What are the causes of Depression?
The causes of depression vary for each individual and can happen for one or more reasons. It is also possible that it may appear for no obvious reason.
Loss and Bereavement
Events or experiences can often trigger bouts of depression. It could be following the death of someone close or a major life change such as losing a job, moving home, the loss of a much loved pet or simply moving from one phase of life into another, e.g. retirement, children leave home, or you come to realise that you may never have a family of your own.
Recovery is not just surviving the negative experience that causes the depression but how we deal with it. If the feelings provoked are not expressed or explored at the time, they can fester and contribute towards depression.
In some cases, people call depression “Frozen Anger” or view it as anger turned inwards or at yourself . You may have experienced something which left you feeling angry and helpless, and if you were unable or not allowed to express your feelings at the time – perhaps because you were a child at the time, or your feelings were unacceptable to others – the anger may become internalised and this is then expressed as depression.
In many cases, the first time you become depressed may have been triggered by an unwelcome or traumatic event like being sacked, divorced, physically or sexually assaulted or suffering the loss of a loved one.
It may also occur if you experienced a traumatic or disturbing event in childhood or were abused physically or emotionally, or were not helped or taught good coping skills as you grew up. This can leave you feeling less able to cope with difficulties as they arise as an adult.
Some physical conditions may also cause depression, but this is sometimes overlooked because the focus is on physical symptoms:
- conditions affecting the brain or nervous system
- hormonal problems, especially thyroid and parathyroid problems
- symptoms relating to the menstrual cycle or the menopause
- low blood sugar
- sleep problems
It is worth considering that, if any of the above conditions apply to you, make sure your doctor knows about them. Some of these problems can be diagnosed by simple blood tests and your doctor may suggest that these are done to help make the right diagnosis, or you can ask for blood tests if you think they might be relevant for you.
Side effects of prescription medication
Depression is often a side effect of different medicines; an example could be that some people become depressed after a heart attack and this may be because they are taking beta blocker medicine as part of their treatment.
If you are feeling depressed after starting a course of medication, it is worth first looking at the patient information leaflet that came with the medication to see if depression is listed among the side effects. If you think a medication may be causing your depression, you could discuss this with your doctor to see if there is an alternative medication that you could take, particularly if you expect the treatment to continue for some time.
Poor diet and general lack of fitness can both contribute to depression. Trying to take some exercise, even simply taking a walk each day, may contribute to feeling more at ease.
Street drugs and alcohol
You may feel tempted to have a drink to make yourself feel better. Alcohol is a recognised depressant and this will tend to make you feel worse. Drugs can also make you feel more depressed, especially if you use them on a regular basis.