Have you been poking around the internet because you have been feeling SO SAD and are you wondering if you have reactive depression?
Reactive depression is a relative newcomer in the spectrum of mood disorder. Reactive depression is a type of depression brought on from a specific situation that has occurred in your life.
Unlike most other depressions, which can last for years if not properly managed, reactive depression is a type of clinical depression that typically lasts a few months. While it’s time is limited, it can be very traumatizing or severe during this time. In addition, reactive depression is different from other depressions because it is solely caused by a specific stressful event, whereas other depressions can have multiple causes.
Coping mechanisms to work through reactive depression are similar to those we use with other depressions but are unique in their own way.
#1 – Identify what is causing your reactive depression.
As I stated above, reactive depression happens when something occurs in your life that causes you extreme stress and because you haven’t yet adapted to the changes brought about as a result of that event.
Issues that can bring about reactive depression include:
- Death of a loved one
- End of a relationship
- Loss of a job
Take a good look at your life right now. Are you struggling with something? Has your parent or your pet died? Have you experienced trauma recently? Has someone broken your heart?
Anything that is out of the ordinary and which is making it more difficult to function.
If you are sad and you have recently experienced a big change in your life, you might be dealing with reactive depression.
#2 – Know the symptoms of reactive depression.
Most people with reactive depression develop symptoms within roughly 90 days following the event that triggers the condition. Symptoms can include:
- Lack of enjoyment of regular activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Recurring bouts of crying
- Loss of interest in food
- Loss of Concentration
- Withdrawal from work or friends
- Suicidal thoughts
Symptoms of reactive depression vary from person to person and often include more than one of the symptoms above.
Review the list above carefully. If any of these things seem familiar to you then you might be struggling with reactive depression and it’s time to deal with it. Reactive depression can cause severe disruption of your life if left untreated.
#3 – Know what is NOT reactive depression.
An important way to identify, and therefore treat, reactive depression is by understanding what it is NOT.
If you have a family history of depression, or you have previously struggled with depression, then you might not be struggling with reactive depression. Talk to your doctor about the differences. All depressions need to be treated but the treatment can vary so understanding the distinctions is important!
#4 – Do what makes you feel good.
When we are struggling with reactive depression, our inclination is to collapse into our life. We stay in bed, we don’t shower or eat well and cut off contact with those we love.
Let me tell you: if you are feeling depressed, collapsing is absolutely the worst thing that you can do. Instead, it is important to do things that make you feel good.
What kind of things might work? That depends on who you are in the world but here are a few ideas.
- Take a walk.
- Spend time with friends.
- Take a bath.
- Do some yoga.
- Binge on some fun TV.
- Have sex
- Go to the movies.
- Take a road trip
So, what makes you happy? I know it seems hard now but ask yourself what you usually enjoy doing. Or ask a friend. Doing something that makes you happy will raise your endorphins and help you manage your reactive depression.
#5 – Take care of yourself.
An excellent coping mechanism for working through reactive depression is taking care of yourself.
After my mom died I fell apart. Getting off the couch was next to impossible. Wine was my closest companion with ice cream a close second.
Fortunately for me, a friend saw what I was doing to myself and get me back on track. I started going to yoga, getting more sleep, eating better and drinking lots of water.
I started spending more time outdoors in the sunshine because the warmth of the sun felt good on my body and the Vitamin D provided by the sun is a natural anti-depressant.
I know that if I hadn’t started taking care of myself, if I hadn’t made my body stronger, my reactive depression would have gotten worse!
#6 – Keep your mind active.
Unfortunately, when we are overwhelmed by reactive depression, our worst enemy is that brain of ours.
While we are lying on the couch feeling sorry for ourselves, our brain is actively buying into it all of our bad feelings.
You are a loser, it says. You have no friends. You aren’t good at anything. You will never find love. You suck at your job. And on and on.
And, chances are, that none of those things are true. That you are not a loser, you have plenty of friends, you are talented, love is out there and your boss thinks you are doing great. But your brain, when you are depressed, just doesn’t go there.
So how do you keep your mind busy when you are going through this difficult time? Yoga is a really good way to do this – you are so busy trying to figure out the damn pose that you don’t have a chance to think about anything. It also has the side benefit of toning your body and making you feel strong, which can be helpful.
Other options for keeping your mind quiet are: reading, going to a movie, hanging out with friends, working. Meditation is also an option but I just get more depressed when I try, and fail, to meditate. If you can do it, go for it!
What do you like to do that will help you quiet that mind of yours, the mind that is feeding into those feelings caused by the reactive depression?
Figure it out and do it!
#7 – Share your sadness.
Sharing your sadness with another person is a key part of dealing with it.
They say that what is kept inside the head is 4x more intense than what is spoken. Also, if you share what has happened to you, you might learn something that will help you manage it. We all have things that work for us and sharing them with others can be very helpful.
If you have someone you can talk with about your reactive depression then absolutely do it. Be it a therapist, a life coach, a friend or a partner, let the pain that is inside your head and your heart out into the world.
#8 – Write it out.
Do you journal? Or write letters to yourself? Or scribble notes on post-its? If you do, great! If you don’t, it could be time to start.
Writing about trauma in your life can be very therapeutic, especially if you don’t have someone with whom to share your stress. Much like speaking, writing allows you to get your pain out of your head and heart and onto paper.
And when you can see your pain and your feelings on a piece of paper in front of you, instead of having it rolling around in your brain, it can sometimes be much easier to manage.
#9 – See a doctor.
For many people, the thought of seeing a doctor to deal with our moods is embarrassing. We think we should be stronger and just pull up our boot straps and deal with this on our own.
Unfortunately, there are some things that just can’t be managed on their own, something that all of the coping mechanisms in the world can’t ease. Reactive depression can be one of them.
If your depression is seriously impacting your life, and you have tried the things above and they haven’t helped, reach out to your doctor to get some support. Your primary care doctor can help diagnose your depression and get you the help you need to manage and work through it.
Reactive depression is a horrible, horrible thing.
Not only has something terrible happened in your life but now you have to deal with overwhelming sadness because of it.
Perhaps you’re reading this article because you are feeling like you might be at the end of your rope. Perhaps you’re feeling that, because the life that you once led is over, there’s no reason for you to go on. Your future looks hopeless and you will never be happy again.
I can promise you this is not true. I know you might not believe it right now because from where you sit things look pretty shitty but I can promise you that the view from the other side is a rosy one.
Do the things that I recommended above. If one thing doesn’t work try another. If nothing eases your pain, call your doctor. Don’t give up!
You can do it!
Are you struggling with reactive depression?
I know it can be really, really hard. Let me help before you waste too much time struggling!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.