What Are Most Common Causes of Depression?

Understanding the causes of depression is crucial to recovery. (Image via Pexels/ Lisa Summer)
Understanding the causes of depression is crucial to recovery. (Image via Pexels/Lisa Summer)

The most common causes of depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have been identified by researchers.

While there's no consensus on the exact causes, most mental health professionals and scientists agree that depression doesn't have a single cause. We have all lived through times when we feel sad and hopeless, but major depressive disorder is more than that.

Depression can have many causes. It has numerous triggers and a wide range of potential causes. A traumatic or stressful life event, such as a death in the family, divorce, sickness, layoff, or concerns about career or finances, may be the trigger for some people. Depression frequently results from a combination of factors.

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Most Common Causes of Depression

Although it's frequently said that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, this narrative fails to convey how intricate the condition is.

According to research, having too much or too little of a certain brain chemical does not necessarily cause depression. Instead, there are other potential causes of the issue. The following are the most common causes of depression:

1) Brain and Mood

According to research, the hippocampus is smaller in some individuals with depression.

For instance, researchers looked at 24 women with a history of depression, in an MRI study.

In comparison to women who weren't depressed, the hippocampus was 9-13% smaller on average in women with depression. The hippocampus shrank as the depressive episodes increased.

As stress is thought to restrict the growth of new neurons (nerve cells) in the hippocampus, it may be a significant factor in this case.


2) Adverse Experiences

Strong evidence supports the idea that going through adversity as a child can increase risk of developing depression later in life. That could include neglect, abuse of any kind — physical, sexual, or emotional — loss of a loved one, traumatic experiences, or an unsteady family structure.

According to research, having many lesser adversity events can also have a greater effect on your susceptibility to depression than having one significant traumatic event, meaning it's not just the intensity of the experience that contributes to MDD but also the frequency of it.


3) Physical Health Concerns

Our life experiences can significantly impact our health. (Image via Pexels/ Cottonbro)
Our life experiences can significantly impact our health. (Image via Pexels/ Cottonbro)

If you suffer from a chronic illness, sleep issue, or thyroid disorder, you may be more susceptible to depressive symptoms.

Additionally, patients with diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and diabetes are likely to have a greater incidence of depression. The body and mind are interconnected. If you have physical health issues, you may notice your mental health changing too.

Depression and illness are linked in different ways. An episode of significant depression can be brought on by the strain of having a chronic condition. Certain diseases like liver disease, Addison's disease, and thyroid abnormalities can result in symptoms of depression.


4) Major Life Stressors

Small and frequent stressors can impact mood and behavior in later years. (Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov)
Small and frequent stressors can impact mood and behavior in later years. (Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov)

A person's inability to cope with stressful life circumstances can contribute to depression.

Researchers believe that excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol may disrupt the neurotransmitter serotonin, contributing to sadness. Many of the same symptoms of depression are experienced by those mourning after losing a loved one. A typical reaction to loss is difficulty sleeping, poor appetite, and loss of enjoyment or interest in activities.

Grief symptoms are expected to fade with time and are typical after a loss, but grief may change to depression if the symptoms worsen.


5) Genetics

There's a major debate in psychology about nature vs nurture. Fundamentally, is our mental state influenced more by internal and innate variables like heredity or external, influencing ones like environment?

While the origin of depression is unknown, genetics are thought to play a significant effect on whether or not someone may experience it.

According to studies, depression can run in families, and those who are depressed members of their immediate family are more likely to have depression. While no specific genes have been found to be linked to depression, contributions still seem significant.


6) Substance Abuse

Use and misuse of substances is directly associated with mental health disorders. (Image via Pexels/Pixabay)
Use and misuse of substances is directly associated with mental health disorders. (Image via Pexels/Pixabay)

Around 30% of people who struggle with substance misuse also have significant or clinical depression. Addicts who use drugs or alcohol often also struggle with sadness and anxiety.

It's possible for depression to appear before an addiction, and it's not unusual for people to try to self-medicate by developing an addiction. It might also appear later, as a result of alterations in brain chemistry or unfortunate events brought on by the addiction.


Takeaway

There's not a singular cause of depression. The truth is, we're just beginning to scratch the surface of learning why depression happens, and what are the best ways to treat it.

However, the aforementioned common causes of depression seem to show up consistently in research. If we become aware of these contributing factors, recovery becomes possible.


Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.


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Edited by Bhargav