What is the Cause of Depression?
Depression is not caused by one thing, but the interaction of many. Part of the challenge of therapy is to determine what the factors are that contributed to your depression. It's helpful to try to decipher how your depression came about. This way you can come up with a treatment plan to help yourself.
We know that there is a genetic component to depression. Studies of identical twins raised apart have found that if one twin has depression, 67 percent of the time, so does the other. Adoption studies show that children of depressed parents are more likely to be depressed.These studies are frequently used to help determine the influence of genetics, because they control for the effects of nurture.
We know that in people who are depressed have reduced levels of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that affect our moods. The major neurotransmitters are serotonin, nor epinephrine, and dopamine. Each neurotransmitter has specific regulatory functions in the brain. Some of the functions include: sleep, memory, alertness, energy, emotions, and movement (all of which are effected to some degree in depression).
Changes in hormone levels explain the surge in depression levels that happens for girls once they hit puberty, postpartum, during pregnancy and peri menopausally. Interestingly, many women see these levels drop after menopause. There is no question that hormone levels influence the both depression and anxiety in women.
With postpartum depression, mothers develop symptoms of depression after giving birth. It’s normal to be emotional because of the changing hormones, but postpartum depression is a serious condition.
Learn more about the role of hormones, depression and how it is treated in these links below.
Medical conditions may trigger depression. These include: hypoglycemia, thyroid problems, anemia, diabetes, mono, hepatitis, and the flu. Steroids, seizure medications and medications for asthma can also bring on/ and or mimic depressive symptoms. Chronic pain and stressful medical illnesses can cause depression as well.
Depression is not an easy thing to figure out, or an easy thing to treat. However, in my work with adults and children, I have seen several factors that consistently seem to be a contributing cause of depression.
Family or origin is very often a cause of depression. Any history of neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is a risk factor for depression. Childhood trauma is significantly linked to later depression.
75.6% of the chronically depressed patients reported clinically significant histories of childhood trauma. 37% of the chronically depressed patients reported multiple childhood traumatization. Experiences of multiple trauma also led to significantly more severe depressive symptoms (Negele et al 2015).
The building blocks for how you feel about yourself are initially laid in your family. Of course, as you get older you learn more about who you are from the world and your experiences in it. Many people who have dysfunctional families grow to be successful and happy. However, if you are treated badly and harmed as a child you often do not view yourself as important or valuable, and it certainly complicates your ability to view the world as a happy and friendly place.
Family issues don’t just include abuse and neglect. Conflict in a person’s family, role stress, communication problems, and other family issues can be a contributing cause of depression.
Many women I see in therapy for depression seems to have role stress as a contributing cause of depression. When women enter new roles or have multiple roles this can cause internal and external conflict that can be a cause of depression. Often I see this in clients who are new moms. They may have left their career and single or pre-baby friends and are trying to figure out who they now are. Also, this is common in women who are college students or just entering the workforce after college. They may struggle with deciding whether they want to work and have a career, be a mom, or be both. “The empty nest syndrome” is another example of how changes or stress from roles can be one of the causes of clinical depression.
Losing a major relationship with someone you care for or love or your support system can be a contributing cause of depression. This does not have to be through death, it can be through divorce, a move, or a falling out. Very often children and adults who come to me with depression have a history of a significant loss: a grandparent, a miscarriage, a friend, spouse, or parent, or sibling.
Any major stress can be one of the causes of clinical depression: job stress, financial stress, social stress, or physical illness, to name just a few. Depression can result when we lack the coping skills to handle overwhelming events. This happens very often with children who experience a significant loss or trauma.
One of symptoms commonly observed in people who have depression are negative thought patterns. Depressed people often have a negative view of themselves, the world, and the future. People who are depressed may evaluate everything according to a negative schema. They view a positive or an innocuous event as negative or harmful. Their perceptions are distorted. Sometimes this is a personality trait in a person who is depressed, other times it is a trait that develops with the depression. A normally happy and optimistic person can become depressed and begin to view the world and themselves negatively.
Essentially this refers to feeling that you have no control over your destiny. Instead of attributing success to your actions, you attribute it to events which have acted upon you. These leads to a sense of powerlessness which is a contributing cause of depression. People don’t have an internal locus of control wake up every day and feel no control over life. They feel unable to set goals and achieve them and are at the mercy of fate. If someone with this trait is faced with a crisis, a loss, or a major stress, they often do not have the skills to recover and cope. You can see how things such as a learning disability or a lack of social skills can lead to a perceived lack of control, or negative belief about yourself. This is why these things are considered risk factors in developing depression
Citations for why do people get depression
Negele, A., Kaufhold, J., Kallenbach, L., & Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. (2015). Childhood Trauma and Its Relation to Chronic Depression in Adulthood. Depression research and treatment, 2015, 650804. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/650804
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