Reactive depression (A guide)

In this guide, we will discuss what it refers to when reactive depression is mentioned and how this occurs.

Reactive depression

Accepting things is a step to grow. The person must learn to accept what cannot be changed and deal with the repercussions that bring.

The world is a space where anything can happen, human beings have no control over everything, but every day we fail to accept this reality.

Society today teaches us that we can have what we want when we want and how we want.

The infinite variety of commercials shows us that there is everything for each person.

It is good to know that there is something that can work for everyone, but this does not mean that everything will come out when the person so wishes.

There are factors over which a person has control and there are others that do not.

You might have seen yourself in a situation where you planned something and it didn’t work out as you expected.

You had everything planned and saw that in the end, it did not happen in the same way.

You might have felt a little bad or happy because no matter how it was, you got what you wanted.

Human beings react according to how we interpret a situation.

If an event seems threatening to you, you will manifest emotions linked to that interpretation.

If a situation for you represents happiness, you will still express emotions according to the idea of ​​what happiness is.

In the case of difficult situations, where the person has to deal with processes and activities that interfere with his mood and his way of acting, it is not easy for some to cope with some moments that can interfere with their peace.

You may one day be happy and calm in your work and suddenly you receive a call that someone you love had an accident, or that you are fired from your job, how do you feel?

Events of this type can trigger a series of reactions that can lead to some major complications.

When we experience the loss of a loved one, a job or being in a traffic accident, the emotions after the event is not at all positive.

We experience fear, anguish, worry, despair and sadness, which is normal, but sometimes, over time, these can leave repercussions that can negatively interfere with our mental health.

The person may be submerged in a state of deep sadness and similar symptoms over a while, lose interest in doing activities that once caused him pleasure and simply cannot concentrate on doing something.

In this case, we are talking about reactive depression.

The term depression can be something common for you.

Perhaps you have met someone who has had depression or at some point in your life, you had to overcome similar symptoms.

You may not feel familiar with the term reactive depression, but it is something that happens very frequently and can sometimes be confused with the symptoms of another mental illness.

Definition of reactive depression

Reactive depression or situational depression can be defined as a short-term stress-related depression.

This type of depression appears after the person faces an event or a series of traumatic events.

This depression is part of adaptation disorders. The person has trouble adapting to the event, causing depression.

A person who experiences a difficult situation such as losing a job, the death of a loved one, problems at work or a related situation, may develop reactive depression.

Not having the ability to deal with the situation can be seen showing symptoms of the disorder.

Symptoms of reactive depression

Like any other depressive disorder, a person with reactive depression manifests the following symptoms:

  • Feeling of sadness
  • Despair
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities that used to be done
  • Excessive worry
  • Anxiety and stress are present most of the time
  • Sleeping problems
  • Avoid contact with other people
  • The person has difficulty remembering responsibilities it has as payment of bills or going to work
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide

Causes of reactive depression

The causes for which reactive depression originates involve a stressor. Stress can be caused by any situation that a person has to face.

Some more common situations are:

  • Losing a job
  • Economic problems
  • Health problems of both the person and a family member or friend
  • Family and couple problems
  • In the case of teenagers problems at school
  • Sexual problems
  • Death of a loved one leads to a type of reactive depression, existential depression
  • Divorces or breakups

Though OCD and depression are two different disorders, it is believed that OCD can cause depression in the long run.

DSM 5 criteria for the diagnosis of reactive depression

When looking for the criteria in DSM 5 on reactive depression, it should be borne in mind that this disorder does not appear as such.

Some call the reactive depression an adaptive disorder, others as atypical depression.

The causes for which the reactive depression differs from other types of depression is not simply because of its durability, but the cause is due to a stressful situation.

According to Wikipedia, the diagnosis of atypical depression is based on the criteria’s stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

DSM-5 defines Atypical Depression as a subtype of major depressive disorder that presents with atypical features, characterized by:

1.   Mood reactivity (i.e., the mood brightens in response to actual or potential positive events)

2.   At least two of the following:

  • Significant weight gains or increase in appetite (hyperphagia);
  • Hypersomnia (sleeping too much, as opposed to insomnia present in melancholic depression);
  • Leaden paralysis (i.e., heavy feeling resulting in difficulty moving the arms or legs);
  • A long-standing pattern of interpersonal rejection sensitivity (not limited to episodes of mood disturbance) that results in significant social or occupational impairment.

3.   Criteria are not met for With Melancholic Features or With Catatonic Features during the same episode.

When it comes to adjustment disorder, Wikipedia explains that the basis of the diagnosis is the presence of a precipitating stressor and a clinical evaluation of the possibility of symptom resolution on removal of the stressor due to the limitations in the criteria for diagnosing AjD.

In addition, the diagnosis of AjD is less clear when patients are exposed to stressors long-term because this type of exposure is associated with AjD and major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Some signs and criteria used to establish a diagnosis are important. First, the symptoms must clearly follow a stressor.

The symptoms should be more severe than would be expected. There should not appear to be other underlying disorders.

The symptoms that are present are not part of normal grieving for the death of a family member or other loved one.

Adjustment disorders have the ability to be self-limiting.

Within five years of when they are originally diagnosed, approximately 20–50% of the sufferers go on to be diagnosed with psychiatric disorders that are more serious.

Treatment for reactive depression

The treatment for reactive depression contemplates a similar process when treating other mental disorders such as psychological and pharmacological treatment.

Psychological treatment seeks to help the person understand the reasons why the person experiences the symptoms of depression.

The professional of the area seeks that the person can change the thoughts they have towards the situation and that the person avoids having episodes of stress that can lead to depression.

Psychoeducation is important, where the patient learns about the symptoms of this type of depression and that he learns the techniques at the time the symptoms occur.

In the case of drug treatment, the use of antidepressants to regulate moods is vital for a speedy recovery.

The effectiveness of the use of antidepressants for different depressive disorders has been proven.

When psychological treatment and drug treatment are combined, the results are greater.

To reduce stress levels, the person is also recommended to perform activities such as meditation.

Meditation helps the person to be calmer and lessen the thoughts that cause more stress and anxiety.

The use of aromatherapy has grown to treat the symptoms of stress and anxiety, so it is important that the person knows more about essential oils and which ones it can use.

Lavender essential oil is one of the most used to reduce symptoms of stress.

If you know someone who is going through some type of depression, you must talk about seeking help.

Depression alone does not heal and can lead to the person in several cases committing suicide.

If you feel you have similar symptoms you should also seek professional help.

Talk to the people around you about what’s happening to you and don’t feel ashamed.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

FAQs about reactive depression

Who is responsible for diagnosing reactive depression?

The diagnosis of reactive depression, like any other mental illness, should be carried out by health professionals such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Can any stressful situation lead a person to develop reactive depression?

No. A person who goes through a stressful situation does not mean that he will develop reactive depression.

Some people are at greater risk of depression than others.

It all depends on how you face the situation.

Does DSM 5 contemplate diagnostic criteria for reactive depression?

There are no specific criteria for reactive depression in DSM 5 but the symptoms of depression and adaptive disorders are taken as a reference, taking into account the causes for which a person develops reactive depression.

Can I take medication on my own if I have any type of depression?

No. Any medication for a mental disorder must be assigned by a health professional.

Who is more likely to have depression, men or women?

Women have a greater tendency to develop depression due to hormonal factors that may come into play.


Reactive depression, like any other type of mental disorder, interferes negatively with the physical and mental well-being of the person.

It is common to feel stress in various situations of daily life, so it is important that when the person feels symptoms of stress that are staying longer, the person has to resort to seeking help from a health professional to reduce symptoms and not let it continue to affect the physical and mental functioning of the person.

  1. What is situational depression? | Health FAQ Channel
  2. Reactive depression
  3. Health Issues: Stress and Depression
  4. Stress Kills: How To Manage Stress, Prevent Depression, Anxiety, And Stress-Related Health Problems (Stress Less, Mindfulness, Worry, Sadness, Depressed, … Health, Healthy Life, Grief, Work Stress)


  1. Definition Of Reactive Depression
  2. Adjustment disorder
  3. Atypical Depression
  4. Understanding Situational Depression