Top 10 Most Common Causes of Depression
There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors. Here are the Top 10 Most Common Causes of Depression.
- The difference in Certain Brain Areas
New technologies such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) show that there are differences in the brains of people with and without depression. The differences are found in areas of the brain that deal with mood regulation, appetite, sleep, thinking, and behavior. It is important to highlight that it does not mean that people who experience depression are less than, or will never recover because of the difference in certain brain areas (National Institute of Mental Health, 2002).
- Imbalance Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in that help different parts of the brain to communicate with each other. Certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are involved in mood regulation. When there is too much to too less of these neurotransmitters, depressive symptoms may occur (Weissman et al., 2016)
There are certain types of depression that are genetic, that is, they run in families. Depression occurs due to the interaction of multiple genes with certain environmental factors. It is important to note that existence of family history of depression does not mean that one is bound to develop depression or depressive symptoms in their lifetime; however, it may suggest a predisposition. Moreover, depression can also occur in people who have no family history of depression (National Institute of Mental Health, 2002).
- Grief, Trauma & Abuse
Trauma can be defined as a disturbing or distressing event. Trauma may include (but is not limited to) loss or death of a loved one, an abusive relationship, parental discord, or sexual assault. Such traumatic situations may lead to expression of depressive symptoms. Moreover, any further episodes of depression may or may not occur. And if they occur, they may or may not have an apparent trigger (National Institute of Mental Health, 2002).
- Stressful Major Life Events
While negative life events such as getting fired or getting divorced can trigger depression, so can positive life events. Events such as graduating, getting a new job, getting married, or moving to a new city can be equally stressful (MedinceNet, 2012). When life presents with stressful situations, they may threaten one’s ability to cope. Inability in coping can lead to depression. Further, when one is stressed, high levels of cortisol is released, which impacts a neurotransmitter called serotonin and can lead to depression (Yang et al., 2015).
- Serious Illnesses
Health conditions that are chronic and/or disabling such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes can also cause depression. Moreover, comorbidity of depression with these illnesses can even make them worse, and vice versa (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 2015).
- Certain Medicines
Depression can be triggered due to certain medicines. Medicines such as isotretinoin (treats acne), corticosteroids, and interferon-alpha (an antiviral drug) can elevate one’s risk of depression (WebMD, 2019). Moreover, side effects of medication taken for already existing medical conditions may also lead to depression. Treatment strategies can be identified by a doctor who is experienced in the relevant areas (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 2015).
Having an history of substance (drugs and alcohol) use or abuse can increase the risk for depressive symptoms (Higuera & Holland, 2019). It is important to get corresponding treatment for both depression and substance abuse as they co-occurring because substance use can often make the depressive symptoms worse (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2017). It is important to note that the relationship between depression and substance abuse goes both ways, that is, substance use can lead to depression and depression can lead to substance use.
- Other Psychological Disorders
Having another psychological disorder can increase one’s risk for developing depression. Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and schizophrenia are especially associated with depression (WebMD, 2020). Similar to substance use, having depression can also increase risk for another psychological disorder.
- Poor Nutrition
Having a poor diet can lead to depression in multiple ways. Deficiencies of minerals and vitamins can be a cause for depression. Further, diets with an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 or diets with low omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to more incidences of depression (Larrieu & Layé, 2018). Moreover, high sugar diets have also been linked to depression (Knüppel, Shipley, Llewellyn, & Brunner, 2017).
Higuera, V. & Holland, K. (2019). Everything you want to know about depression. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression#causes
Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: Prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-10.
Larrieu, T., & Layé, S. (2018). Food for mood: Relevance of nutritional omega-3 fatty acids for depression and anxiety. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 1047.
MedinceNet. (2012, January 2). Depression: Causes of depression. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55167
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression
National Institute of Mental Health. (2002). Depression. NIH Publication.
Weissman, M. M., Berry, O. O., Warner, V., Gameroff, M. J., Skipper, J., Talati, A., … & Wickramaratne, P. (2016). A 30-year study of 3 generations at high risk and low risk for depression. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(9), 970-977.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Depression (NIH Publication No. 15-3561). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: http://www.easacommunity.org/files/NIMH%20depression-what-you-need-to-know.pdf
WebMD. (2020, February 18). The link between depression and other mental illnesses. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/link-to-other-mental-illnesses#1
WebMD. (2019, March 18). Causes of depression. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/causes-depression#1-2
Yang, L., Zhao, Y., Wang, Y., Liu, L., Zhang, X., Li, B., & Cui, R. (2015). The effects of psychological stress on depression. Current Neuropharmacology, 13(4), 494-504.