Causes of Depression and the Bad Side of a Possible Good

Let there be no doubt that depression is a serious mental illness that sometimes requires months and years of treatment on the road to a cure. Hippocrates referred to depression as melancholia, which literally means black bile. Black bile, along with blood, phlegm, and yellow bile were the four humors (fluids) that described the basic medical physiology theory of that time. Depression, also referred to as clinical depression, has been portrayed in literature and the arts for hundreds of years, but what do we mean today when we refer to a depressive disorder? In the 19th century, depression was seen as an inherited weakness of temperament. In the first half of the 20th century, Freud linked the development of depression to guilt and conflict. John Cheever, the author and a modern sufferer of depressive disorder, wrote of conflict and experiences with his parents as influencing his development of depression.

Each year, millions of people come to the realization that they suffer from depression. To make things worse it is estimated that only a third of those who suffer the disease will ever seek treatment. Because depression is considered a mental affliction, many sufferers shy away from seeking help from a doctor. Instead of being considered mentally ill, people try to manage the problem themselves. Depression is more common- place than you might think and it will not go away on its own.

Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of things. You may have no idea why depression has struck you.

Whatever its cause, depression is not just a state of mind. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters.

Some of the more common factors involved in depression are:

* Family history. Genetics play an important part in depression. It can run in families for generations.

* Trauma and stress. Things like financial problems, the breakup of a relationship, or the death of a loved one can bring on depression. You can become depressed after changes in your life, like starting a new job, graduating from school, or getting married.

* Pessimistic personality. People who have low self-esteem and a negative outlook are at higher risk of becoming depressed. These traits may actually be caused by low-level depression (called dysthymia).

* Physical conditions. Serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and HIV can contribute to depression, partly because of the physical weakness and stress they bring on. Depression can make medical conditions worse, since it weakens the immune system and can make pain harder to bear. In some cases, depression can be caused by medications used to treat medical conditions.

* Other psychological disorders. Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and (especially) substance abuse often appear along with depression.

Why do people get depression? The answer can get very complicated because you have to take many factors into consideration. The list is quite long. Let’s list a few of the contributing factors to depression. A chemical imbalance is widely considered to be the main cause for depression. Why does this chemical problem in the brain happen? Typically the causes stem from biological, genetic, physical, mental and environmental implications. In many cases the underlying cause is never identified. Depression often follows diagnosis of other medical conditions, particularly those that result in imminent death or are chronic.

Scientists do not know why the hippocampus is smaller in those with depression. Some researchers have found that the stress hormone cortisol is produced in excess in depressed people. These investigators believe that cortisol has a toxic or poisonous effect on the hippocampus. Some experts theorize that depressed people are simply born with a smaller hippocampus and are therefore inclined to suffer from depression.

Another cause of depression can be the emotional pain felt after losing a loved one. In many cases the loss can be very traumatic. Long periods of emotional, sexual or other physical abuses can result in depression. When people abuse drugs and/or alcohol the result is often depression. People’s mental states are fragile. If exposed to the wrong pressures, depression can result. There can also be a genetic element to depression. Those afflicted have a family history of the disease . Oddly, many drugs including those that regulate depression or anxiety can cause depression. High blood pressure medication can result in depression.

One of the major causes of depression is stress. Stress can derive from many different areas in our life. It’s not well known, but it’s true, that stress can result from the pressures associated with positive events such as a new, high paying job. The unknown is often the root cause of this stress, whether it be positive or negative. Arguments with family members, disputes with business clients can both cause stress.

The causes of clinical depression are likely to be different for different people. Sometimes a depressive episode can appear to come out of nowhere at a time when everything seems to be going fine. Other times, depression may be directly related to a significant event in our lives such as losing a loved one, experiencing trauma, or battling a chronic illness.

Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters-chemicals that brain cells use to communicate-appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.

Scientists believe genetic factors play a role in some depressions. Researchers are hopeful, for instance, that they are closing in on genetic markers for susceptibility to manic-depressive disorder.

Depression in adolescence comes at a time of great personal change-when boys and girls are forming an identity distinct from their parents, grappling with gender issues and emerging sexuality, and making decisions for the first time in their lives. Depression in adolescence frequently co-occurs with other disorders such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, eating disorders or substance abuse. It can also lead to increased risk for suicide.

Teen depression cannot always be prevented, but there are some things that can help reduce the chances of an episode of depression in a teen who is at risk.

Teen Depression is presented for troubled teens or parents of teens. We offer information on teenage depression, issues, and other teen problems. Our articles were written to educate parents and teens about adolescent depression, the warning signs, and various treatment options available.

Some of the causes of depression in teenagers seem to be genetic, and those cannot be changed, but other triggers of teen depression can be avoided. Some of the risk factors for teen depression include:

* A family or personal history of depression
* A long-term illness or disability, whether physical or mental
* Experiencing a trauma or loss, including abuse, divorce of parents, death of a loved one, or a break-up
* Difficulties at home, at school, or with friends

If you know a teen who suffers from or is at risk for depression, you can help the teen by:

* Talking and listening to him or her
* Encouraging him or her to be involved in positive activities and to take good care of him or herself
* Being fair when dealing with or disciplining the teen
* Setting a good example by taking good care of yourself and getting help if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.

The majority of older adults with depression improve when they receive treatment with an antidepressant, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.18 Research has shown that medication alone and combination treatment are both effective in reducing the rate of depressive recurrences in older adults. Psychotherapy alone also can be effective in prolonging periods free of depression, especially for older adults with minor depression, and it is particularly useful for those who are unable or unwilling to take antidepressant medication.

Additional research data indicate that people suffering from depression have imbalances of neurotransmitters, natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with one another. Two transmitters implicated in depression are serotonin and norepinephrine. Scientists think a deficiency in serotonin may cause the sleep problems, irritability, and anxiety associated with depression. Likewise, a decreased amount of norepinephrine, which regulates alertness and arousal, may contribute to the fatigue and depressed mood of the illness. Other body chemicals also may be altered in depressed people. Among them is cortisol, a hormone that the body produces in response to stress, anger, or fear. In normal people the level of cortisol in the bloodstream peaks in the morning, then decreases as the day progresses. In depressed people, however, cortisol peaks earlier in the morning and does not level off or decrease in the afternoon or evening.

There is mounting evidence that depression takes a serious toll on physical health. The most recent studies exploring health and depression have looked at patients with stroke or coronary artery disease. Results have shown that people with depression who are recovering from strokes or heart attacks have a more difficult time making health care choices, following their doctor’s instructions, and coping with the challenges that their illness presents. Another study found that patients with depression also have a higher risk of death in the first few months after a heart attack.

Some people have a low threshold for stress. They’re affected by events and activities that to others seem to not be stressful. The good news is that very effective treatments are available to help those who are depressed. However, only about one-third of those who are depressed actually receive treatment. This is unfortunate since upwards of 80-90% of those who do seek treatment can feel better within just a few weeks. Many people do not seek treatment for depression for a variety of reasons. Some believe that depression is the result of a personal weakness or character flaw. This is simply not true. Like diabetes, heart disease, or any other medical condition, clinical depression is an illness that should be treated by a mental health professional or physician. Another reason why many people do not seek help for depression is that they simply do not recognize the signs or symptoms that something may be wrong.