What Is Endogenous Depression?

By: Stephanie Kirby

Updated November 12, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

You are probably aware that there are many different types of depression. However, many people are unfamiliar with the meaning of the term endogenous depression. That is because this term is rarely used today. Most people who would have been diagnosed with endogenous depression in the past are now diagnosed using a more recent term: clinical depression. Whatever you call it, endogenous depression is a disorder that can severely impact the lives of those who suffer from it.

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Endogenous Depression vs. Exogenous Depression

Endogenous depression is difficult to fully comprehend because it's not fully understood what causes it, let alone its full array of symptoms. It is a type of depression that can occur spontaneously, without an apparent trigger or cause. Much of the time, depressive episodes are triggered by some type of stressful or traumatic event, but that isn't necessarily the case with this type of depression.

In the past, two types of clinical depression were diagnosed:

  • Endogenous
  • Exogenous

These have similarities, but their causes are somewhat different. Exogenous depression is typically brought about by stress or some type of traumatic event, whereas endogenous depression is more mysterious and unpredictable, as it is triggered more "internally."

There are various thoughts about what may trigger endogenous depression. Some researchers claim that pre-existing psychological factors are the cause. Others think that environmental factors may also contribute to its development. To this day, it isn't entirely clear what causes endogenous depression.

Exogenous depression is simpler to understand because it follows understandable patterns. An individual could develop exogenous depression after losing a loved one or experiencing some other type of traumatic event. Doctors are better able to treat exogenous depression because it's easier to determine the root of the problem.

As noted above, the term endogenous depression is not often used these days. People are instead diagnosed with clinical depression, sometimes more specifically referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD).

What Characterizes MDD?

MDD is a disorder that causes depressive episodes. Did you know that MDD is the leading cause of disability in the US for individuals aged 15 to 44? This shouldn't come as a huge shock, as depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Individuals with depression may feel profoundly sad, bored, and constantly tired, which often leads to losing interest in other facets of life. Those suffering with MDD may experience difficulties functioning as they normally would. In fact, they may avoid certain activities or even completely withdraw from their normal lives. Their sleeping patterns may be erratic, which can lead to problems with energy levels, appetite, and overall motivation.

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It's common for people who are depressed to lose a significant amount of weight. Individuals suffering from severe depression may be so disinterested in life that they find it difficult to eat. Major weight loss is a sign that an intervention is needed before things get worse. On the flip side, those with MDD may overeat and gain weight.

Low self-esteem is also common among those suffering from MDD. Individuals in this state typically feel as though their lives do not have value, which often leads to suicidal thoughts. Their harshly negative view of their lives can be heartbreaking for friends and family members to witness.

The exact causes of severe MDD and endogenous depression are up for debate. Many researchers and professionals believe that a combination of biological and psychological factors contribute to such depressive episodes. There is even some evidence that changes in brain function cause these conditions.

If you feel as though you may be suffering from endogenous depression, do not lose hope. You can take the first step toward treatment today at BetterHelp.com.

How Can It Be Treated?

Treating endogenous depression is similar to treating any other type of depression. A combination of medication and therapy is typically used to begin the treatment process. There are various categories of medications that have proven to be effective, such as:

  • Antidepressants (usually the first medication prescribed)
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antipsychotics (often used as an adjunct to help boost the efficacy of antidepressants)

The types of medications that are prescribed, and whether they are helpful, will depend on many factors. For example, antipsychotics will help some but not all individuals suffering from endogenous depression. The efficacy of a certain type of medication will vary from person to person, and seems to have to do not only with the types of symptoms manifested, but also with genetics.

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Addressing co-occurring problems such as anxiety and mood swings can help when treating endogenous depression. Medications won't always completely eliminate the symptoms of depression, but they can significantly alter mood and make things more manageable. Feeling as stable as possible allows depression sufferers to get the most out of therapy sessions as well.

Therapy is often used in conjunction with medication. It is an important treatment choice for those who wish to address both what might be contributing to their depression and how best to recover. Talking about how depression makes them feel and exploring those feelings can help dramatically. Speaking with a licensed therapist makes it easier for patients to change the way that they see the world, which can help improve the way they feel. Research shows that online therapy can play a powerful role in treating depression. 

You may read the full study here: Depression: Effectiveness of a Multimodal Digital Psychotherapy Platform for Adult Depression: A Naturalistic Feasibility Study

A good therapist will be able to help their patients identify negative patterns. Those who wish to recover from endogenous depression often find it easier to do so when they begin to change their thought patterns. Negative thought and behavior patterns can be replaced with positive ones, leading to a fresh perspective on life.

Endogenous depression does not have to take over a person's life permanently. It can be treated, and people can get better. Once your doctor has recognized the symptoms, they will be able to determine the best treatment plan for you. Working together with a medical professional and getting the support of your loved ones will be essential when working to overcome this type of depression.

Alternative Solutions

If you're not ready to seek out professional help for your endogenous depression just yet, you might try some of these alternative solutions:

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Diet plays a huge role in determining how we feel and function each day. Make sure to eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to boost your energy and maintain your "gut" health.

Get Plenty of Sleep at Night

Endogenous depression can make it difficult to both fall and stay asleep, which in turn causes fatigue. Try your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and you will likely notice improvements in your mood. To get better sleep, you can practice sleep hygiene (e.g., only using your bed for sleep and turning off all devices an hour before bed).

Spend More Time with Friends and Family

Spending time with close friends and family can help counter depressive symptoms. Suggest going out and trying something that you've never done before, even if you don't feel particularly interested in the moment. You're less likely to experience hopelessness when you're both distracted by a new activity and surrounded by those who care about you most.

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Talking to a therapist or counselor is likely to have a significant positive impact on your condition. When you are feeling low and experiencing dark thoughts, a counselor can help by providing support and suggestions. For those who don't have a therapist or who don't want to have to leave the house, there is another option. Online professional counselors can talk with you during your time of need.

Depressive symptoms can make traveling to appointments difficult. Not only will BetterHelp match you with a compassionate, licensed counselor, but you can access our platform from the comfort and privacy of your home. You deserve to be happy-let us help. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I put off finding a therapist for a long time. I dreaded my first conversation with Neil and all the awkward, clunky explanations I'd have to give about my depression and anxiety. All of the things that felt like dirty little secrets that caused me so much pain. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the way Neil accurately picked up on what I was saying and gave me more insight into how my brain was working. It made my issue feel so much less of a personal problem and more of a universal problem we could examine together. He always gives me a thoughtful response within a day or two any time I send a message. I actually think we've made more progress in between sessions just by being able to communicate things that are coming up in real time. Neil is intelligent and kind. I really appreciate his communication style and highly recommend him."

"Tamera is straightforward and supportive. She's not afraid of pointing out what to work on and give you the right tools immediately. It is highly personalized just for your unique symptoms and situation! Tamera helped me manage my depression and anxiety and I became more empowered to have more control in my life. I feel a lot happier."


You have more strength than you know, and you don't have to face endogenous depression alone. Coping with, and moving forward from, depression is possible-with the right tools.

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