How Is Reactive Depression Different From Other Depressions?

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated January 15, 2019

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC


Imagine that you've recently been through a difficult time in life. As a result, you don't feel like you've been able to move forward. You're tired, can't eat, are constantly fatigued, and just have an overall sense of emptiness. You don't want to feel like this, others think you should be moved past it by now, but you just can't see to care anymore. Is it grief?

While those are symptoms of grief they can also be symptoms of something called reactive depression. It's also known as situational depression. It's not the same as grief and it's not the same as other types of depression even though it shares many of the same symptoms.

What is reactive depression?

The main difference between depression and other types of depression is that reactive depression is brought on from a specific situation that has occurred in your life. Other types of depression have a number of reasons why they occur and sometimes it's just a biological reason and nothing that has happened in a person's life.

Unlike most other depressions, which can last for years if not properly managed, reactive depression is a type of clinical depression that typically lasts a few months. However, it can be very traumatizing or severe during this time.In addition, reactive depression is different from other depressions because it is solely caused by a specific stressful event, whereas other depressions can have multiple causes.

A stressful event in this case can be considered anything that changes or threatens to change someone's everyday routine or expectations. Such an event can vary, as each person identifies and handles stress differently.

Some events that trigger reactive depression can include:

  • The death of a loved one
  • End of a relationship
  • Loss of a job
  • Car accident
  • Rejection

Since each person is different there is no limit as to what situations can cause reactive depression.

How reactive depression differs from grief

Some of the situations that cause reactive depression, such as death of a loved one, are also situations where it's normal to suffer from grief. Some of the symptoms of depression and grief overlap. This can make it difficult to tell when you are experiencing normal grief and when it has moved into something more, such as reactive depression.

The symptoms of normal grief include things like numbness, bitterness, detachment, irritability, digestive problems, sore muscles, headaches, and fatigue. These are also symptoms that a person with reactive depression can experience. So, how do you know if you are experiencing grief that anyone would experience in the situation you were in or if it's moved in to something else.

Normal grief can make it difficult for you to go on with your daily activities for a time. However, normal grief is also something that continues to adapt as time goes on. If you have been living in a state of grief for a long period of time than it can be a good indication that it has moved from grief to depression.

Symptoms of Reactive Depression


Though the definition and cause of reactive depression differs from the definition and causes of other depressions, the symptoms of this type of depression remain the same as other similar mental conditions.

Christopher Taylor stated in his article, "Definition of Reactive Depression", that the symptoms of reactive depression include:

  • Hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, and agitation.
  • Weight fluctuations.
  • Headaches and digestive issues.

This is not by any means a comprehensive list of symptoms. When you are living in reactive depression it can feel like nothing in life matters. You might not care about your normal routine, cleaning your house, going to work, or paying the bills. You just don't see a purpose to it. You also lose the joy of participating in activities that you used to enjoy.

But there are more serious symptoms of reactive depression as well, Such as turning to substance abuse or having suicidal thoughts. Reactive depression is not something that you should try to self diagnose and it's not something that should be taken lightly.A few therapy sessions will determine whether you have reactive depression or not, and how intense your reactive depression is.

Get help from a professional

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of reactive depression, it's important that you seek help. Depression of any type is very treatable and there is no reason to suffer silently when you don't need to. Typical treatment options include psychotherapy, self-care, social support, and antidepressants.

For therapy sessions of this nature, it is encouraged for you to seek professional help with a licensed therapist. If you are struggling with the idea of getting out of the house to meet with a stranger you can do counseling sessions with a licensed therapist through BetterHelp. Users can benefit from this counseling website, as clients can speak to a certified therapist in any manner that they choose, whether it is through messaging, by phone, or by video chat. It allows you to get help while being in the comfort of your own home.

The best treatment plan might involve more than one treatment option. For example, self-care should be a part of every person's plan where medication may or may not be a good fit.

What to Expect from Counseling for Reactive Depression


During counseling sessions of any kind, you must first be assessed. It may not be completely clear that you are suffering from depression when the sessions begin. However, during discussions with your therapist, you will dig through your experiences with depression or emotions similar to it.

Your history with depression and your genetics or family connections to depression are vital topics in these discussions, as it helps your therapist identify your condition as reactive depression, which will help determine how to treat you.

If you had multiple experiences with depression or had family members who have struggled with depression, you may not have reactive depression.

However, if it has been found that a specific stressful event occurred around the same time your depression began, you may be diagnosed with reactive depression, and it can be treated through talk therapy, in which you will express your feelings about the event and learn sleep and stress management techniques, which can lessen your depression.

Don't ignore your feelings

If you know that you are not yourself or if someone else in you life has pointed out to you that something seems off, do not ignore it. There are treatment options available. Even if you believe you are just experiencing normal grief there are treatment options that can help you stay healthy and begin recovery.

Reactive depression is very similar to other forms of depression except for the fact that it's caused from a situation you have lived through in life and it's not long lasting. However, just because you think it will get better in a few months doesn't mean that you should just try to tough it out until things get better.

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