Exogenous depression: definition, causes, and symptoms
Exogenous depression is a type of mood disorder linked to the inability or difficulty in experiencing feelings of well-being and motivation.
Depression in general, on the other hand, is a spectrum of mental disorders whose symptoms occur relatively frequently; in Spain, it is estimated that it affects 5% of the population. That is why it has received a lot of media attention compared to other disorders.
However, despite the awareness campaigns that have been conducted, many people still believe in a highly stereotypical concept of depression. One of the consequences of this is that depression is understood as a totally homogeneous disorder, always associated with the same symptoms .
To account for these variations and nuances, a distinction is usually made between categories such as endogenous depression and exogenous depression. In this article we will talk about the latter.
What is exogenous depression?
Exogenous depression is the type of depression whose causes can be attributed to an event or chain of events related to the way in which the person relates to his/her environment (and the people in it).
In other words, it is one in which the causes of the disorder are not due to a spontaneous change in the internal functioning of the organism, as occurs in endogenous depression, but rather is provoked from outside .
In addition, exogenous depression is the most frequent variant, while endogenous depression, although not very rare, occurs less often.
Main causes of exogenous depression
As we have seen, the situations that trigger the appearance of exogenous depression can be both punctual and continuous in time .
The most common causes of exogenous depression are as follows:
1. Traumatic events linked to violence
Exogenous depression can be caused by traumatic experiences, typically one-off or short-lived, that are recalled in the form of flashbacks
Grief, typically generated by the death or illness of a loved one , is a state of mind associated with anxiety problems and, on occasion, can lead to exogenous depression because of the loop of anxious thoughts produced by rumination and ideas linked to death.
3. Divorces and separations
Actually, both divorces and breakups in general can be understood as a type of grief. In the end, you lose both a person you love or once loved, and a lifestyle that has become fused with your own idea of “I”.
4. Situation of poverty and unemployment
The problems of surviving by one’s own means not only favour the appearance of less healthy life habits, but also have a profound psychological impact that affects self-esteem and life expectations.
5. Rejection of one’s own physical appearance
Some events result in a change in physical appearance that is very unwelcome to the person experiencing it. For example, the appearance of a scar on a very visible part of the body, an accelerated aging process, alopecia, and certain skin diseases can make some people feel very bad.
As for the symptoms of exogenous depression, the most typical are the following, although they do not necessarily occur all at once in all cases.
1. Sleep problems
Alterations in the pattern of sleep are often among the first symptoms of the onset of depression, and trigger many other complications linked to lack of rest and increased stress.
2. Lack of initiative and motivation (abulia)
Abulia is one of the characteristic symptoms of various forms of depression. Those who experience it are not motivated by anything and are unable to perform the most basic self-maintenance tasks , such as maintaining personal hygiene, cooking or even attending leisure events.
3. Limited or Absent Pleasure Experimentation
Anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure, is also another effect of exogenous depression.
4. Subjective state of sadness and episodes of uncontrolled crying
Contrary to what is usually thought, the feeling of sadness does not occur in the vast majority of cases of people with depression, nor does it always have to be present when it appears.
5. Appearance of ideas about suicide
Suicidal ideation is also relatively frequent, and sometimes leads the person to plan the chain of events that will end his or her life.
In turn, it should be borne in mind that depression, in general, can appear with varying degrees of intensity, and the same is true of the symptoms associated with it.
A categorization of disorders that has its limits
It is worth keeping in mind that the boundary between exogenous and endogenous depression is only a theoretical construct that exists because it is useful, not because it embodies a differentiation between two fundamentally separate clinical entities.
This is because there is no mental disorder that appears spontaneously within us: the context always influences to a greater or lesser extent. To argue otherwise would be to defend a dualistic view of mind, one in which everything that happens in nature is connected to each other except ourselves.