Depression is a complex problem and rarely caused by one single factor. The important thing for a person suffering from depression to realize is that it’s not your fault.
Both internal and external factors work together to affect our physical and mental health. Some causes of depression may be out of your control but can be managed with medical intervention or counseling. Others you may be able to manage on your own.
Causes outside your control
Genetics – Scientific studies and our own life experiences prove that depression can run in the family. There may not be a single gene for depression but rather a combination of conditions that contribute to the increased likelihood of experiencing depression.
Brain chemistry – This could be connected to genetics, or it may be unique to you. Certain neurotransmitters, which are the communication pipelines to different parts of the brain, can be out of balance, causing poor communication and possibly inhibiting proper function of crucial brain functions.
Serious illness, chronic pain, or menstrual cycles – Obviously, if you’re struggling with an ongoing condition, it is likely you could feel sad or frustrated, which could lead to depression. Hormonal imbalances from a woman’s natural cycle can also cause recurring bouts of depression.
Loss of loved one or major life change – Just as with a physical illness, a loss of a loved one will naturally make you sad. In some people, however, this natural sadness deepens into depression. Even a major life change can cause depression in some people. Loss of a job can create a sense of fear for the future or a sense of failure, but even positive events, like moving to a new house or getting married, can cause anxiety due to the dramatic changes that might be involved.
Causes that you may be able to control
Stress – If your stress is caused by your job or family situation, it may seem unavoidable, but often, how we respond to situations can determine the impact they have on you.
Diet, sleep, and exercise – Lack of certain nutrients can lead to imbalances in the body, leading to depression. A healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is important. Insufficient sleep is closely linked to depressed feelings. The amount of sleep a person needs can vary, so it is crucial to make sure you get the amount of sleep that you, personally need. Interestingly, exercise is one of the best natural anti-depressants. Exercise stimulates “happy hormones” in the brain, and if you’re out in the fresh air, you get the benefit of beauty and sunshine as well.
Drug and alcohol use – People who abuse drugs or drink heavily have an increased incidence of depression. However, certain prescription drugs can also cause depression. Look closely at the possible side effects and discuss alternatives with your doctor if you have a tendency toward depression.
Please remember this if you’re struggling with feelings of depression: You are not a bad person and you are not weak. You wouldn’t think you were a bad person if you broke your leg, so don’t think ill of yourself for feeling depressed.
There is help and there is hope. For serious depression, medical intervention may be necessary. But often, talking to a counselor can help you see things differently and work through your feelings. I’ve seen it in my own practice over and over. With good counseling, many people come out from the dark tunnel of depression back into the light. You can, too.