The Causes of Depression
"There is no one answer."

[ Awakenings Home ] [ Understanding Depression ] [ Back ] [ Next ]

80_pixel.GIF (47 bytes)



What causes depression?

There is no one answer but several possibilities. More than one possibility can be involved at the same time.

  • Physiology

    One mechanism is that of a "biological depression." This means that a person is depressed because of a biochemical imbalance of some sort. Usually this involves the brain and various neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help different areas of the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are low then miscommunication can occur and depression may be the result.

    It is similar to diabetes in which a physical malfunction of the pancreas results in the need for a medication that corrects the imbalance. Insulin is often needed and with insulin the body is placed back into a state of regulation. Usually there is a continued need for the medication so the person is enabled to lead a normal life. Lifestyle changes must also be made such as adopting a new diet, following an exercise program, and learning to manage stress.

    If there is a biochemical component to your depression you may need medication to help you overcome it. When in a deep depression the medication can help "jump start" the recovery process so you can then do the other work of healing.

    Some people but not everyone have a significant biochemical component to their depression. Usually other factors are involved as well.

  • Stress

    Some people become depressed through being overwhelmed by change and stress. We live in a time of rapidly increasing change and the demands of adjustment are difficult. Too much of an adjustment in too short of a time may over burden a person. Stress begins to wear them out and there is a loss of resiliency. They can no longer bounce back from adversity. They begin to pull away from others and their energy decreases. Depression is the result.

    (Click here to learn more about stress and take an online stress test.)

  • Learning

    Some people learn to be depressed.

    It may be that you were grew up in a family where everyone was depressed and think that such moods are normal. Just as you would be angry if you were raised in an angry family, or anxious if you come from an anxious family, so you may learn to be depressed if your family was depressed.

    On the other hand it might also be that your family was normal but busy. As a child if you were playing quietly then your parents might think, "Good. Don’t disturb her. Let her play." In essence they would ignore you if you were good. Later, if you were crying and upset because your toy broke, they might rush over to see what was wrong. Whether they meant to or not your parents just taught you a rule about life. It is that to get attention in this family you must be in distress. This may be the first step in learning a life style of depression as attention getting behavior.
  • Thinking

    Many people think themselves into depression.

  • It is easy to do. All that is required is that you know how to worry. With worry you take any small problem and think about it for a while. You imagine what might go wrong, could go wrong, and how terrible it would be. Pretty soon you have a big problem. This big problem is one that you have created, and it exists primarily in your imagination. However, you forget that you have intensified the problem by adding to it and take it for "the reality."

    Develop a habit of negative thinking, always make things worse than they are, and you can lead yourself down the road to depression.

Thinking: A Common Pathway

So, there are at least four pathways to depression, and they often act together. If you are depressed then you need to evaluate all of these factors in your life.

In your evaluation you will most likely find that thinking is always involved, and that it is a common pathway to depression. The good news is that you can control your thinking. You can choose what you tell yourself. Learning to control the pathway of thinking can give you control over your depression.


[ Awakenings Home ] [ Understanding Depression ] [ Back ] [ Next ]