Is there a single cause for depression or is it a case of multiple causes – a fusion of issues that result in mood change? Well, it could be either. Sometimes the reason, or part of the reason, is obvious and sometimes not. The things that trigger depression in one person may not in another but in many cases there appears to be more than one reason. In this Sharepost I’m outlining just seven of the key areas known to have a bearing on depression.
GenesDepression can run in families and if you have one parent who becomes severely depressed you are around eight times more likely to become depressed yourself. So far, no single depression gene has been isolated and the likelihood seems to be that combinations of genetic changes predispose certain people to depression.
GenderIt is frequently pointed out that women are more prone to depression but we need to be cautious about assuming that being a male somehow protects from depression. Women often have complex and stressful lives but there is increasing evidence that suggests men do suffer with depression but they mask it by not expression emotions and using alcohol or other distractions as a way of coping.
AlcoholFollowing on from the previous point, alcohol is sometimes used as a form of self-medication during depression but its regular and heavy use is also known to bring about depression.
Life eventsAny number of major life events has the potential to result in depression. Job loss, divorce or relationship breakdown and bereavement are common examples.
Isolation and lonelinessMost people like a little time to themselves but there’s a big difference between solitude and loneliness. Feeling socially isolated is confidence sapping and your inner voice begins to question your worth as a person and your value to society. The feeling that you have nothing to contribute and no one to turn to is highly stressful and can easily lead to depression.
IllnessEven short-term illnesses such as influenza can change mood, but some longer term or chronic conditions can be life changing. Depression is commonplace following heart surgery or heart attacks, for example, but a range of other conditions from hormonal imbalances to cancers to chronic pain all increase the risk of depression.
PersonalityWhether due to genes, early life experiences or a combination of both, the argument is that from early adulthood some people develop a generally gloomy view on life and become critical, negative, unhappy pessimists who worry and feel personally inadequate. People with these traits are argued to be more likely to suffer with major depressive episodes.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
HopelessnessFeelings of frustration, sadness, and regret are fairly common. They contribute to the kaleidoscope of human emotions. However, unrelenting hopelessness, the absence of incentive to move forward, and the inability to see anything beyond the pain are hallmark signs of depression.
An inability to concentrateWe all have moments where we forget our best friend’s name or put our car keys in the fridge. We may have days where we experience brain fog or are scatterbrained. However, depression involves a lack of concentration and a difficulty making decisions that affect work performance and other responsibilities. You might make more mistakes at work or start calling in sick.
Unexplained aches and painsFor decades, we have known that depression is not just a mental disorder. It clearly has physical manifestations. In a study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 69 percent of persons who met the criteria for depression consulted a doctor for aches and pains. Mood disorders can show up in surprising symptoms — like bloating, backaches, or joint pain. Have unexplained aches and pains? Consider depression.
Apathy concerning the things you liked to doMaybe you are a person who loves movies, music, and dancing. But this past month or so, you have no interest in these activities. Even when you force yourself to engage in your favorite activities and hobbies, they don’t give you pleasure like they used to. This kind of apathy to things that once brought you joy is a red flag for depression.
Alcohol or drug abuseAccording to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, also have a substance abuse disorder, and about 20 percent of those struggling with substance problems also have an anxiety or mood disorder. If you relieve your anxiety or depression with alcohol or any kind of drug, it’s time to get help.
Changes in sleep habitsOne of the primary symptoms of depression is sleep disturbance. Some people will sleep too much and some too little. Sleep disorders don’t in themselves cause depression, but insomnia, irregular sleep, or oversleeping all play a role in mood fluctuations. Pay close attention to your sleep habits and seek help if sleep interruptions don’t improve.
Changes in appetite and eatingSome people binge on donuts, ice-cream, and everything else they can shove into their mouths to relieve the pain of their depression. Other folks stare at their dinner plate with absolutely no appetite or interest in food. Either way, a significant change in appetite and weight (more than 5 percent of body weight in a month) can signal depression.
Irritability, agitation, and moodinessNot everyone who snaps at you is depressed, but another red flag of depression is heightened irritability, agitation, and moodiness. Little things set you off – like a loud conversation next to you on the bus, or an itchy tag on your sweater. Sigmund Freud once referred to depression as anger turned inward. That anger can surface as thoughts of self-harm or the desire to harm someone else. If that’s you, get immediate help.
Feelings of worthlessness and guiltInappropriate guilt or self-reproach often accompanies depression. Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness — repetitive thoughts like “I’m not good enough” — can sometimes trigger a spiral of negative emotions that worsens mood and, at worst, can lead to self-harm.
Thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harmSeek immediate help if you are self-harming in any way, like cutting yourself, or if you have persistent thoughts of suicide or death. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed to disclose those thoughts to someone, actions are not as far from thoughts as you think. Keeping them a secret is risking devastating results.