Having depression can make it difficult to complete tasks, but what are the causes of depression? Four major categories may answer that.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults suffered from a major depressive episode in 2020. This represents 8.4% of the adult population. Depression is a complex illness that can happen for various reasons, but what are the causes of depression? No one has an exact answer to that.
Depression manifests differently for each person, depending on their experiences and environment. Many factors can cause it, such as a medical illness, the death of a loved one or genetic factors. Researchers have been trying to understand its cause for years, and many theories have developed.
If you’re unsure why you or a loved one are suffering from depression, look at the four types of depression for a better understanding.
What Are the Causes of Depression?
A person suffering from depression usually experiences persistent sadness or loss of interest. The disease can affect how a person thinks, feels and behaves, leading to a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, including:
- Trouble eating
- Lack of sleep
- Loss of concentration
- Low energy or self-worth.
Depression isn’t a weakness but a serious disease that can require long-term treatment. Most people feel better with therapy or medication, but where does depression come from?
Your genetic code is one of the most influential factors for depression. Although genetics are completely out of your control, Stanford Medicine research suggests that in many cases of depression, nearly 50% is due to genetics. This could mean that depression is 50% genetic, while the other 50% accounts for psychological or physical influences. It’s also possible some cases of depression are completely genetic, while others aren’t genetically related at all.
While research isn’t fully clear, two people with different genetic codes can experience the same traumatic event, with one person developing depression while the other doesn’t. Different genes may also lead to different types of depression, such as psychotic depression, dysthymia or bipolar disorder.
No one explicitly inherits depression, but you can inherit a genetic combination from your mother or father, predisposing you to the mental illness.
2. Substance Use
Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are the most common mental health disorders associated with substance use. Struggling with both a substance use and mood disorder is known as comorbidity, and they’re typically treated simultaneously.
According to one study, up to 67% of those seeking alcohol treatment and about 30% of those seeking drug treatment experienced depression at some point in their lives. So, what are the causes of depression from substance use? The answer to this is complex. If an individual is dealing with a lot of stress or emotional pain they don’t know how to treat, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
Drugs and alcohol provide temporary relief and a sense of euphoria, usually followed by a crash once they wear off that can include feelings of anxiety, irritability or low energy. An individual will continue to increase the dosage to avoid these crashes, leading to dependency on the substance to feel good. The psychological aspect of addiction can be just as hard to overcome as the physical withdrawals. Treating the depression can sometimes reduce substance cravings, helping someone recover from both disorders.
3. Childhood Experiences
Traumatic early childhood experiences can put individuals at an increased risk for depression. Undergoing a lot of stress in early childhood can also lead to high amounts of stress and mental health disorders later in life. Examples of traumatic experiences include:
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Family conflict
- Hearing constant criticism
- Death of a loved one
- Growing up with a mentally ill parent
These experiences can create changes in the brain, which can be hard to break later in life. However, talking to a therapist about traumatic childhood experiences and family dynamics to better understand how they affect you can be an effective treatment.
4. Major Life Events
Immediate and prolonged major life events can cause stress that may trigger depression, especially in individuals already at risk for the disease. Immediate major life events that can cause immense levels of stress and affect mental health include:
- Job loss
- Death in the family
- Divorce or a breakup
- A serious physical injury
- Childbirth (postpartum depression)
- Living through a natural disaster
High stress from prolonged major life events can potentially cause more severe symptoms of depression and include:
- Job-related stress
- An abusive or unhealthy relationship
- Chronic pain or illness
Experiencing multiple stressful life events simultaneously can increase your risk of depression. Since depression can often go undiagnosed and untreated, tracking your mental health during times of immense stress can help identify warning signs of the disease.
Depression Can Come in Many Forms
If none of the main causes fit your specific case, then what is the cause of depression affecting you? Many other causes to consider may answer this question:
- Gender: Though no one is sure why, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Hormonal changes exclusive to women could be a reason.
- Medications: Certain prescription drugs, such as corticosteroids or isotretinoin, can increase someone’s risk of depression.
- Age: Older adults are at a higher risk of depression. Lacking social support or living alone can increase that risk even further.
- Other social problems: Social isolation because of mental illness or being shunned by family or friends can potentially cause depression.
No matter the reason, depression should always be treated seriously. Medication and therapy can be used to reduce associated symptoms and help individuals take back their lives.
Seek Mental Health Treatment for Depression
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, Restore Mental Health is here to ensure you aren’t alone. Treatment is available to help with your specific mental health needs. Contact us at (877) 594-3566 today to speak with a trained professional and take the first step toward reclaiming your life from mental illness.