Reactive Depression

Causes of Reactive Depression

Reactive depression is considered a "stress-related mental illness;" it's a reaction to the stress brought on by circumstances such as getting a divorce, losing a job or having a death in the family. Going away to college, relocating or downsizing and moving from home to a long-term care senior facility are other significant life events that can cause a great deal of stress. Often, we can adjust naturally to big life changes and emotions and stress levels normalize over the course of a few months. When the depression lingers or brings self-destructive or self-sabotaging behaviors, an adjustment disorder has likely set in and medication and therapy may be needed. This treatment is often short-term [source: Mayo Clinic].

Symptoms of reactive depression appear within three months of the events that trigger them, and they can be behavioral or emotional. Behavioral changes bring on a general inability to manage your life and can include the following:

  • performance issues at school or work
  • a withdrawal from friends, family and social situations
  • being reckless or erratic, for example driving too fast and out-of-control or starting fights
  • letting bills pile up and not being able to keep your house clean and in order

Emotional changes are similar to those of depression in general and include:

  • feeling desperate, overwhelmed and nervous
  • having persistent sadness and hopelessness, worry and anxiety
  • experiencing sleep and concentration issues
  • going through periods of uncontrollable crying
  • having frequent or obsessive suicidal thoughts
  • unable to enjoy anything [source: Mayo Clinic]

Adults, teenagers and children of both sexes can suffer from reactive depression. People of all ages experience stressful events. For example, when a family makes a cross-country or international move to a new home, children and adults need to adjust to leaving behind family and friends or schools and churches and face starting over. It can be overwhelming for everyone, but each person will adjust at his own pace and with different degrees of stress. Women are twice as likely to have situational disorders, or reactive depression, and teenagers are at greater risk of developing long-term problems, but the severity will depend on the individual [source: Mayo Clinic].

How can you determine if depression is settling in for the long term or is reactive? By working together with your doctor. We'll look at how to track symptoms and diagnose reactive depression, next.