Have you ever wondered what causes depression and why some people are affected by it and others aren’t?
Depression is a very complex disease, and the true cause of it is not yet fully known. Chemicals do play a part in depression, but it is much more complex than a simple chemical imbalance.
Depression is personal, and each individual may present in different ways with their depression. It is not a “one size fits all” treatment approach that is needed, but rather one that is tailored to each individual and where they are at.
There has been research showing a variety of reasons linked to its development in some people and why it doesn’t affect others. Depression often occurs due to multiple events, both recent and in the past, rather than being the cause of one event.
What are the major known causes of depression?
- Major life events
Big stressful life changes, both good and bad – like changing job, moving house, getting married, losing a job, loss of income – can trigger depression. This can be due to the change in circumstances causing a change in the chemicals in your brain due to a stress response, as well as your own personal response to the changes.
Personality can be a cause of depression. People who have low self-esteem; are perfectionists; those who tend to worry more and those who are self-critical tend to be more at risk of depression.
- Abusive history
Past sexual, emotional, or physical abuse can make a person more vulnerable to depression later in life. This early trauma may lead to heightened stress response and thus cause an increase in certain chemicals that can be triggers for depression.
Family history of depression may increase your risk of depression. However, the genetic trait of depression is very complex. It is thought that there are multiple genes that are involved in contributing to the risk of depression, rather than one single gene.
More research is being done into different genes. They are looking into how they affect our stress response, and how they cause other mental health illnesses that may put someone at an increased risk of depression. As this research progresses, it will help to identify those at risk earlier and help to better ensure that they receive more specific medication for their depression.
- Death or loss
Sadness and grief due to loss or the death of a loved one can increase the risk of depression. Grief is a normal response to loss and death, however, in some people, this loss may trigger a deeper feeling of sadness and depression. The loss can be the loss of a job, retirement, the loss of children heading out of the house or even the loss of a beloved pet.
- Certain medications
Some medications, such as isotretinoin (which is used in the treatment of acne); certain anti-viral drugs; opioids and even cortisone, can increase your risk of depression. It is important to read any labeling on medication and discuss with your doctor any new medications you are taking. Also, let them know if you become aware of any mood changes with the medication.
- Chronic illness
Research has shown that in certain people with more long-term or chronic illnesses, that they may be at risk of depression. For example, people suffering from diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, HIV/AIDS, lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and diseases affecting the thyroid.
These chronic illnesses will be treated with medication, but have also been proven to improve with a change in diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. It has been shown that by treating the chronic illness, it can positively improve the depression and vice versa.
- Substance abuse
It has been shown that a high number of those who abuse drugs or alcohol are likely to suffer from depression. The highs and lows associated with substance abuse affect the chemical balance and thus can have an effect on your depression.
An article on the Harvard Medical School website discusses these chemical and scientific changes that can cause depression.
Common symptoms of depression
Some of the most common symptoms of depression are shown below. But is important to know that every person will show different symptoms and that not all depression looks the same.
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – you feel alone and that there is no one to help you or no way out of your current situation.
- Sleep changes – this may either present in a need to sleep a lot more than usual and feeling tired all the time; or being unable to sleep.
- Change in appetite – a significant change to your eating habits. Either not having any appetite at all, or wanting to overeat.
- Anger or irritability – feelings of agitation, restlessness, dissatisfaction. You may have a very low tolerance level and may lose your temper quicker than usual.
- Loss of energy – unable to complete even basic tasks as you feel you don’t have the energy to complete tasks. Your body may feel heavy and sluggish.
- Concentration problems – being unable to focus, make a decision or concentrate for any period of time.
- Self-loathing – feeling like you are worthless. You are very critical of yourself.
- Loss of interest in things around you – you are not interested in those around you, hobbies, social interaction or leisure activities.
- Unexplained aches and pains – your body may ache more than usual and you may experience more headaches, backache or stomach pains.
- Suicidal thoughts – thinking about suicide and ending your life.
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, or in a loved one, then it is best to seek treatment and contact The Center • A Place of HOPE to talk to someone who cares and who is trained to be able to help you.
If you have more questions about depression, more information can be found on your FAQs page.
The good news is that there are many tools, resources, and treatments available for anyone suffering from depression.