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What Causes Depression?

What causes depression? Understanding what causes this mental health disorder can help people manage its symptoms.

What Causes Depression

Article Contents

Understanding Depression

Depression is a common disorder associated with feelings of sadness, anger, and loss. Depression may also create feelings of dejection and low self-esteem. Depression can also be serious enough to interfere with a person’s daily activities up to the point of leading them to want to attempt suicide.1

There are no specific causes as to what causes depression, and several factors usually work individually or jointly to bring about symptoms of depression.

What Happens During Depressive Episodes?

People experience depression in different ways. It is often common to lose concentration and people often also experience a loss of pleasure in life or activities that used to make them happy. Depression could also cause emotional imbalance, sleep disturbances, and physical pain.

Although grief is part of what causes depression in the brain, depression itself is not synonymous with grief. Self-loathing and low self-esteem are common symptoms that come with depression alongside sadness. Grief is typically characterized by sadness over the loss of a loved one or after a traumatic event. Both grief and depression can last long periods of time, but are characterized by different onsets.

Different Types of Depression

Depression can be classified into different types based on its severity or when it is experienced. Common types of depression will be detailed below.

Major Depressive Disorder

This is a severe and acute form of depression. Its symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, loss of interest in regular activities, changes in sleep patterns, loss of concentration, and weight changes.
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes other subtypes of major depressive disorder which are referred to as specifiers.2

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

This is a milder form of depression that often occurs over a longer time frame, lasting for more than two years in many cases. Because PDD lasts longer, it can affect the quality of life even more than major depressive disorder.
Common symptoms of PDD are low self-esteem, lack of productivity, and feelings of hopelessness.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression occurs almost immediately after childbirth. This is not the same as “baby blues,” which may be characterized by feelings of sadness within two weeks of childbirth.
Postpartum depression lasts longer and may bring along other complications such as thoughts of suicide or of wanting to harm the baby. Other symptoms of postpartum depression are decreased or absent sex drive, sleep inconsistencies, trouble concentrating and making decisions, and increased appetite and weight gain.

What Are the Main Causes of Depression?

The causes of depression are often different for everyone, but there are some main similarities that might bring on the mental condition. These will be discussed in detail below.


Major conflicts, such as among siblings or between marital partners, can be a major cause of depression. Hostility, aggressiveness, threats, and other psychological stressors associated with conflicts may cause people to slip into depression.

Physical Abuse​

Like conflicts, physical abuse can cause depression as well. On the other hand, other symptoms from major physical abuse could lead to anxiety as well, which often results in depression.

Emotional Abuse​

Emotional abuse takes a major toll on mental health and can inadvertently cause depression if not properly monitored.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is another major reason for depression, especially when such physical or emotional pain lasts for long periods and there is no proper supervision.

Death of a Loved One

While the death of a loved one can cause grief, the emotional pain can also cause depression depending on individual thresholds and one’s ability to manage stressful and overwhelming situations.

Brain Chemistry

Brain chemistry is one of the biological causes of depression. Some chemical imbalances in the brain can alter mood, behavior, sleep patterns, and other functions, which can lead to depression symptoms.

Traumatic Events

Traumatic events are also common reasons for depression. Some disturbing events can affect response to fear, stress, and the ability to manage emotions.

Other causes of depression include but are not limited to unemployment, sexual assault, and unstable family situations.

Risk Factors that Lead to a Depression

Risk factors may lead to depression as well, and often differ from specific causes. Risk factors of depression can include:

Vitamin D Deficiency

Low levels of Vitamin D in the body pose a major risk to some kinds of depression such as postpartum depression and persistent depressive disorder.3

Drug and Alcohol Use

Struggling with substance and alcohol use is part of what causes depression in many people. Misusing alcohol and other drug substances hormone and brain chemical levels, which may result in depression and other mood disorders.

Serious Medical Illness

Certain medical conditions can put people at risk of depression. Some of these conditions include insomnia, chronic pain, heart attack, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.4

Use of Certain Medicines

Studies have revealed that certain drugs such as hormonal birth control, beta-blockers, and corticosteroids can increase the risk of depression.5

Hormone Levels

Another major cause of depression is significant changes in hormone levels. This is particularly common in women when hormones such as estrogen and progesterone heighten or fall during the menstrual cycle, along with during postpartum periods, perimenopause, and menopause.

Different Ways to Prevent Depression

What Causes Depression
Having examined the main causes of depression, it is important to also know that certain actions can help with prevention and promote healthy living.

Exercise Regularly

Exercising not only keeps you fit but also releases endorphins into the body. Endorphins are hormones that help to improve the mood and keep depressing symptoms away.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can help you stay alert and focused, along with promoting relaxation, which helps you become aware of the present situation without any judgment or harmful sentiments.

Avoid Stress

Needless to say, stress is a major risk factor for depression. It is important to avoid overly stressful activities and other emotionally stressing situations as much as you can.

Build Strong Relationships

Building a quality network of friends, family, and other acquaintances can help you prevent depression. Healthy relationships serve as a strong support system during depressive moments so you don’t slip into a depressed state.

Keep a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy is another measure for preventing depression. Deficiency in certain nutrients such as vitamin B, D, and omega-3 fatty acids can cause depression or worsen depression symptoms.

Get Professional Help for Depression at Iris Healing®

While depression is a major health condition, it can be treated when the right measures are taken. As there are several reasons why depression happens, a specific treatment approach may be the best option for a certain depressive condition.

It is important to reach out for professional help when dealing with depression. At Iris Healing®, we devote ourselves to helping our patients improve their health using treatment measures that ensure a speedy recovery and are most applicable to the patient’s situation.

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