Research-Based Answers to What Causes Depression: A List of External and Internal Causes of Depression

Sorry, there is no easy answer to what causes depression.

The answer to what causes depression, in most cases, involves a combination of factors that are biological, genetic, psychological and environmental in nature.

An affected individual cannot regulate depression without deliberately altering the intensity of one of those four factors, often by counseling and medication in conjunction with lifestyle changes.

Serotonin Problems Play a Large Role in What Causes Depression

Fundamentally, within the brain’s complicated chemical processes, specifically concerning the amount of certain, highly influential neurotransmitters are the causes of depression.

Serotonin reuptake is especially targeted when someone suffers from depression, since serotonin is responsible for regulating emotions, appetite, mood and sleep.

Low Serotonin Levels Are Associated with Different Types of Depression

Decreased serotonin levels in the brain have been clinically associated with all forms of depression, from postpartum depression to seasonal holiday depression resulting from the stress of preparing for family get-togethers, shopping and social gatherings.

When serotonin is prevented from leaving the pre-synaptic terminal at the end of a neuron, it remains in the neuron and thus cannot saturate the brain and perform its various duties.

Low serontonin levels play a part in what causes depression: Picture of a brain showing serotonin pathways.

Antidepressants Work as Gate Openers for Serotonin

Antidepressants allow for the release of serotonin: Picture of pills in hand.Antidepressant medication such as Zoloft, Effexor and Lexapro and effectively allow the release of serotonin into the brain which produces positive mood changes and a lifting of depressed thinking.

Although researchers know what causes depression, they have not yet discovered why serotonin is subject to reuptake processes and how antidepressants work to successfully counteract this issue when it does occur.

How Professionals Make a Diagnosis of Depression: Clinical Symptoms of Depression

Certified psychologists who administer certain written and oral tests to patients give professional diagnosis of depression.

In addition, psychologists assess a patient’s non-verbal affect when initially interviewing them and gather information to assemble a detailed history of the patient’s family history.

While the severity of the depression will dictate the intensity of depression symptoms, basic manifestations of a depressive illness include the following symptoms, some of which are clinical depression symptoms:

What causes depression: Man and skull - Melancholy painting by Domenico Fett.

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness and anxiousness, sometimes for no reason
  • Feeling guilty or worthless; unable to find meaning in one’s life
  • Disturbing sensation of restlessness and irritability
  • Inability to find pleasure in activities that were once interesting
  • Varying degrees of hypersomnia or insomnia
  • Lack of energy, sometimes to the point of not being able to get out of bed
  • Cognitive difficulties – trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Overeating or eating very little
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in severe cases of depression
  • Hypochondrias
  • What causes depression may also be something that has recently occurred in someone’s life, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, divorce or other major life event.

    When something happens which temporarily but radically upsets the expectations that someone may have about their future, thought process are negatively impacted, resulting in neuronal activity that may precipitate an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

    Antidepressants may alleviate this imbalance until the person is able to adjust to the change and cope with it in a more healthy way.

    Underneath the Surface of a Depression, Anger May Be Hiding

    Anger is a way some people react to depression: Photo of a tightly clenched male fist.Although someone suffering from depression appears sad and withdrawn, that person is actually dealing with deep-seated anger in an unhealthy way. Depressed people are frequently frustrated, irritable and snappish, but do not realize why they are reacting this way simply because they do not or cannot acknowledge the anger they feel.

    As adults, we repress negative emotions for fear of embarrassment or reprisal, and may tend to show only positive emotions to gain acceptance by others.

    What may cause depression is the result of anger continually building and not being released either verbally or by taking action. As a result, depression overwhelms the bewildered individual as a form of coping mechanism.

    Indirect causes of depression that produce a chronic feeling of hostility in an individual may also compel that person to seek unhealthy release methods, such as drug, alcohol or sexual addiction.

    A List of Different Types of Depression

    Depression During Pregnancy Is Most Often Triggered by an External Event

    What causes depression during pregnancy? Most often external factors. Picture of pregnant woman in profil silhouetteDepression during pregnancy is not as common as depression after pregnancy, however, because maternal hormones are more active in the body than the mood regulators in the brain.

    However, depression and pregnancy are strongly associated when mothers experience detrimental environmental factors during pregnancy such as poverty, loneliness, relationship difficulties and lack of medical intervention.

    This means that the depression during pregnancy is most often caused by external events rather than internal chemical imbalances.

    Post Natal Depression – When Baby Blues Go Black

    Post natal depression is depression following the birth of a baby. What exactly causes depression in postpartum women is not entirely known.

    Due to wild fluctuations in hormone levels during and after childbirth, it is common when mothers experience a mild sense of sadness and fatigue after having a baby, but occasionally the feeling worsens, and becomes so severe, it may prevent the mother from taking proper care of her baby.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 12 percent of new mothers report feeling moderately depressed after childbirth, while nearly six percent say they feel extremely depressed after giving birth.

    Most Likely a Combination of Hormonal Imbalances and Genetic Dispositions Play a Role in Post Natal Depression

    What causes depression in new mothers is yet to be precisely mapped out but researchers are certain that hormonal factors play an important role in the development of post natal depression (PPD).

    They have also found through analysis of post natal depression information that having family members who suffer from depression may increase the risk of a new mother suffering from post natal depression.

    Other potential causes of depression in women following childbirth include having a history of experiencing severe premenstrual syndrome disorder and being a first-time mother.

    Infertility Depression Is a “Natural” Type of Depression and the Best Option is Counseling

    Alternatively, for women troubled by infertility depression may result as the ramifications of dealing with anger at themselves, guilt and anxiety from realizing that “time” may be running out for them to have a baby.

    This type of depression does not usually necessitate antidepressants if counseling is pursued and women suffering from infertility issues are instructed regarding how to handle these emotions in an effective and unmitigated manner.

    Furthermore, informing about what causes depression, particularly negative thought processes and the imbalance of transmitters, seems to help in alleviating the helpless feelings of powerlessness and frustration.

    Menopause and Depression – Most Likely a Complicated Mix of Many Factors

    What causes depression in menopausal women is still under debate, with many theories available that point to a variety of causes.

    External Causes: Life Changing Events May Be What Causes Depression

    In addition, many women at this point in their lives are dealing with children leaving the home, divorce, changing careers and other significant, life-changing events that could leave them feeling overwhelmed, lonely, anxious and hopeless.

    Internal Causes: The Challenging Hormonal Changes

    Menopause and hormonal changes can be the anchor of what causes depression: Edgar Degas' painting of  sad woman - melancholy.The aggravating and sometimes debilitating symptoms of menopause itself may cause depression.

    In addition to pregnancy, menopause provokes a myriad of hormonal changes within a woman’s body that produces numerous physical and emotional issues, which may be what causes depression.

    Active menopause usually occurs after age 45 and can last until a woman is in her late 50′s, during which time depression, as well as other problems such as hot flashes and extreme mood swings, generally affect most women.

    The Natural Drop in Estrogen Is No Fun – Literally
    Causes of depression during menopause also involve the hormones estrogen, androgen and progesterone. These hormones are actively being phased out of a woman’s reproductive system, especially estrogen, the hormone which enhances serotonin activity in the brain.

    Therefore, reduced estrogen levels during menopause are perhaps one of the reasons why women experience insomnia depression, irritability, fatigue and disturbing hot flashes during this time.

    Researchers have discovered that women who were diagnosed with depression in their 20′s seem to have an increased risk for developing menopause-related depression in their 50′s.

    In addition, another reason for what causes depression in menopausal women appears associated with whether they had a hysterectomy and underwent pre-mature menopause due to removal of their ovaries.

    Diabetes and Depression: Wrong Diet and Rollercoaster Blood Sugar Levels

    Causes of depression in those suffering from diabetes are unclear but research has shown a distinct correlation between those with diabetes and incidences of depression.

    Suggested theories for diabetes-related depression involve the stress of dealing with diabetes, the metabolic impact that diabetes has on brain chemistry and whether an individual has a history of depression prior to developing diabetes.

    Eating the Right Foods and Taking Medication Correctly Is Crucial

    It is interesting to note that diabetics who do not adhere to a proper diet and take insulin medication as prescribed may suffer from symptoms resembling depression symptoms.

    Fluctuations in blood sugar levels produce fatigue and irritability, both fundamental indicators of depression. In other words, what causes depression in diabetics may be related to diet and medication, something easily rectified by eating the correct foods and taking medication as directed.

    However, if a diabetic is taking care of himself but still suffers from depression symptoms, an intervention may be necessary involving psychotherapy and antidepressant medication.

    Individuals with both types of diabetes can safely take antidepressants such as Elavil, Paxil and Zoloft.

    Genetics and Depression: Researchers Are Still Only Scratching the Surface

    Depression often cause fatique and lost a loss of interest in life: Tired woman lying on her back. While the causes of depression are still under investigation, researchers continually examine not so much whether but how a correlation between genetics and depression exists.

    People who suffer from life-long depression rather than temporary depression usually have a family history of depression.

    Blood relatives of chronically depressed individuals tend to be more frequently diagnosed with some form of depression or other mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or various personality disorders that people who have no genetic link to depression.

    However, this association is not clear, as psychologists and geneticists still do not know whether or to which extent what causes depression is a “depression” gene or if depression in a family is the result of dysfunctional interactions between family members.

    More research is necessary to correctly determine what causes depression, which may hopefully lead to discovering ways to prevent depression in those most prone to depression. By combining the fields of neuroscience, psychology and human physiology, scientists are continually encountering new data regarding depression, the brain and its affects on the human body.

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