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Exogenous depression: definition, causes and symptoms

Exogenous depression: definition, causes and symptoms

June 2, 2023

Exogenous depression is a type of mood disorder linked to the inability or difficulties when 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, and despite the awareness campaigns that have been carried out, many people still believe in a highly stereotyped concept of depression. One of the consequences of this is that depression is understood as a totally homogenous disorder, always associated with the same symptoms .

To account for these variations and nuances, we usually distinguish between categories such as those of endogenous depression and exogenous depression. In this article we will talk about the latter.

  • Related article: "Are there several types of depression?"

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 their environment (and the people in it).

Said in a more summarized way, 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 caused from outside .

In addition, exogenous depression is the most frequent variant, while endogenous depression, although not very rare, occurs less.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Endogenous depression: when unhappiness comes from within"

Main causes of exogenous depression

As we have seen, the situations that trigger the emergence of exogenous depression can be both punctual and continuous in time .

As regards the most frequent causes of exogenous depression, these are the following:

1. Traumatic events linked to violence

Exogenous depression can be caused by traumatic experiences, typically punctual or of a few days duration, that are remembered in the form of flashbacks

2. Duel

The duel, typically generated by the death or illness of a loved one , is a mental state associated with anxiety problems and, sometimes, can lead to exogenous depression due to the loop of anxious thoughts that it produces through rumination and ideas linked to death.

  • Related article: "The duel: facing the loss of a loved one"

3. Divorce and separation

In reality, both divorces and break-ups in general can be understood as a kind of mourning. After all, you lose both a person you love or love once, as a lifestyle that has come to merge with the very idea of ​​"I".

4. Poverty and unemployment situation

The problems to subsist by the own means not only favor the appearance of less healthy habits of life, also they have a profound psychological impact that affects self-esteem and life expectancy.

5. Rejection of one's physical appearance

Some events result in a change in physical appearance that is very badly received by those who experience it. For example, the appearance of a scar on a part of the body very visible, an accelerated process of aging, alopecia and certain skin diseases can make some people feel very bad.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Gender dysphoria: born in the wrong body"


As for the symptoms of exogenous depression, the most typical are the following, although they do not have to occur all at once in all cases.

1. Sleep problems

Alterations in the sleep pattern They tend to be among the first symptoms of the onset of depression, and trigger many other complications related to lack of rest and increased stress.

2. Lack of initiative and motivation (apathy)

The abulia is one of the symptoms characteristic of the different forms of depression. Those who experience it do not feel 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. Experimentation of limited or absent pleasure

Anhedonia, or 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 when it appears has to be always present.

5. Appearance of ideas about suicide

Suicidal ideation It is also relatively frequent, and sometimes leads the person to plan the chain of events that will end his life.

In turn, we must bear in mind that depression, in general, can appear with different degrees of intensity, and the same happens with the symptoms associated with it.

A categorization of disorders that has its limits

It is worth keeping in mind that the boundary that separates exogenous from endogenous depression is only a theoretical construct that exists because it is useful, not because it reflects a differentiation between two fundamentally separate clinical entities.

This is because there is no mental disorder that appears spontaneously in our interior: the context always influences to a greater or lesser extent. To defend otherwise would be to defend a dualistic view of the mind, one in which everything that occurs in nature is connected to each other except ourselves.

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