What Causes Depression?
Over the course of the past 100 years, our understanding of depression has greatly expanded, as has the number of therapeutic options available to deal with it. One thing researchers have learned in the past century is that, in the vast majority of cases, there is no one single cause for depression. Instead, an array of risk factors typically play into the development of a person’s depressive mood. And those risk factors are often different from person to person. Below we’re going to take a close look at what causes depression and what can be done about it.
Known Causes of Depression
The causes of depression can be broken down into 4 major categories. Within most of these categories, there will be an array of subcategories that may play into a given situation. The main causative categories are:
- Medical illness
As we mentioned, each of these categories comes with its own set of risk factors. Let’s look at the different categories now.
- Biological – There are a number of chronic illnesses that are known to trigger depression. These include Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cancer and many more. In most cases, the longer the person must endure the debilitating effects of these maladies, the greater the risk of them developing depression. In some cases, medications given to treat chronic pain or chronic illness may also play a role in triggering depression. The medical professional needs to weigh the potential benefit of the medication against this depressive possibility before prescribing it.
- Genetic – Each person is a combination of what their parents are/were. This genetic influence extends from the color of their eyes to the predisposition to obesity to the structure of, and neurochemical distribution in, the brain. Neurochemicals like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin play a direct role in regulating mood. And often, neurochemical imbalances are inherited. If a person has a parent that is prone to depression, it greatly increases their chance of developing it as well. Although, to be sure, it is not guaranteed that depression will be passed down. This is fairly complex, and mood is regulated by dozens of genes.
- Environmental – The environment in which they were raised and in which they live exerts a powerful influence on a person’s outlook on life. Additionally, stressful experiences induce changes in the brain and decrease important chemicals such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and this can lead to depression. Early loss and trauma can have lasting emotional consequences, and leave individuals vulnerable to depression later in life. Early trauma also causes physical changes such as a more extreme stress response.
- Social – There is often a bit of overlap between this category and the environmental category. Nonetheless, most depression specialists recognize it as a distinct category unto itself. Social factors include one’s ability to cope with stress. Genetic makeup influences how sensitive a person is to stressful life events, and this can play a big role in one’s social life as they get older. But that’s not the only social factor weighing on the likelihood of someone developing depression. Another is social class. Studies have demonstrated that working-class women with children were more likely to suffer depression than women with children in higher income brackets. Self-esteem, or the lack thereof, is another social risk factor for depression.
- Medical illness- Some medical problems are linked to lasting mood disturbances. Examples include thyroid disorders, heart disease, certain neurological illnesses, certain vitamin deficiencies, sleep apnea and certain autoimmune diseases. Certain medications used to treat underlying medical illnesses can also also contribute to depression.
So what causes depression? As you can see it could be any one of a number of things. Or, more likely, a combination of risk factors come together to cause depression. The point is, it’s not often a single cause, but a collection of causes.
What new treatments are available for depression?
Just as we know more about depression today than ever before, we also have more treatments available than ever. One of the most promising depression treatments to come along in years is called ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine has been around for some time, but in recent years researchers have discovered its enormous potential as a treatment for individuals who are considered treatment-resistant. If you or a loved one is struggling with depression we would like to invite you to give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of Ketamine and if you’re a good candidate for the treatment.