ZocdocAnswersIs reactive depression a minor form of moderate depression?

Question

Is reactive depression a minor form of moderate depression?

I feel depressed. My mother died a few weeks ago. My therapist says it's reactive depression. Is this like moderate depression?

Answer

Reactive depression, or "normal grief" is a common experience that all humans go through at some point in their lives. It is a perfectly normal reaction to have depressive symptoms surrounding a life changing event. At some point, this normal grief can become abnormal (or "pathologic grief"). To answer your question, reactive depression or normal grief are really different than depression. Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a medical condition in which people experience episodes with depressive symptoms. These episodes occur, by definition, without a specific cause. In normal grief, people experience similar symptoms, however we do not consider this depression, as it caused by a inciting event. Therefore, it is not moderate depression, but classified on a different spectrum. Normal grief is just that, normal. We do not normally prescribe any medication or encourage talk therapy. That being said, at some point, this can convert into another disorder -- known as adjustment disorder. This is often after 6 months of continued symptoms. Also, any thought of hurting yourself, hurting someone else or committing suicide are all abnormal and require you go IMMEDIATELY to the closest emergency room. Normal grief often includes symptoms of depression and sadness. They can range from minimal to very severe and still be classified as normal grief. Talk to your doctor for more information. Good luck!

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