Reactive Depression: When Events Overwhelm Us

Reactive depression: When events overwhelm us

Death, separation, stress at work, persistent family drama…  Reactive depression can occur for various reasons. This condition is characterized by depression, despair and irritability. It always appears as a reaction to one or more specific external events that may overwhelm us.

We all know that it is not always easy to find the cause of depression. Physiological, environmental and personal problems can sometimes weave a very complicated web, which can be difficult to hustle up. However, it is safe to say that in many cases there is a very clear trigger. Stress occurs which the patient cannot handle. It leads to a series of psychological processes that are as exhausting as they are crippling.

Reactive or situational depression is the most common mood disorder in the clinical field. In some ways, if we understand this disorder, it can help us become more aware of a simple fact within ourselves. We are all vulnerable to experiencing this condition.

In addition to the physiological triggers, there are also things that are not always under our control. As Vicente Aleixandre said in one of his poems, “because life is difficult, so difficult that it is not enough to row aggressively forward. Then we sometimes run aground. ”

Woman sitting alone on bridge

What is reactive depression and its symptoms?

There is an obvious fact that most of us have seen in more than one case. When life affects us in any way (burglary, firing, failure of a partner…), we do not all suffer the effects in the same way. There are those who, for one reason or another, have better tools, better psychological flexibility, and a stronger, more resilient psyche.

On the other hand, some people suffer as much from breathing as when someone throws an object against the windshield of a car. As a rule, the surface will not crack right away. However, there will be a crack in the glass and something even more dangerous – residual stress.

Sooner or later, the windshield will end up cracking. The same is true for many people who have experienced a traumatic event. It may take weeks before the symptoms of reactive depression begin to show.

The symptoms of reactive depression

As we so often point out, no psychological disorder manifests itself with exactly the same symptoms in each patient. In addition, we sometimes have a very heterogeneous and complex clinical picture. In relation to reactive depression, another fact should also be noted – it is closely linked to the patient’s personality. However, some of these different symptoms are usually evidence:

  • The feeling of sadness and discouragement is a common symptom in all patients.  This emotional state appears after the event, which the patient perceives as the trigger for his state.
  • Loss of interest in all activities as well as lack of enjoyment,  motivation  and the ability to perform daily tasks.
  • Complete loss of energy. The simple task of getting out of bed in the morning requires a great deal of effort.
  • Feelings of shame and extremely negative thoughts.
  • Focus solely on the negative aspects of everything that surrounds them.
  • One fact that helps specialists differentiate endogenous from reactive depression is that in the latter there are no excessive physical symptoms. This means that  patients do not show excessive muscle pain, headaches or weight loss. However, they experience insomnia or hypersomnia.
Man takes to head due to reactive depression

What factors predispose us to reactive depression?

There are several ongoing studies that give us greater insight into the anatomy of this type of depression. Thus, neuropsychiatrists such as Jin Mizushima explain that although personality is a key factor, there are other crucial factors as well. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Those individuals who are exposed to constantly stressful situations are more likely to develop this disorder.
  • The people who demand a lot of themselves, perfectionists.
  • While there is usually a genetic factor with endogenous depression, other factors, such as low self-esteem and a lifestyle focused on the external, mean more for reactive depression. They are psychological factors where people feel they have no control over reality. Everything that happens, victories or failures, depends on external events.

Treatment of reactive depression

As we mentioned at the beginning,  reactive depression is one of the most common disorders among the population.  As a rule, it affects young women. Despite the high rate of cases, we can say that out of all types of depression, this one has the best prognosis. In general, seeking professional help from a cognitive behavioral therapist will yield the best results.

Going to a psychologist is important to start dealing with the stressful events that lead to the patient’s condition. Confronting these issues, dealing with the accumulation of emotions, and promoting appropriate cognitive restructuring capable of creating more positive behaviors is without a doubt one of the best approaches.

In addition, the pharmacological aspect must not be ignored. Antidepressants such as SSRIs, ISRNs or tricyclic antidepressants, for example, may also provide some relief.

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