Reactive depression is a form of clinical depression or major depressive disorder. Just like the” masked depression ” is not found in the last diagnostic manual (DSM V) but has been the subject of interest over time and is still the case today. In the diagnostic manual of mental disorders (DSM IV), it is usual to speak of atypical depression by making reference to those cases of depression that do not meet the classic diagnostic criteria that constitute a framework depressive canon. Then what is reactive depression? I try to explain it to you immediately starting from its meaning, indeed, from the meaning of the two terms that make up this disorder: depression and reaction.
Depress: weaken, break down physically or morally. Reaction: response directly provoked, motivated, determined by an event, action or wrong immediately. Reactive depression: what is and causes It is counted among the various depressive forms but unlike the major depression it is linked to a triggering event.
The events that can trigger reactive depression are subjective and varied, I speak to you of events strong and dramatic events such as a bereavement, a loss, a separation, a failure, a disappointment (professional or emotional), physical violence, a scam… of Course, it is normal to feel hurt and express their pain as a result of a “misfortune”, however, in the case of reactive depression, the emotional response is excessively intense and prolonged than the underlying cause.
Life is full of stressful and painful events,
so reactive depression becomes a much more widespread disorder than one can imagine. The custody of a child to the other parent in case of divorce, the death of a loved one, a miscarriage or, more simply, the separation from your mate, stolen goods, a car accident, a move, or a transfer on the job. Everyone experiences stress and pain in a different way. Reactive depression can also be induced by an event on the surface: in particularly fragile people, this form of depression can also take place following a rejection of an examination or any event that could betray high expectations.
These events, dramatic or mild, can trigger a depressive reaction which can persist for a long time and interfere significantly with normal social functions, emotional and a person’s work. This is therefore the definition of reactive depression: an emotional response disproportionate to a lived event. Reactive depression: symptoms. Just like major depression, reactive depression is also characterized by symptoms such as: Feelings of despair, Feelings of uselessness, Chronic sadness, Apathy, Loss of pleasure, Feeling useless, Fragility and emotional instability. The symptoms are such as to compromise the good social, working and affective functioning of the affected individual. Other symptoms such as: Anxiety and agitation, Eating disorders with weight fluctuations, Irritability, Memory problems,Difficulty in concentrating, Dissociation
In many cases, reactive depression is” masked ” with psychosomatic symptoms, as I explained in the article dedicated to masked depression. Masked depression is an additional subtype of reactive depression. Behavioural symptoms such as compulsion to repeat, that is, the tendency to repeat a dysfunctional behavioural model, could occur. In more serious cases this could also lead to drug use. among the other symptoms, feelings of repentance at an existential level may arise. Feelings of self-guilt and self-devaluation.
Reactive mourning depression or separation depressionYou’re probably wondering, how can you draw a line to assess a person’s intensity of suffering when faced with tragic events like mourning? The answer is not so much intensity but duration and management of the same suffering. The death of a loved one is a very painful event in itself. Its processing takes time and involves the transition between different phases. In reactive depression this does not happen and the person who should mourn, instead, finds himself reliving in a constant way a strong despair. Later in time, this desperation may no longer be perceived as linked to unproven mourning even though it was that mourning that triggered it.
Differences between major and reactive depression
Reactive depression is a type of clinical depression that generally lasts several months. The main difference between major depression and reactive depression is not in duration but resides in the cause. Reactive depression, unlike other forms of depression, is linked to a specific event. For the diagnosis of reactive depression, the psychotherapist should examine the patient’s behaviour in the light of recent events and mood changes (and how these reflect on his lifestyle). It is the relationship between an event and depressive symptoms that leads, the specialist, to formulate a diagnosis of reactive depression.
Reactive depression: therapy
Reactive depression is not a disorder for everyone. What do I mean? That everyone goes through painful moments in life but not everyone finds themselves sinking into the vortex of depression. Why? Those who suffer from reactive depression carry wounds with them: sometimes it is enough to process the triggering cause to get out, but other times it is necessary to go deeper. Here’s a very common clinical case: reactive depression diagnosed after separation. Mary was 24 when she met Luke. The two were together until, after 6 years of relationship (of which 4 were living together), Luke decided to split up. Maria, at that point, plunges into a state of absolute apathy, locks herself in the house and feels desperate. His life has lost all meaning, he feels useless and his state of mind does not tame with the passing of weeks. Mary closes herself and does not respond in a functional way to external stimuli. Apathy now characterizes all her days and Mary does nothing but go on by inertia. Taking a step back and looking at Mary’s story, we see that her whole life was based on her relationship with Luke. With him he had established a bond of Affective dependence. Nobody would have said it: after all, that girl, before the collapse, appeared realized (graduated, with a good job…), yet it was not enough! Mary, in fact, had not structured a good self-esteem. Taking a few more steps back, we see that Mary’s childhood was characterized by unstable ties starting with that of her mother who had several times abandoned the marital roof and then returned.
The case of Mary makes you understand how it is “easy” to fall into reactive depression when you do not have a very solid structure, or when the wounds of the past (like the fear of abandonment) is still working in the background to influence the present. In cases such as that of Mary, the therapy not only aims to elaborate the triggering event but also to build a stable inner core.
How to heal from reactive depression
If the course of major depression leaves a difficult prognosis, the outcome of the reactive depression is generally more favorable. Because the depressed mood comes from a triggering event, psychotherapy can give optimal results even in very short periods. The most difficult part of the course of the reactive depression is the initial one: for the patient it is difficult to recover and rest his hope in any therapy when feelings like helplessness and despair run rampant. Those suffering from reactive depression do not have to deal only with the symptoms described above: these symptoms are reflected in the physical sphere resulting in poor levels of energy. If a patient has little energy to invest, treatment becomes very difficult.
If you suspect you have severe reactive depression, it is important that you seek help. Similarly, if your loved one suffers from this disorder, it may be appropriate to direct him to psychotherapy. reactive depression treatment. The most delicate moment lived by the people affected by reactive depression is the night: with the darkness, the tiredness of the day and the lowering of the barrier of the conscious state, all the typical symptoms of depression intensify. Are the drugs recommended in the treatment of this disorder?
In some cases, yes. For example, in the case of reactive depression and anxiety, support with benzodiazepines (anxiolytics) may be useful. If reactive depression appears in an already problematic and fragile framework or if suicidal ideation should be present, the integration of antidepressant drugs could be useful. In any circumstance, the use of psychotropic drugs should always be discussed with the psychotherapist and the psychiatrist: this is always true even if, in reactive depression, the patient tends to passively accept everything. That is why in this type of depression, when desperation is spreading, it is easier to fall into the use of drugs or alcoholism. And that’s why it’s very important to act quickly without risking going from a depressive disorder to a drug addiction. It is also essential to understand that only pharmacological treatment is not enough.
Among other forms of depression included in DSM only in the past, you may be interested in “psychotic depression“.