It has been proved that there is not a single cause of depression; in fact many factors can contribute to this. Depression can affect people who previously felt balanced and healthy but were suddenly faced with a death in the family for example. Equally, people can become depressed for no apparent reason and this can happen at any age. Interestingly, positive experiences can sometimes trigger depression. Significant change – however positive or life enhancing can cause anxiety which can lead to depression.
Let’s examine some popular theories on depression and what causes it by looking in more detail into each of the following which appear to make sense as statements but need more consideration:
- Depression is a result of unfortunate experiences or circumstances
- Depression is caused by certain ways of thinking or approaches to life
- Depression is a medical disease, caused by a hormonal or neurochecmical imbalance
Theory 1) - Depression is a result of unfortunate experiences or circumstances
Depression is often linked to ‘bad’ experiences but can events themselves actually cause depression? If something happens which leads to feelings of sadness, anger or hurt, it is possible that this could result in a more serious case of depression. But this doesn’t mean that the situation is the ‘cause’ of the depression as such. The point is how we relate to an experience that we have had, not the fact that it has happened in the first place. It also does not mean that any of us are to blame for feeling depressed - it simply means that we all respond differently to life events and how we make sense of them has a knock on effect on our emotions, our behaviour and on our physical well-being.
Theory 2) – Depression is caused by certain ways of thinking or approaches to life
It is not an inevitable conclusion that depression will develop if things go wrong or as a result of negative thinking. We all react differently and can actually have lifestyles which we and others view as positive. Negative thinking can obviously have an effect on our lives but it does not automatically follow that this approach will lead to depression.
Theory 3) – Depression is a medical disease, caused by a hormonal or neurochemical imbalance
Depression can cause physical symptoms and in rare cases even physical causes, but this does not automatically mean that depression can be termed a ‘disease’. The physical symptoms are just that – symptoms. Being depressed can feel like a physical illness as pain can be experienced and aspects of our lives are affected as they can be with a genuine disease. It has certainly not been proved that a hormonal imbalance alone for example will therefore equal a depressed person – it may have a relevance but does not mean it will happen every time.
So what does cause depression? Some causes may be obvious such as a loss of job or a bereavement but often, the reason behind the onset can be more subtle. And again, not everyone who loses their job or who suffers a bereavement will become depressed. Any of us could suffer from depression at any time in the right circumstances. Some of us may be more prone to suffer from depression than others but may still not suffer from it ever in our lives. Let’s take a look at some other possible causes of depression.
POSSIBLE CAUSES OF DEPRESSION