressive disorder:

Just coming out of a previous depressive episode. However, not everyone who has experienced a first episode will go on to experience a second one, but there are chances of it happening.(6)

Major depressive disorder runs in the family. Research has found that there is a close link between family history and having major depressive disorder.(7)

Hormonal fluctuations can also be a trigger for a depressive episode, especially in women. Menopause, pregnancy, the postpartum period after delivery, and even perimenopause are some of the common causes of having an episode of major depression.

Losing someone important to you. It is not unheard of people to experience a depressive episode after the loss of a significant loved one. Even the end of a relationship can trigger an episode of depression.(8)

Feeling rejected or being rejected by a partner or at a job can lead to feelings of persistent sadness.

Not every episode of major depression needs to have a direct cause. This is why it is okay if you are unable to identify a clear trigger for your episode.

Tips on How to Manage an Episode of Major Depressive Disorder

Even though you are able to identify that you are about to experience an episode of major depressive disorder, that does not mean that you can do something to prevent it from happening. (9, 10) It can especially be difficult to put in the extra effort to take care of yourself when you are feeling depressed. However, it is essential that you take good care of yourself so that such episodes can be minimized and prevented altogether. Here are some self-care tips that may help you deal with a depressive episode.

Get More Sleep and Rest

Studies have found a strong link between sleep and its effect on your mood.(11) Not getting enough sleep can cause irritability and anxiety. Sleep is known to play a very important role in the regulation of your emotions and also helps your brain recover after an emotional incident, such as the loss of a loved one.

If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, then you should consider talking to your doctor and finding out about treatment options. It is possible that you have a sleep disorder such as insomnia. Insomnia is also known to be a risk factor for depression.(12)

Get More Exercise

Exercise has a definite impact on improving your mood. Exercise helps increase the production of endorphins in the body, which are known as being natural mood boosters. Several studies have found that exercise can dramatically improve the symptoms of depression and also reduce the episodes of major depressive disorder.(13)

However, for people who are going through depression, finding the motivation to exercise every day is a major challenge. If you find yourself struggling to motivate yourself to exercise, then the best thing to do is to start slowly. Even a simple walk around the block can significantly improve your mood. You should ideally aim to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week. You can even try out gentle exercises such as yoga, swimming, walking, or tai chi.(14)

Spend Time with your Friends or in a Support Group

Many people tend to isolate themselves during a depressive episode, which only tends to worsen the episode and sometimes also prolong the symptoms. It is a good idea to surround yourself with friends and spend some quality time with them from time to time. Make sure you have an arrangement with some friends who can check on you if they have not heard from you for some time. Depression does make it hard to stay in touch with your friends, but remember that being in the company of friends can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve your mood.

The other suggestion is to find a support group through your doctor or the local hospital. A support group is also known to help many people get the help they desperately need when going through a depressive episode.(15)


Self-care is an important part when you are dealing with major depressive disorder. However, sometimes it might not be enough to give you the help you need. In such cases, you should visit your doctor and let them know that your depression is getting worse. If you are already on treatment for depression, such as taking antidepressants, then it might be time to increase the dosage or shift you to a new drug. Sometimes, adding another medication can also help provide relief.

Remember that any depressive episode you are having will eventually end, and you will see better days. Be committed to your recovery, and seek a doctor you can trust to help you move ahead and recover from major depressive disorder.


  1. Belmaker, R.H. and Agam, G., 2008. Major depressive disorder. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(1), pp.55-68.
  2. Fava, M. and Kendler, K.S., 2000. Major depressive disorder. Neuron, 28(2), pp.335-341.
  3. Solomon, D.A., Keller, M.B., Leon, A.C., Mueller, T.I., Lavori, P.W., Shea, M.T., Coryell, W., Warshaw, M., Turvey, C., Maser, J.D. and Endicott, J., 2000. Multiple recurrences of major depressive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(2), pp.229-233.
  4. Dunkley, D.M., Lewkowski, M., Lee, I.A., Preacher, K.J., Zuroff, D.C., Berg, J.L., Foley, J.E., Myhr, G. and Westreich, R., 2017. Daily stress, coping, and negative and positive affect in depression: Complex trigger and maintenance patterns. Behavior Therapy, 48(3), pp.349-365.
  5. Shaw, B.F., Vallis, T.M. and McCabe, S.B., 1985. The assessment of the severity and symptom patterns in depression. Handbook of depression: Treatment, assessment, and research, pp.372-407.
  6. Kupfer, D.J., Frank, E. and Perel, J.M., 1989. The advantage of early treatment intervention in recurrent depression. Archives of General Psychiatry.
  7. Monroe, S.M., Slavich, G.M. and Gotlib, I.H., 2014. Life stress and family history for depression: The moderating role of past depressive episodes. Journal of psychiatric research, 49, pp.90-95.
  8. Brown, G.W., Harris, T. and Copeland, J.J., 1977. Depression and loss. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 130(1), pp.1-18.
  9. Muñoz, R.F. and Ying, Y.W., 2002. The prevention of depression: Research and practice. JHU Press.
  10. Hollon, S.D., Thase, M.E. and Markowitz, J.C., 2002. Treatment and prevention of depression. Psychological Science in the public interest, 3(2), pp.39-77.
  11. Goldstein, A.N. and Walker, M.P., 2014. The role of sleep in emotional brain function. Annual review of clinical psychology, 10, pp.679-708.
  12. Riemann, D. and Voderholzer, U., 2003. Primary insomnia: a risk factor to develop depression?. Journal of affective disorders, 76(1-3), pp.255-259.
  13. Schuch, F.B., Vasconcelos-Moreno, M.P., Borowsky, C., Zimmermann, A.B., Rocha, N.S. and Fleck, M.P., 2015. Exercise and severe major depression: effect on symptom severity and quality of life at discharge in an inpatient cohort. Journal of psychiatric research, 61, pp.25-32.
  14. North, T.C., McCULLAGH, P.E.N.N.Y. and TRAN, Z.V., 1990. Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 18(1), pp.379-416.
  15. Houston, T.K., Cooper, L.A. and Ford, D.E., 2002. Internet support groups for depression: a 1-year prospective cohort study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(12), pp.2062-2068.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 22, 2021

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