Depression isn’t a condition with a single cause. We can pinpoint the cause of many viral and bacterial diseases. Not so with depression. In fact, one of the most common phrases I’ve seen in my research is, “The precise cause of depression is not known…”
That’s very encouraging, isn’t it?
What is known is that there are a number of factors that can be involved. They include heredity, physiology, psychological factors, life conditions, medical conditions, nutrition, addictive behaviors, close proximity to a severely depressed person, chronic stress, social isolation…
The good news is that it appears that a combination of one or two, or even three, of those factors usually doesn’t result in major depression.
The brain is an amazing organ. It is very resilient. It has tremendous power to absorb injury and still do its job. That’s one reason why one specific cause doesn’t result in depression. The brain works around it. If there are enough different causes, though, overload can result. That result can be depression.
So–depression can be both a symptom of underlying causes, and it can actually be a cause of other disorders. Wonderful, eh?
Let’s look at some of the causes:
Hereditary–genetics, in other words. It is evident that depression can run in families. Luckily, just because one of your parents or grandparents suffered from depression doesn’t automatically mean that you will too. You’re more likely to, but heredity doesn’t appear to be a single root cause of depression, merely a risk factor. In the future, you may be able to visit a doctor and get a DNA test to see if you’re at risk for depression. We’re not there yet.
Development–past life history, or how you were raised. This can include things like severe sexual abuse, not being raised by both biological parents, traumatic experiences, childhood nutrition, or a history of depression in adolescence. Developmental issues can sometimes be dealt with through intervention-type therapies like NLP, Time-line therapy, and others.
Lifestyle–irregular or nonexistent exercise, lack of exposure to daylight for at least to 30 minutes a day (affects seratonin levels), lack of fresh air (not being outdoors–stale air). Other factors in this area can be insomnia, too little (less than 6 hours) or too much (more than 9 hours) of sleep, irregular sleep or eating schedules, ‘shift work’–work hour patterns that don’t correspond with daylight and dark.
Addictions–addictions to drugs, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol, even caffeine, can be a factor for increased risk of depression.
Nutrition–one of the most overlooked causative factors in depression. Over-processed foods, junk foods, processed sugars, lack of a nutritionally balanced diet. A curiosity: carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels in the brain. Sugars are carbs. That’s why eating chocolate can make you feel better! The catch is that like blood-sugar levels, the serotonin levels don’t hold up.
Toxicity–high levels of lead, mercury, bismuth, arsenic and other toxic chemicals can have a pronounced effect on depression.
Medical conditions–just what it says. Chronic pain, debilitating disease, chronic medical conditions such as paralysis–all these and more can contribute to depression.
Social grief–this becomes a cause of clinical depression when the grieving process is short-circuited or when a person just doesn’t ‘get over’ the grief, whether it’s the death of a loved one or some other grief-causing event.
A mild disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health practitioner, or even a health practitioner. The information contained in the following articles is based solely on my own research of online and offline materials, additionally on personal experience with major depression. If, after having thoughtfully read this post, you feel you may be suffering from major or clinical depression, I urge you to seek competent help from a mental health practitioner.