Reactive Depression

reactive depressionReactive depression (sometimes called adjustment disorder or stress response syndrome) is a type of depression triggered by some non-traumatic, but nevertheless serious stressors such as grievous life events. Any event that causes a person to fall into a state of depression can be considered a trigger. The symptoms of reactive depression can vary from person to person, but are usually significantly magnified because of said traumatic event(s). Usually, reactive depression leads to social detachments as well as academic/occupational performance drops. Depending on the person experiencing it, reactive depression varies in severity and symptoms. The good news is that with proper treatment and support, the patient can feel an improvement in about six months. This depends on the nature of the event that occurred, the context it happened in, and the cultural norms that govern the appropriate emotional response.

Causes Of Reactive Depression

Accidents. With the varying factor being the “damage” done by it and how often they occur, we all have misfortunes of different kinds. Some people cope harder with accidents and can get depressed because of the aftermath.

A Change In Employment. Changing jobs can be hard. Completely changing careers even harder. Losing a job affects people even more, and some individuals may even develop reactive depression.

Being Harassed. The presence of any kind of harassment in your environment can be a trigger for reactive depression.

Being In An Abusive Relationship. People often don’t realize they are in an abusive relationship, but still feel the effects of it. Continued stress and emotional turmoil can lead to severe depression.

Being Robbed. Being robbed can easily leave you with depression as a result.

Breaking Up. Although better than being in an abusive or uncomfortable relationship, breaking up with your partner is emotionally very hard. The sum of stress and a wide array of emotions can be a trigger for depression.

Death Of A Loved One. Losing a member of your family, your partner or even a close friend must cause sadness and some form of depressive state. But if the depression persists it could be that it’s actually reactive depression. This is highly subjective because every individual has different emotional responses when it comes to such events.

Divorce. Similar to breaking up,the sheer amount of strain and emotional turmoil caused by the divorce can be a cause for reactive depression as well.

Going Into Retirement. Some people joyfully await their retirement, while some find it hard to cope with. Less interaction with people and the loss of a fixed schedule that most jobs provide you with are hard to get used to.

Having Financial Problems. Money related problems can trigger depression, especially if it seems that there is no way out of those particular financial struggles.

Having Trouble At School. Young people can easily get depressed by getting bad results at their learning facility. It can make them feel not good enough or as a failure which can trigger reactive depression as well.

Moving. Moving is one of the “lesser” causes of reactive depression, but nevertheless present trigger. Some people (usually kids and teenagers) are so affected by moving to another city, country or even a different neighborhood that it leads to reactive depression spells.

Natural Disaster. Losing everything or just being in the midst of a natural disaster is very difficult to deal with.

Your Job. If you hate it, or if you are a recipient of some form of harassment from your colleagues and/or superiors, you can fall into reactive depression.

The nature of reactive depression makes this form of depression strictly case-by-case, as every individual experiences it uniquely. The same can be said for events that cause it. Most of those situations fall into the category of everyday life, people can and will have vastly different reactions, depending on the severity of the event and the person experiencing it.

Symptoms Of Reactive Depression

People who suffer from reactive depression can experience a variety of symptoms. That is mostly due to the fact that every individual reacts differently to various stressful events in their lives and therefore has a completely unique experience with reactive depression. We have listed some of the most common reactive depression symptoms below.

Being Confused

Confusion is a common symptom in most depressions, and reactive depression is no exception. The combination of emotions and stress can easily cause concentration problems, forgetfulness and the feeling of confusion regarding the state you are in and the presence of other symptoms from this list.

Behaving Self-Destructively

When coping with any kind of depression people often resort to some form of self-destructive conduct. Be it drugs/alcohol (as mentioned bellow), harming themselves physically, not eating properly or just by being reckless and not caring about their well-being.

Being Easily Irritable

This is also a common symptom of depression because of the overall strain on the “nerves”. Things that usually wouldn’t irritate you (or even if they did – you would be able to keep your composure) will completely throw you off course and cause you to react impatiently or with anger.

Changes To Your Appetite

Depending on the person involved, reactive depression can lead to a wide scope of eating routine disruptions – from overeating and binge eating to loss of appetite. This is a consequence of the fact that some people use food to “silence” their emotions and cope with them while others are so affected by their emotional state that they can’t even think of food.

Crying Spells

Frequent crying is also not rare. Overwhelmed by emotions some people use crying as a “valve” to deal with all the emotional stress they experience. These crying fits can happen multiple times a day or less frequently – daily occasions or a number of times during the week, depending on the person in question.

Feeling Anxious

Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. Fear and general discomfort can be felt even in situations that are common and would normally produce no emotional response in a time before the depression causing event.


Some people can’t cope with all the emotions they are feeling so they subconsciously concentrate on experiencing anger. Most often anger is a symptom present in teenagers and children, but it is not uncommon for some adults to experience it too.

Feeling sad

Sadness – the emotion most people connect to depression, is also the most common symptom on this list. Depending on the person and the severity of the event that caused reactive depression, sadness can vary in intensity. This indicator is often overlooked as a symptom because some levels of sadness are “expected” depending on the event that occurred (ex. Death of a loved person).

Sleep Problems

People often notice a drastic change in their sleep schedules – be it the inability to stay asleep and awakening multiple times during the night, or even sleeping much more than the usual (or normal) amount of hours.


It can be directly induced by depression, or it can originate from the sheer amount of stress present in the individual’s life. Headache intensity can range depending on the person in question.

Heart Palpitations

Irregular heartbeat is often connected to depression and the event induced stress that represents the start of the anxious and problematic behavior.


Like we mentioned above, having trouble sleeping is not rare. Pondering the root of your volatile emotions, the changes to your life and the event that eventually lead to depression can often cause persistent insomnia.

Suicide Thoughts

The “end-stages” of depression can lead to thinking about or acting out the urge to end your life. This most often happens when depression isn’t noticed on time or isn’t properly treated. Whatever the case, if the overall state of mind has come to this, professional help should be sought out immediately.

Turning To Drugs And Alcohol For Relief

This symptom is most common with teenagers but is also not rare in adults. When failing to cope with their emotions people often seek a way out of them – and frequently adopt the coping mechanism(s) that rely on substance and alcohol abuse. These “ways out” usually lead to addictions and only worsen the condition the patients are already in.

Withdrawing From Social Activities

Isolation is how some individuals cope with their problems and emotions and is often used as a method of “self-defense” when it comes to reactive depression. Depression can only worsen when you isolate yourself from social activities that you would usually attend, and from the people that care about you.

Possible Treatments For Reactive Depression

When it comes to reactive depression it’s usually best to seek professional help – because it will lead to the swiftest recovery and a fast return to your regular life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

When combined with other psychotherapeutic methods, it usually gives the best results when it comes to reactive depression. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on the patient’s current problems and tries to change the demoralized thinking and actions.

Social And Self Support

If the person has a good support system of family and friends, as well as the support of other social circles they are in, it is much simpler for them to “beat” depression and return to their regular lives. One must also take care of themselves while in the throes of a depressive state. Good sleep, trying to reduce stress and seeking help if necessary can aid you just as much.


Usually used only temporarily in reactive depression, if all other methods don’t seem to give the wanted results. The prime objective of antidepressant use is to get the person through a particularly tough emotional period.

Within a couple of months, with professional help, a recovery period should end with the patient being almost completely healed.


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