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Exogenous (reactive) depression is a form of depression caused by external factors. Such factors can be various situations that cause significant stress to the patient, such as the death of a loved one, participation in an accident or even … retirement. Exogenous depression, compared to other types of depression, can be relatively mild - although it should not be underestimated anyway.

Exogenous depressionis one of the affective disorders. In terms of the causes of its occurrence, depression can be divided, inter alia, for exogenous depression and endogenous depression. In the example above, when distinguishing between these two forms of depressive disorders, the factor which led to the episode of depressed mood is taken into account: in endogenous depression, the cause of the patient's condition is abnormalities in the functioning of their body, while in the case of exogenous depression, its causes are considered experiencing stressful events for the patient.

Nowadays, the division of depression into endo- and exogenous in fact is blurring, however, it is indeed always important during a psychiatric examination to check whether the deterioration of the patient's mental state is caused by some difficult experiences. It is important because in exogenous depression patients may be recommended to use a specific treatment for depression.

Depression as a reaction to severe life events: causes of exogenous depression

Generally speaking, it can be said that exogenous depression (also known as reactive) is caused by difficult life situations. It is not possible to list all the specific events that can lead to reactive depression. This is due to the fact that every person is different and just as one person will be able to function after the death of a loved one, in another such unpleasant event may become the basis for the development of exogenous depression.

In addition to the above-mentioned, examples of various events that may be the causes of exogenous depression include:

  • parting with your partner,
  • financial trouble,
  • job loss,
  • conflicts in the family environment,
  • harassment by the environment (such a phenomenon maycause reactive depression, especially in the population of children and adolescents),
  • disease (e.g. diagnosis of a chronic disease or cancer in a patient),
  • serious life changes (e.g. change of place of residence or job change),
  • becomes a victim of robbery or theft,
  • retirement (this is usually perceived as a positive life event, although for some people, ending working life can lead to significant psychological problems),
  • involved in an accident,
  • persistence in a toxic relationship.

Thus, exogenous depression can be caused by various conditions that significantly affect the patient and with which he is unable to cope on his own.

Exogenous depression: symptoms

Symptoms of reactive depression are not different from those that may appear in people with other forms of depressive disorders. In patients with exogenous depression, the following may occur:

  • apathy, significant depression,
  • withdrawing into oneself, limiting social contacts,
  • auto-aggressive behavior,
  • use of psychoactive substances (e.g. alcohol - the use of stimulants is usually supposed to seemingly distract the patient from tormenting, sad thoughts),
  • disturbance of concentration, attention, memory,
  • sleep and appetite disorders (you may experience excessive sleepiness or insomnia, as well as extremely lowered or vice versa - increased appetite),
  • suicidal thoughts (and in the most difficult situations even suicide attempts),
  • anhedonii (loss of pleasure),
  • increased irritability.

It may be comforting that exogenous depression is usually much milder than its opposite, i.e. endogenous depression. Firstly, this is due to the fact that after the stress factor has subsided (e.g. after the patient has stopped harassing the environment) or after the patient has de alt with a given event (e.g. after coming to terms with parting with a long-term partner), depressive symptoms may - even spontaneously - give way. In addition, as the name of this form of depression implies, the primary cause of the patient's problems is an external factor, not a disturbance in the functioning of the body - and it is usually easier to deal with life situations than with abnormalities in the neurotransmitter systems in the structures of the nervous system.

Exogenous depression: treatment

Distinguishing reactive depression from other types of depressive disorders is important primarily because of its aspectstherapeutic. Well, in this form of depression, psychotherapy is mainly used. Patients are offered various psychotherapy techniques, for example, they can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. The purpose of visiting the therapist is for the patient to understand what event led to his mood disorder. In addition, psychotherapy is also supposed to help the patient understand his feelings and help him deal with them.

Psychotherapy is indeed the basis of exogenous depression treatment, however, it is not the only possible method of treating this problem. Patients - especially when symptoms of depression are severe - may also be advised to use antidepressants. However, in reactive depression, lower doses of these drugs are usually used than in other forms of depressive disorders.

It has been mentioned that reactive depression can even go away completely on its own - can the relatives of the patient ignore his problem and just wait for the depressed mood to pass? Well, firmly and definitely not. Exogenous depression may or may not go away on its own. Additionally, as in other forms of depression, there is always a risk of the patient committing suicide. For these reasons, a loved one with reactive depression should be supported and closely monitored. Certainly, its problems should not be underestimated - exogenous depression may be triggered by an event that will be trivial for other people, and will cause significant difficulties in functioning for the patient. Therefore, if you notice reactive depression in a loved one, you should take special care, and if you notice that the depressive symptoms are very severe or that the patient's condition does not improve for a long time, persuade such person to seek the help of mental he alth specialists.

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