Understanding the Causes of Depression

By: Mike Cole | Posted: 29th October 2009

Depression is a very complicated condition, in part because it has no singular cause. Rather, it is caused by a number of combined factors. Unfortunately, it is also a widely misunderstood disease that often carries a negative societal stigma. People may tell you that you should "cheer up," or "snap out of it" when you are struck by a depressive episode, but it is not a simple matter of changing your attitude. Depression is not caused by a state of mind or a negative outlook. Rather, it results from an actual chemical change in your brain that causes a legitimate set of mental and physical symptoms. By understanding its causes, you can make the better decisions about your depression management. This article reviews some of the most common causes of depression.

Depression and Family History or Genetics

People are often ashamed of depression and do their best to hide it, so it's not always easy to determine if you have a family history of depression. If possible, speak with your parents and ask them if either of them has been treated for depression, or if they are aware of a family history of the condition. Since management techniques can help to eliminate the symptoms, you might be completely unaware if one of your family members has been diagnosed with depression. It's important to open a dialogue with your family about the condition. Not only can they share important information with you about the root causes of your possible depression, but they can also provide an excellent support system.

Depression and Stress or Life Trauma

While a singular stressful situation is not enough to trigger depression in most people, a large amount of stress or trauma in your life can combine with other factors to cause depression. Extreme worry over financial or personal issues or trauma in your family life (like the death of a loved one or abandonment by a family member) can bring on depression that lasts long after the traumatic event has passed.

Life changes can also cause depression, even if there does not seem to be a specific reason for it. Things like having a new baby, starting a new job, moving to a new city or state, or even getting married can all trigger depression in people who are already prone to the condition.

Depression and Natural Pessimism

If your outlook is consistently negative, it is possible that you already suffer from a low level form of depression known as dysthymia. This kind of consistent pessimism can actually lead to chemical changes in the brain over time, especially when combined with a life change, like a move, or with natural genetic predisposition. While thinking positively will not work to cure depression once it has hit, it may help you to prevent the condition in the first place if you suffer from dysthymia.

Depression and Medical Conditions
Depression and serious medical diagnoses are a terrible combination. It's extremely common for those diagnosed with cancer or HIV to become depressed. But depression can suppress the immune system and cause unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, potentially making these conditions even worse. In addition, since most of the medications prescribed for cancer and HIV alter your body and brain chemistry, some of them can cause depression as a side effect.

Depression and Psychological Disorders

Some mental disorders tend to go hand in hand with depression. Anxiety, for example, can be a symptom of depression, but it can also cause depression when left untreated. Conversely, depression, when untreated, can cause anxiety. This endless loop can exacerbate both conditions.

Other psychological disorders that may cause depression in those who are predisposed to the condition include eating disorders, and schizophrenia. It is also possible for substance abuse to correlate strongly with depression. This includes abuse of controlled substances as well as abuse of alcohol or other legal substances.

If you have multiple risk factors for depression, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor or mental health professional about ways to minimize the possibility of developing the disease. They will help you pinpoint important warning signs, and may provide advice or medication to help you with your current problems and to keep you mentally healthy.

If you think that you might be suffering from depression, you should talk to a mental health professional right away. Determining the causes of your depression can help to find an ideal course of management for your individual needs.

Remember that help and support are only a phone call or click away. With the right tools, depression is a treatable and manageable condition that doesn't have to stop you from leading a normal, healthy life.

Jason Nichols is a freelance writer who writes about self improvement by seeking out depression help.
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Tags: important information, family members, simple matter, genetics, life changes, personal issues, family member, stressful situation, abandonment, stigma, family history, death of a loved one, traumatic event, management techniques, causes of depression