Reactive Depression: A complete guide to this hidden activator

Depression has now become a topic that is talked about prominently in all forms of medium. This has led to a vast amount of knowledge circulating around this mood disorder and has large communities that are always readily available to help. Even though this disorder is well known, there are sub-types of the disorder that are being diversified in order to focus on the person’s individual grievances, such as reactive depression. What is reactive depression, and how does it differ from other forms of depression? What are the causes, and treatments? Prognosis, and the activators that trigger this? All of these questions will be answered in this article.

reactive depression feeling
reactive depression feeling

What is Reactive Depression?

This form of depression revolves around the important events that a person goes through in which become so highly stressful that they bring the person back into a state of hopelessness, and feel waves of intense anxiety. Even though this disorder does not last as long as the other forms of depression, it can be highly unbearable due to how much it can drain the person in a short period amount of time.

To get a better understanding of this disorder, there has to be an understanding of depression from a historical basis. Depression was explored in the late 19th century, which had been the primary focus at the time, because of the invention of psychoanalysis. This led to treatments that were controversial then, due to the severity of the secondary outcomes. Lobotomy and shock therapies were used to treat depression and were a mainstay in the psychology community throughout the 20th century until this was disbarred in multiple countries. Around this time, they also started diversifying the classifications for different types of depression and it was when reactive depression was presented to the psychology community.

Suicidal tendencies were thought to have plagued this form of depression since it would be the person’s way of reaching out to others for help. However, now it is seen as a state that does not last long enough to produce these kinds of feelings. However, in certain cases, it can produce suicidal tendencies, due to the intensity of the symptoms.

With the expansion of these sub-types of depression, there were different therapy methods that were applied to each of the sub-types in order to find out which therapy worked the best. The expansion of behavioral, humanistic, cognitive, and cognitive behavioral therapy, led to figuring out what issues primarily lie in each of these sub-types, and what the triggers are for them as well.

Symptoms of Reactive Depression

These triggers are all initialized by specific events that plague the individual with multiple symptoms:

Other symptoms include drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, because of the increasing amount of anxiety, and the depressed mood.

Causes of Reactive Depression

Many of the causes that stem to reactive depression are ones that pertain to environmental factors, due to deriving from events. These events consist mainly of job stress or job loss which can be seen as a serious change for someone since they lose the identity that came along with the job. Other triggers for reactive depression can be losing a person in the family or a death of a close friend since there were strong emotional ties with this person, or it can release an emotional blockage or bring upon emotions that were not expressed before by the person.

Depression is rage spread thin.” – George Santayana

With this sense of there being a loss to the individual’s life, reactive depression is derivative of it, and will always have the strongest ties with environmental factors, and personal afflictions.

Biochemical causes of depression originate from triggers that cause neurotransmitter imbalances, and when it comes to reactive depression, this can link the two more so, since they derive from triggers. These neurotransmitters as previously mentioned, do not carry the proper signals to the brain and nerves in which lead to multiple complications internally. The positive aspect about this is that the issues that arise from these chemical imbalances show specifically which chemical imbalance the body is dealing with.

There are three tests that focus on finding these imbalances:

Evolutionary causes for depression are important to discuss since there are families with their own personal history of clinical depression. Even though there is no conclusive evidence for depression having a direct link with being passed down hereditarily, it is still mainly sought out for in experimental practices, and in certain cases, can be viewed differently in order to explain this issue in a family.

reactive depression symptoms
reactive depression symptoms

With a family that has a history of depression impacting the lineage, this depressive cycle can be shown from the child’s upbringing, which the child grew up with a depressive parent, and let it affect the relationships within the family. If the parent does not find the proper treatment or support, then it can, in turn, affect the family, and show how from this perspective, there can be a connection between family members, and depression.

Parents might not realize but children pick up on mood swings and changes and that might affect the life references the child has of the world.

Comorbidity with Reactive Depression

Reactive depression can be associated with other disorders, specifically those that have a situational impact on the person. Disorders such as schizophrenia and adjustment disorder are primarily associated with reactive depression, due to the situational moments that act as recurring stressors.

When it comes to schizophrenia and reactive depression, it is shown that both are heavily impacted by specific moments that exemplify the diathesis-stress model, from the way that an event and stress are the leading factors for the disorders, and could be the direct cause.

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Other disorders that show comorbidity with depression in general are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Chronic diseases
  • Physical disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders.

Treatments for this type of comorbidity can range from the person taking prescription drugs, which vary from person to person, especially by the severity of the depression, while also regulatory options that fixate on enhancing the individual’s personal life.

Difference between reactive depression and endogenous depression?

Endogenous depression and reactive depression have many similarities, through their symptoms, and category, but mainly differ in the amount of time a person is diagnosed as being clinically depressed, and the effectiveness of medications, and other treatments. Endogenous depression though it lasts longer, does not have a strict timetable to how long the condition can last, only that it is a prolonged period amount of time.

Endogenous depression occurs without the presence of stress or trauma. There seems to be no apparent cause but reactive depression happens after a stressful event. Diagnosis is mainly based on the symptoms.

Differences between Reactive depression, Situational Depression, and Clinical Depression

Most of the sub-types are categorized under clinical depression in which indicates that they were diagnosed by a doctor under the major depression category. However, situational depression relates to the depressive state (short) coming under a change (major, or minor) that exemplify the same reasons why someone would be diagnosed with reactive depression, due to their focus on a particular event being the main cause. This would indicate that reactive depression would be seen more as a situational depression, since the focus is on the length of time, and focus on circumstances.

Treatments for Reactive Depression

Prescription Drugs for reactive depression

  • Bupropion, Venlafaxine, Citalopram, Gabapentin, Clonazepam, Duloxetine, Sertraline (Zoloft), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Escitalopram, and Amitriptyline.

Symptoms that may occur with taking these prescriptions drugs are:

  • Upset stomach, loss of balance, tiredness, decreased sex drive, dry mouth, insomnia, weight gain, and fatigue.
  • Other symptoms: Self-harm, and self-disgust thoughts.

Psychotherapy for reactive depression

The most effective type of psychotherapy for reactive depression is cognitive behavioral therapy CBT since the therapist has the patient improve their view of themselves by targeting these deceptive views of themselves.

They work around the patterns that people fall into, which cause the harsh perspective to manifest and worsen internally. Humanistic therapy can also be very effective due to getting a better understanding of the patient’s feelings, while also understanding where the views arose from.

Other treatment options for reactive depression

Sleep management, and having a better control of stress levels with techniques such as mindfulness meditation are also alternatives to being highly effective in getting a person through a difficult period of time in their life.

Prognosis of Reactive Depression

As aforementioned, since reactive depression primarily revolves around specific events, the way of going by treatment, and rehabilitating is much simpler. The target is the event has the psychologist look at what kind of events are plaguing the patient, and how to go by ensuring the patient that the event is not as debilitating as it may seem. Forms of therapy, such as psychotherapy can look at the event, or multiple events, and hone in on the reaction from the patient in order to see how this reaction relates to the patient’s pathology of dealing with their issues. This has this particular mood disorder be highly impactful in a therapy environment due to the information that can be pulled from it, and has the patient themselves become more involved in the therapy sessions.

“People who do not understand themselves have a craving for understanding.” – Wilhelm Stekel

There are still some symptoms that can stick around for a while, and make the recovery process difficult, due to the levels of constraint they hold on the person. With plaguing thoughts, emotional blockage and headaches troubling the patient can be difficult to overcome even in the therapy environment if the person is not able to think and analyze the information. The patient’s interpretation of the event that might cause this reactive depression can help facilitate their recovery but it can also worsen the depression level and its length.

Famous celebrities that dealt with reactive depression

Jim Carrey – dealt with long term depression after having marriages that failed, and ended up taking Prozac in order to get past the issue, while also focusing on having a better mindset.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – quit his successful role on a famous TV show 3rd Rock From the Sun, and fell into a deep depression, which came from his fear of never getting a role that came as close to being as popular as the one that he was on.

Angelina Jolie – had multiple moments in her life that led her back to being in a depressed state. She had grown up with having severe depression, and when she lost her mother, this depressive state reoccurred, leading to her taking a different approach to dealing with, through acting.

Matthew Perry – dealt with his depression through drinking, and drugs (opioids) in which carried on during his time on the TV show Friends. He was able to find some help once the fans and his costars started pushing him on to seek help, and go to rehab.

J.K. Rowling – had been dealing with depression for a prolonged period amount of time, while she lived in poverty and abuse. She wrote most of her Harry Potter series during this time and left most of her feelings on her writing. With her success, she was able to get past her depression, and also went through cognitive behavioral therapy.

Kerry Washington – has been a public advocate for those who suffer with depression, since she had gone through a depressed period during college. She got help from a dance instructor and was able to get passed the pattern of unhealthily overeating, and over-exercising.

Demi Lovato – suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, and went through health issues from anorexia, and bulimia. She went into a couple of treatment facilities during separate periods of times and led her to deal with this issue through drug abuse.

Kay Redfield Johnson – A clinical psychologist that understands this particular field the most, since she has been dealing with bipolar disorder, and depression, while also helping her patients.

Art Buchwald – became widely known through his interview with Larry King about depression in which he exposed his personal life of going through the illness, while also connecting audiences with a celebrity through this perspective, which had never been done before.

Many of these celebrities suffered through different types of depression, and other disorders, but some of them had gone through events that had taken primary control over their lives. With the help of professionals and support from family members and friends, they were able to overcome their issues and continue prospering in their own ways. This type of support is what leads to a better path, and needs to be understood when focusing on this particular field.

Depression Now, and Ways to Help Someone

With there being a deeper focus on the expression of opinion in general, such as through social media; now there is a platform that can help people express their feelings. Even though this can at many times have people be against one another by taking up separate opinions, there are easier lines of communication for helpers to be available now. This can eventually have reactive depression become a lesser seen mood disorder, which has tremendous benefits, but also negatives since there will still be a community of people that do not express themselves, which hopefully can push for a platform that can help others find the voice for their issues.

I very much appreciate you reading this article, and there is always room for further discussion, so feel free to leave your comment below. Thank you!


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