Depression is caused by a variety of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. It can also go hand in hand with various other diseases or illnesses. Despite the recent increased research into mental illnesses and depression, it is still not known what exactly can trigger depression.
It is theorized that depression can run in the family. Those who have family members diagnosed with depression are more prone to this condition. Scientists are now researching various genes that may factor into depression. “Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors”.₁ However, depression is not exclusive those families who are diagnosed with depression. It can occur in anyone, which is what makes it so hard to research.
One of the primary theories regarding depression is biological differences, brain chemistry and hormones. According to research, chemicals in the brain may be out of balance, causing depression. According to NIMH, “brain imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression”.₁ These parts of the brain include those regulating mood, sleep, thinking, behavior and appetite. However, there are many biological issues that can cause depression from neurotransmitters to cell connections so it is hard to pinpoint the exact issue.
Environmental issues are also considered to impact depression. These issues can range from traumatic events to the abuse of drugs or alcohol to certain medications or chronic illnesses. While some of these examples may lead to temporary depression, or a single episode, others can continue to impact a person for life. While a person’s environment is considered to impact depression, depressive episodes may occur without an obvious trigger.
The final factor that affects depression can be psychological. This includes certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem, pessimism and dependence. Psychological factors are the thoughts going on in the brain, or the thinking pattern. It is not clear, however, if this represents an early form of depression or a psychological predisposition. People with a history of PTSD, anxiety, or other mental illnesses are also at a higher risk.
Despite these factors being recognized, researchers are still unsure of how depression works. Because these factors differentiate between people, it is harder to understand how depression occurs. With more research, hopefully the medical world will have a better understanding of this mental illness.
In the meantime, I find that a more personal view can give the public a better understanding of life as a depressive. It is not all good, but it is not all bad. What I’m trying to say, is though it may seem like it to outsiders, depression is NOT a simple disease. There are so many factors, triggers and types that experts can’t just figure out a way to turn a depressed person into a happy person. Research and experimentation have been unable to pinpoint a common factor of the human psyche that causes depression and thus haven’t been able to develop a surefire way of treating it.
- NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health