Depression: What is Reactive Depression?

There is really no “formal diagnosis” for reactive depression…

However, this form of depression is recognized as an adjustment disorder according to the fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Reactive depression is often triggered by a traumatic event, a stressful situation, or an external problem.

Adjustment disorders can happen at any age. As a result, they’re common in children and adolescents. Yet, if unresolved, they can lead to worsening feelings, emotions, and behaviors.

It might help to think about reactive depression as a descriptor. In other words, describing symptoms of depression occurring in response to an external problem or stressor.

Life is full of such events. They can include anything from difficult life circumstances like physical assault or a natural disaster. Consequently, any event causing an adverse psychological reaction to a stress-related situation can qualify. Sometimes called situational depression, symptoms can mimic those of major depressive disorder.

More than the Range of Normal Reactions

In the realm of mental health, there is a range of “normal” responses to stressful situations. However, this form of depression exceeds this range. In some cases, reactive depression symptoms will resolve as the situation improves. Yet, sometimes symptoms can persist and progress. In fact, they might lead to a more chronic condition that may lead to major depressive disorder.

Moreover, there are signs a person may be experiencing reactive depression.

Some of these signs include a recognized impaired functioning in one or more areas. These areas include work, in the home, during leisure time, socially, or at school. Furthermore, impaired functioning is a noticeable change in behavior following a stressful psychosocial event.

Examples of non-traumatic stressful events that may lead to reactive depression include:

A family conflict
A stressful situation at work
Financial hardship
An illness or accident
A divorce or breakup
A move to a new location

Sure, many people experience these or other common situations without having major issues. They may cope and never develop any recognized adjustment disorder. Specifically, they can maintain the same level of functioning they had prior to the stressful event. There’s no way to predict what situation might cause reactive depression in any individual. Furthermore, we can’t predict age of onset or who is susceptible to experiencing an event beyond what is considered a normal reactive range.

Treatment of Reactive Depression

Since there is no formal diagnosis for reactive depression, people who seek help will be treated in the same way as someone dealing with other forms of depression.

Here at Serenity and Wellness Counseling, we address and treat depression through several research-based modalities. We know that depression is experienced differently and people respond to approaches differently.

In our holistic approach to healing depression, we employ Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).

No matter how you are personally experiencing depression, it is possible to identify and change negative thought patterns, as well as develop healthy ways to deal with stressful situations and feel like participating fully in your life again.

To begin your journey of healing and empowerment, you can call me at 281-944-SWCC for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I look forward to working with you. The good news is that treatment for reactive depression can be brief and is likely to help you regain your emotional footing.

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