Endogenous Depression: What It Is and Isn’t

Endogenous Depression

Everyone has a bad day. Whether you had an extra-rough time at work or school, got into an argument with a friend or simply don’t feel like getting out of bed, bad days happen and are often out of your control. This can lead to feelings of sadness, frustration, hopelessness or even numbness. However, if those feelings persist for more than two weeks, a larger issue may be at play.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Research suggests a combination of genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors lead to depression. People can also be diagnosed with many types of the disease. Endogenous depression, a type of major depressive disorder, used to be seen as a distinct disorder but is rarely diagnosed today. However, it can still be used to understand the complexities of depression.

No matter the type, depression is a serious mental disorder that often requires treatment. Learn more about endogenous depression and the available treatment.

What Is Endogenous Depression?

Endogenous depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness. These feelings negatively impact mood, behavior and physical functions, including appetite and sleep. Some people may become depressed after experiencing trauma, losing a loved one or ending a relationship. However, symptoms of endogenous depression can occur without a specific event or trigger.

Symptoms vary depending on the person and are similar to those of major depressive disorder. They can include:

  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Headaches or muscle aches
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts

Exogenous vs. Endogenous Depression: What’s the Difference?

What does endogenous mean? It’s used to describe something strictly internal and is believed to originate from within an individual without any external or environmental factors. The disease can occur without trauma or stress, meaning genetic or biological factors are primary causes. There’s usually no apparent reason why an individual has endogenous depression.

Exogenous depression occurs after a stressful or traumatic event, such as losing a loved one or experiencing an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Primary causes include environmental or external factors. It’s usually a reactive response to the event. However, exogenous depression isn’t the same as grief. Depression is persistent and long-term, while normal grief or stress may last for a while and involve moments of relief or happiness.

Why We’ve Moved Away From This System

Mental health professionals used to differentiate between the two diagnoses, but this practice has since diminished. The distinction between the two disorders isn’t always clear, making them difficult to diagnose separately. The administered treatments are usually the same. Individuals now receive an umbrella diagnosis of major depressive disorder based on certain symptoms.

However, understanding these older terms can help inform people that depression is a complex disease. It manifests differently depending on the person and their life experiences.

How Endogenous Depression Can Inform Depression Today

While endogenous depression doesn’t have an external trigger, it usually has identifiable causes. Genetics can play a major role in depression, especially if your family has a history of depression or other mental illnesses. Family and twin studies provide strong evidence that genetic factors can increase the risk of depression.

Personality traits are also a common cause of endogenous depression. Low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life can make it harder to deal with everyday life stressors, leading to a buildup over time that can cause depression.

Living in an unhealthy, high-stress environment is another potential cause of endogenous depression. Even if you can’t pinpoint a singular event, prolonged exposure to dangerous environments can affect your brain. For instance, exposure to abuse or living in poverty can both increase the risk of depression.

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders no longer lists endogenous depression as a disorder, you can be diagnosed with major depressive disorder if any of these causes seem to fit your condition.

Treatment for Endogenous Depression

Overcoming depression isn’t easy, but help is available. An individualized treatment plan can include a wide range of methods to reduce symptoms.


Many people diagnosed with endogenous depression significantly benefit from antidepressants. These drugs make subtle changes to brain chemistry, increasing your mood and making you feel more capable of accomplishing tasks. Since antidepressants don’t create a buzz and usually aren’t addictive, they’re safe for people in recovery.

Side effects may include nausea, headaches and insomnia, which typically go away after your body adjusts to the new medication. If it doesn’t seem to be working or you’re experiencing significant side effects, talk to your doctor. Not every drug will work for everyone. Your doctor may suggest a different antidepressant to try.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, involves regularly meeting with a therapist to help you better understand your condition and develop healthy coping mechanisms. You may be prescribed two main types of therapy:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you develop positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Positive thinking can improve how your brain responds to negative situations and lead to a healthier outlook on life.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT is used to identify troubling relationships that may contribute to your condition, helping you replace them with healthier ones.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes alone may not cure endogenous depression but can help improve symptoms. Examples include:

  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Participating in pleasurable activities
  • Writing in a journal
  • Spending time with friends or loved ones
  • Reducing or stopping drug or alcohol use

Long-term lifestyle changes, such as finding a better job or relocating to more secure housing, can also remove external stressors that may impact depression.

Seek Professional Help for Depression

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, help is available. Professional treatment can lead to better coping skills and a healthier, more fulfilling life. Contact Restore Mental Health by calling for medical advice. Our trained professionals are standing by to help you take the first steps toward a happier life today.