Causes of Sudden Depression

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Have you been hit by sudden depression?

Does it feel like you have been weighed down with a heavy shroud that clouds your judgment and makes everything around you unpalatable?

Perhaps you feel sad or tearful for no apparent reason. That is a sign of sudden depression.

If everything seems like an effort now, whereas you previously had energy and enthusiasm for life, then you have a sudden depression.

Are you withdrawing from others and social situations because it feels too much? Then you have sudden depression!

So what’s going on? What’s the cause of your sudden depression?

There is a reason why your psyche is shutting you down and making you feel listless, unmotivated and sad.

Your psyche puts you into a place where normal life can’t distract you, because you need to take care of something that you can’t do unless you take a step back from everyday life. You have to deal with a belief that is getting in your way and may cause a huge breakdown or crisis unless you deal with it – along comes the sudden depression to give you space and opportunity to examine your beliefs and wishes that are no longer serving you and are about to smash your good life into smithereens.

Take the case of Baron’s sudden depression

At 37 years of age Baron seemed to have all his ducks in a row – a good enough marriage, 2 kids he loved, a house and a decent job. He had always loved celebrating holidays with family including his birthday and anniversaries. Having everyone come together, being nice to one another was his ultimate sense of contentment and satisfaction. He tried hard to make sure that everything was smooth between him and his siblings, his parents and in-laws before the family ‘get-togethers’. He had this wish that family members should put aside their ‘stuff’ and make nice with each other especially at holidays and anniversaries. Baron carried a deep and powerful wish that everyone would be encouraging, affirming, validating, valuing and generous with themselves and their compliments. He often referred to it as his ‘Norman Rockwell’ image. It was a powerful wish that would get activated some time before the event and start to make it come true. He would drop huge hints about what he expected and make family members feel guilty if they didn’t see and participate in the idyllic scene that he did. Baron’s disappointment was evident, and his bad mood marred the celebrations he had tried so hard to make congenial.

But on the eve of his 38th birthday Baron was enveloped in a sudden depression. He felt groggy when he woke up, didn’t want to do his workouts, or make his high power smoothies for breakfast. Baron was irritable with his kids and disconnected from his wife. In his depression therapy we talked about his extraordinary efforts to make his upcoming birthday party match the ideal he wished for. We explored his belief that just by wishing it he could control everyone and make them behave the way he wanted. Baron believed himself to be unstoppable and that he was entitled to realize his wishes. His sudden depression was a crack in that belief that he could make the world do what he wished.

Baron’s sudden depression was an experience of great loss.

The fact that he was never going to be able to get his family to conform to his wishes struck him in a way like never before. He was disillusioned, and disheartened – as if all his power and strength was stolen from him. The cause of his sudden depression was to give him a ‘time out’ so that he could deal with the shock and the immense anger that he felt at not being in control the way he had believed. His sudden depression put the brakes on so that he could grieve, and re calibrate his way of approaching the world. Baron needed a period of time “off-line” to accept that other people were entitled to be themselves no matter how he cast them in his script. As he worked through this painful transition in depression therapy, Baron came out of the darkness with grief tinged with realism, more appreciative of what was available and using it to satisfy himself, rather than trying to force people to change to make his wish a reality.


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Sudden Depression Hit Julie Like a Ton of Bricks

Julie a 45-year old divorced single mother had her own business, a great apartment and good friends. She enjoyed adventures in the outdoors with her 12-year old daughter. She loved cooking gourmet foods and traveling. Life was just fine after all the trauma of the divorce 5 years earlier. Problems co-parenting with her ex-husband had finally been resolved. Life was peaceful and rewarding. But one Sunday morning Julie woke up with a heavy heart. She didn’t respond to her daughter who wanted waffles for breakfast. Irritated at her dogs barking waiting to be taken for a walk, she locked herself into her bedroom and didn’t come out for 2 days. Not even her daughter’s repeated attempts to be taken care of moved her. She switched off her cell phone and became frozen in her sudden depression. She cried for no reason and refused to eat the tempting foods her daughter brought to the door. She also ignored her ex-husband’s pleas to let her family know she was all right.

Three weeks prior to Julie’s sudden depression, she found herself wishing for her parents to come 2500 miles across country and take the pressure off her, confronted with her daughter’s  truancy and failing grades at school. Julie had fantasies of her parents rescuing her for most of her life. Her deep and abiding wish as a child was that they would notice her suffering in school when she got picked on; that they would put her needs in front of her older sister for once; that they would guide her when she was pregnant. She worked hard to get them to be more involved and emotionally available – but all they did was tell her to pray. In her adult life they occasionally send a paltry sum of money – to buy her off. Most of the time she went through periods of disappointment, working harder to get her parents to notice her and be emotionally supportive.

But this time Julie couldn’t hold onto the wish. The burden of carrying the wish was too great and it fell off her shoulders. She was lighter but emptier. The wish was so familiar a weight on her shoulders that she was lost without it. Sudden depression came to her rescue. Enveloping her in a tarpaulin, she withdrew from the world – that awful world where her efforts to get her parents to show up and care for her failed. The cause of the sudden depression was the sloughing off of that unrealistic wish that had kept Julie afloat. Now she needed to find her own fuel that was dependable and available. In depression counseling Julie cried a lot. She wrote a series of letters (never sent) to her parents letting out her disappointment, sadness and fears that she had never truly been wanted or loved. Over time I helped Julie to manage her depression by giving up the wish to be rescued and dependent. As she moved to a place of self-empowerment the depression lifted.

Recent research in the February 2017 Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry reports confirms that depression is often an opportunity to give up unrealistic goals while embracing ones more likely to be realized.  Sudden depression is a liberating experience when you are freed from the power of powerful wishes from childhood that sabotage your adult life.


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