Reactive Depression

What is Reactive Depression?
Reactive DepressionReactive depression, which is sometimes referred to as an adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is a decreased mood state that is a response to a specific psychosocial stressor. In other words, reactive depression is a mild to moderate depression following a stressful event. Usually symptoms of a reactive depression will not last longer than a few months after exposure to the stressor, as a person develops coping strategies. When symptoms are prolonged or profound, the reaction is considered abnormal, and a person should seek professional help.

What causes a Reactive Depression?
Reactive depression is a depressed mood state related to a stressful life event or events. Examples of stressful life events include death of a family member or spouse, divorce, loss of job, problems with children, retirement, or even moving to a new location. An event that initiates a reactive depression may be seemingly minor or unimportant, in comparison to a grief reaction, which results from the death of a loved one. Reactive depression must be evaluated in the context of the events that triggered it. Symptoms lasting longer than a few months or symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, such as work, school, family, or personal relationships, are significant enough to require a psychological evaluation.

What are the Symptoms of Reactive Depression?
Symptoms of reactive depression include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, and sadness. Fatigue and insomnia may follow these feelings, leading to increased irritability or anxiety. Eating problems may arise, manifested as significant weight loss or gain. Difficulty in concentrating, making decisions or remembering things, as well as somatic symptoms such as pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems may also occur. Self-destructive behaviors can arise, such as drinking heavily, drug use, or even suicidal thoughts or actions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Depression

How is Reactive Depression diagnosed?
Reactive depression is diagnosed on the basis of depressive symptoms related to a troubling life event or situation. It is important to uncover the psychosocial stressors that underlie the reactive depression. It is also appropriate to delineate the timeline of symptoms in relation to an inciting event. Next, a psychologist or psychiatrist should inquire as to how the depressive episodes have interfered with the Client’s everyday living, including negative effects on family, friends, work or school. Any history of drug or alcohol abuse or self-medication should be explored. When a person with reactive depression turns to substance abuse or self-medication, treatment becomes more complicated.

What is the Prognosis for Reactive Depression?
Reactive depression is a highly treatable psychological problem. Because it is a maladaptive response to a specific psychosocial stressor, psychotherapy can address the underlying issues with clarity. In addition to psychotherapy, sleep and stress management, and psycho-education can significantly improve the wellness of someone with a reactive depression.

What Complications can Slow Recovery?
Persons with reactive depression may feel powerless to find help. They may be living with a low energy state, or feelings of fear and hopelessness and helplessness. The first step for them is getting to a treatment provider. When substance abuse (especially alcohol, marijuana or cocaine) or self-medication complicates the picture, effective psychological and medical treatment becomes crucial.

How Can Friends and Family Help?
As mentioned, a person with reactive depression may have difficulty seeking help for many reasons. The strength of the social network of a person with a reactive depression, especially family, friends, co-workers and loved ones, is an important predictor of recovery. Family members or a spouse often are the ones who bring the Client to a treatment center and support them throughout their treatment course. Thus, psycho-education is very important for family members so that they may understand when the person with reactive depression needs help the most. This involves strengthening coping skills and resources.

When Should a person with Reactive Depression enter a treatment center?
When symptoms have lasted more than six months, or they are negatively impacting daily school or work life and personal and family relationships, an intensive treatment program is an appropriate option. While the first step is often once per week psychotherapy or medication, this may be ineffective at managing serious symptoms of reactive depression. A treatment facility, like PCH Treatment Center, offers a completely different approach to a mood disorder. We have the expertise and experience to effectively diagnosis and treat reactive depression when it is negatively impacting a person’s life.

How does PCH Treatment Center treat Reactive Depression?
When a Client enters PCH Treatment Center with Reactive Depression, they receive a thorough initial assessment by a doctoral level psychologist. This involves accurately determining their symptoms and the underlying psychosocial stressors or situations which are provoking negative thoughts and feelings underlying the reactive depression. An initial assessment is also performed by the Clinical Director, Dr. Jeff Ball, as well as our Psychiatrist, Dr. William Wirshing. The Client’s medication regimen is evaluated, and an appropriate plan is made with a de-emphasis on medication treatment. The correct diagnosis leads to the proper treatment plan, and PCH Treatment Center features expert diagnosticians. Each Client is discussed at our weekly case conference, as well, and they are benefiting from the input of our many doctoral level staff members. Treatment of reactive depression then involves individual psychotherapy sessions, group therapies including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), anger management, sleep management group, psycho-education and holistic options including yoga, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, massage, and art therapy. Family therapy groups are also available. These valuable groups incorporate family members or significant others into the Client’s treatment environment.

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