Depression Causes & Symptoms: An In-Depth Look
Feeling sad or lonely every now and then is something everyone experiences. However, if your feelings of sadness persist, then it can signal a serious mental issue that needs to be addressed. This guide will help you determine how to get treated for depression.
Clinical depression is one of the most common mood disorders that has affected around 7.1 percent of adults in the U.S. (1) alone. It can cause you to feel hopeless or like life is not worth living. Unfortunately, not many people know what the main causes of depression even are, much less how to treat it. Let’s take a closer look into how someone can develop depression below.
Symptoms of Depression
Depressive symptoms can manifest in several different ways. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Feelings of constant hopelessness, worthlessness, or sadness
- Loss of interest in hobbies or other activities you once loved
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty concentrating or functioning
- Weight loss (or weight gain that can develop into an eating disorder)
- Substance abuse (which then leads to substance use disorders)
- Developing an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorders
- Chronic pain
Types of Depression
No one person will have the same experience with depression. There are quite a few different types of depression, all with their own unique symptoms and causes.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depression can negatively impact how you go about your daily life. It is a debilitating mental disorder that can interfere with your mood, energy, productivity, and overall outlook on life.
Though depression of all kinds can be difficult to overcome, patients with major depression will experience especially severe symptoms, including hallucinations or delusions. Additionally, if your depressive episode lasts for 2 years or more, then you may be suffering from persistent depressive disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
This disorder typically affects patients during the winter when there is less natural light around. This lack of light can make you feel hopeless, sad, or lethargic. Any depressive symptoms you exhibit may suddenly disappear once spring rolls around. Once winter comes around again, however, the symptoms may return with it.
Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth may succumb to this depression. It is characterized by a sudden sadness, hopelessness, or exhaustion that interferes with their ability to care for their newborn baby.
Depression, major depressive disorder, or any other mental illness will typically not have one sole cause. There are plenty of different physical, mental, physiological, and emotional factors that may intersect and weave together to trigger your depressed state. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of depression below.
Stressful Life Events
Abuse, grief and loss, and other forms of trauma can be a large contributor to your present anxiety and depression. More often than not, people with depressive disorders will have had a stressful life full of uncertainties or instability.
Even seemingly normal stressors or life events such as marital issues, divorce, financial woes, or stressful times at work or home can lead to depressed feelings developing. You may even develop both depression and anxiety as a result of all the stress around you. Just know that there will never be just one thing that will trigger your depression. It can be a combination of events in your life that have all led up to its development.
Depression in Children vs. Depression in Adults
Depression can impact people of any age. The symptoms in children and teens tend to differ a little from that of adults. Children and teens will display higher levels of clinginess or sensitivity, poor attendance or performance in school, and antisocial behaviors. Domestic abuse or trauma and bullying tend to be common causes for depression in children and teens.
Older adults will display more physical symptoms. Frequent aches and pains, fatigue, changes in appetite, and memory loss or difficulties may be some of the symptoms you may face. Additionally, older men are more likely to commit a suicide attempt.
If you are having any suicidal thoughts at all, you need to consult a medical professional right away. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The SAMHSAS national helpline also offers an online chat option if you feel too nervous to talk with a counselor on the phone.
Family Histories of Depressive Disorders
If your family has a known history of depression or other mental health conditions, then you may be more susceptible to developing mental health issues. However, just because a close relative of yours happens to have depression, it does not mean that you are destined to inherit it, too.
It simply means that you are more at-risk of depression developing later on in your life. If you take relatively good care of yourself and learn good coping mechanisms early on, then you will be better able to manage any symptoms of depression you may face in the future.
Other Risk Factors
Any chronic illness, such as heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, or any other debilitating medical condition will likely play a large role in depression. These diseases can make you feel as if you have no control or agency over your own health, which can easily make anyone feel depressed.
Taking certain medications for these illnesses can also exacerbate your symptoms as well. It is always a good idea to talk with your doctor about any side effects your medications may have before taking them.
If you live alone or tend to isolate yourself often, you are more likely to develop depression. Without a good support system by your side, it can feel as if you have no one who can help. It can be difficult to talk to your loved ones about your problems, but opening up to them is a good first step to take. Even if you do not have anyone you trust to talk about this with, the SAMHSAS national hotline is always open to you.
Treatments for Depression
Treating depressed patients is the main goal of all mental health professionals. If you experience depressive symptoms, talk to your health care provider as soon as you can so you can go over which mental health treatments might be best for you.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This behavioral health treatment is perhaps the most effective treatment for depression there is. It is a medically-reviewed treatment option that involves teaching patients how to recognize their unhelpful, negative thought processes and behaviors and how to better cope with your depression.
You do not need to worry about your therapist throwing you in a situation you are mentally unprepared for. The point of this behavioral therapy is reducing stress. You will work with your therapist to better understand your depression as well as which healthy coping mechanisms work best for you.
Your therapist may first introduce relaxation techniques in your therapy sessions. This can include mindfulness meditation, which aims to calm both your mind and body.
They may also encourage you to slowly implement healthier lifestyle changes, such as creating better sleeping habits, healthier meals and snacks, or even something as simple as introducing more physical activity into your routine. You might be surprised at how easily these small changes can boost your behavioral health!
Eventually, your therapist might help you face your fears in a controlled setting. This could be through roleplaying or other therapy methods. It may also help in understanding the differences between a therapist and a psychologist.
Your doctor may prescribe you antidepressant medication that will affect certain chemicals in your brain to boost your mood. These chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, will carry or balance out the signals that shoot through your neurons. These signals control everything in our body, from our breathing to our emotional state.
Specific neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine can regulate our moods and energy levels. Depression can reduce the levels of these “feel-good” neurotransmitters and make you feel sad or tired.
Reuptake inhibitors work to increase the concentration of these neurotransmitters so that you will be less affected by your symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIS) in particular can be a huge help in mitigating your depression symptoms. This is because selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can target nerve cells causing depression.
Basically, it prevents your blood from taking the serotonin from your brain, which allows you to retain higher levels of serotonin. This chemical helps to regulate your moods, appetite, sleep, memory, and sex drive all in one.
People with seasonal affective disorder will benefit the most from this therapy. If the lack of natural light is getting you down, then getting a light therapy box might help! This can help to prevent depression in some milder cases, and you might feel energized enough to tackle your tasks for the rest of the day!
This depression treatment is classified as a brain stimulation therapy, and is more suited for those who do not respond well to medication or any other treatments. Doctors will first put you under anesthesia then pass electric currents through your brain. These currents will affect your brain chemistry and work to reverse the symptoms of your depression.