Throughout our lives, we experience a range of moods. Some of these mood states are more activating, while others are deactivating. One of the most deactivating mood state is depression. Depression is a cause of concern in societies around the world. It is one of the most common mental health issue faced by many people, regardless of gender, occupation and age. Less known to the population is that depression can be classified across a spectrum, from milder levels (depressive reaction) to critical level (reactive depression). It is essential to know the difference along this spectrum, as when the critical level is reached, professional help is often needed. I have seen many people keeping serious depression in the closet and try to self-cope. Many times, for them, the struggle remains recurring, as Winston Churchill said, “when the black dog comes to visit”.
Depressive reaction is a mood-related response most people can exhibit in a challenging situation. Like any mood state, such as feeling anxious, happy, sad and grieve, depressive reaction is temporary, and will come and pass in its own time. It feels like a flattened emotion, with little positivity present. Like depression, depressive reaction will also generate self-defeating thoughts (e.g., hopelessness, over-generalisation) and negative attitudes. But, unlike depression, depressive reaction does not last long, and the person will regain functionality as the mood passes.
Reactive Depression is a conditioned involuntary responses in the face of adversity, stemming from personal belief system and schemas. These responses are likely to be episodes when the depression comes in and stays over time. Reactive depression is likened to a knee-jerk reaction that got triggered, and stays triggered due to cognitive and emotional regulatory reasons.
To properly identify a reactive depression, these are some of the major symptoms:
- Duration: Can potentially last from days to months-on-end to even years. It is not a mood, but a state of being that carries the depressive emotion consistently as the norm.
- Functionality: The person has difficulty functioning normally or effectively on a daily basis. Activities that were once enjoyed or done easily becomes difficult.
- Intensity of thoughts: The person is strongly influenced by the negative thoughts in the head. These thoughts has control over the person, can be irrational and seldom challenged.
- Experiential avoidance: The person is resistant towards new experiences, new ways of thinking, behaving and exploring.
- Physical exhaustion: These negative mental states will eventually affect the physical state. Other symptoms such as insomnia, weight loss and bowel problems may result.
With these criteria as benchmarks, if you recognise these symptoms in the people around you, it is advisable to help them approach mental health professionals, click here to explore which is an appropriate profession. However, if it is only a passing mood state, do sit down quietly by yourself with the depressive reaction and ask why is it here? And what meaning it has for you? Such exploration will surface some personal truths and foster growth.
Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.