Monday, February 3, 2014

What Is Reactive Depression?

I am going to try to make this very simple.

Historically, there was thought to be two types of depression. One type, called endogenous, was thought to be mostly biochemical in nature and could happen to individuals even when there were no significant stresses going on in their lives. This type of depression was thought to be a true illness.

A second type of depression was called reactive. In this case, depression was experienced by individuals who are undergoing serious stresses or losses in their lives. This is the category of depression that would best describe the symptoms experienced by many people who live every day in pain, or suffer serious prolonged illness or injury. This type of depression happens to people as a reaction to what is happening to them. Clear examples would be, prolonged injury or illness, death in the family, divorce, job loss and prolonged unemployment, or almost any type of serious loss.

Even though the causes of these two types of depression were quite distinct, the symptoms are very similar. Treatment for both types of depression is also similar, and involves, usually, a combination of medication and counseling. Counseling involving cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common and most effective. For these reasons, depression is thought of, nowadays, as being of a single type. Depression is usually diagnosed with the term, major depressive disorder, regardless of the cause.

Although these terms are not used for diagnosis anymore, it is still often useful to explain the concept of reactive depression to patients who suffer from depression caused by their chronic or long-term pain. The idea of depression, as a reaction to the stresses and losses connected to living every day in pain, makes more sense. Importantly, it also takes away some of the fear and stigma associated with depression.

Yours with care - Michael