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What Causes Depression? Risk Factors and Treatment Options for Depression

What Causes Depression

When you hear the word "Depression," what comes to mind?

You might think of depression as a perpetual feeling of sadness or emptiness or days spent trying to get the energy up to do chores and work. While these may be true for many people, depression is a complex mental health issue that looks different for everyone. 

One of the reasons why depression looks so different is because it has many different causes. Grief can cause depression just as much as neurotransmitters in the brain.  

More than 30 million people in the US take antidepressants, including one in seven women. Millions are tempted to try them to end chronic, unyielding distress or irritability—that feeling of being trapped by an exhausting inner agitation they just can't shake. 

Let's move beyond the false narrative and take a detailed look at what depression is, what experts say about it, and what causes depression.

Depression: Fast Facts

Managing one's mental health is just as important as their physical health. All of us may experience sadness or lack of motivation from time to time. Still, if those feelings become too intense and interfere with our ability to carry out regular activities, it could be a sign of depression. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health

  • 1 in 4 people experience depression every year in the US
  • 4.1 million teenagers between the age of 12 and 17 experience depression 
  • 21 million individuals aged 18 and older experience depression
  • 10.5% of women experience depression
  • 6.2% of men experience depression  

And an unfortunate fact we just can’t deny is that these depression statistics are constantly rising. 

Here's what experts are saying about depression:

  • Women are more likely to experience depression than men: 1 in 8 women will experience a clinical episode of depression at least once in their lives. . 
  • Depression tends to run in families; if you have an immediate family member with depression, you have a 40% chance of experiencing it yourself.
  • According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression increases your risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases by 40%.

These statistics paint a bleak picture, but treatment for depression is possible. It's a manageable condition, and with the right help and support it can be overcome.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Let’s understand the symptoms of depression and what it may look like in children, men, women, and seniors.

Understanding the symptoms of depression is the first step to getting better. Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent sadness or emptiness
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Changes in eating patterns and weight
  • Persistent low energy and fatigue
  • feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

There is no one way for someone to experience depression. One might have all or some of the symptoms of depression, or they might fluctuate daily or from one depressive episode to the next. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing depression, a clinically-backed depression screening process can be a significant first step in gaining clarity. 

What Causes Depression?

We know how common depression is and some of the symptoms, but why is it so common? What causes depression? Let’s look at an overview of the various factors that can lead to depression, such as genetics, environmental influences, and lifestyle choices. Also, let’s understand how these factors interact with each other and how they can lead to the development of depression.

science of depression


Depression is often a family trait. If a parent or sibling is diagnosed with depression, there is a risk that a child may also develop it. This is because depression often runs in families, and genetics can cause multiple mental illness traits to be expressed in one individual. It has also been found that depression shares many common genes with other disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

Environmental Influences

Many environmental factors can contribute to depression, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Big life changes
  • Loss of a loved one 
  • Trauma 

While none of these events alone can cause depression, these environmental factors interact with genetic and brain chemistry factors to cause depression.  

Brain Chemistry

Our brains contain a variety of neurotransmitters that have various functions. These are chemicals that transport information or impulses from one brain area to another, like messengers. When these brain messengers are out of balance by having too much or too little, the system that preserves mood stability is impaired, which can lead to depression. 

A person's mood is influenced by three important neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. Various studies found that these three neurotransmitters do not function properly for someone experiencing depression. 

Brain Function

According to scientific studies, emotions are controlled by certain parts of our brains. This is in part due to the neurotransmitters we talked about, but also nerve cell connection, growth, and function have a lot to do with mood changes in humans. Particularly, researchers have found that the hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores memories, is smaller in people with depression. They aren’t sure why this causes depression. 

Thinking Patterns

The cognitive theory of depression argues that depressed individuals have negative, untrue thinking patterns and beliefs that cause depression. The thinking process is believed to be the cause or a contributing factor in the onset of depression. Theories such as this have led to many treatment practices like cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempt to change these negative thought patterns so that depressive symptoms can improve or be eliminated.

Drugs Use 

Alcohol and recreational drugs can adversely affect your mental health, and often contribute to depression. Initially, consuming these substances might feel good, but eventually, they can make you feel far worse than before you started.

It has been found that, especially in older adults, drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and isotretinoin have been related to depression. Similarly, certain drugs like codeine, morphine, and anticholinergics used to treat stomach cramps can occasionally alter and fluctuate moods. Beta-blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, have been known to cause depression as well.

Chronic Illness

Your chance of experiencing depression may increase if your health is compromised, especially in an ongoing way. Depression may result from a chronic illness in certain people. Numerous health issues can be challenging to manage, potentially leading to severe negative impacts on mood. 

A chronic illness lasts an extended period and typically cannot be fully cured. Diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV & AIDS, and multiple sclerosis are a few examples of chronic conditions that can sometimes result in depression.

Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy is a topic far less discussed when it comes to depression factors, but it without a doubt deserves mention. 1 out of 7 pregnant women experiences depression before or after pregnancy. Stress, such as that brought on by becoming a parent for the first time, having to take care of the life of another person, experiencing significant physical changes during and after pregnancy, experiencing labor pains, etc., are associated with the start of depression.

Other Causes of Depression

Depression can strike anyone at any age, but it typically starts in a person's teens, 20s, or 30s. Studies tell us that more women than males have been diagnosed with depression and that women are more likely to participate in therapy more frequently.

Although many of the significant causes of depression have been discussed above, various other factors can also cause depression:

  • Some character qualities, such as having low self-esteem and being too reliant, self-critical, or negative 
  • Circumstances that are traumatic or distressing, such as physical or sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or financial difficulties 
  • Other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • One's temperament and personality can significantly influence depression. Some personality types like anxious worrying, socially avoidant, and rejection sensitivity are more at risk of suffering from depression than others are
  • According to research, a diet deficient in some crucial nutrients may increase a person's risk of developing depression
  • Aging is surprisingly a potential risk factor for depression. After you reach a certain age, the neurotransmitter can get mixed up, which leads the serotonin level to go down, leading to depression in older adults

If you are reading this and identifying with one or more of the symptoms or causes of depression, you or your loved one might be suffering from this complex disorder.

Next, let’s discuss some of the best available treatment options for depression. 

How to Get Help for Depression: Treatment Options for Depression

Note: If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 and seek emergency help right away. None of these treatment options are intended here to immediately address any emergency situations. 

There is hope for even the most severe cases of depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 80-90% of people seeking treatment for depression respond positively. Almost all people treated find relief or reduced symptoms. 

Depression can give you the impression that nothing will change for the better or that any comfort will only last a moment. It can also start a vicious cycle of unhelpful thinking, feeling, and acting. 

Depression is an increasingly common mental health condition that can significantly impact a person's life. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help those who suffer from depression. From therapy to lifestyle changes and alternative therapies, there are many options for treating depression.

Talk Therapy

Therapy is one of the most effective ways to manage your depression. Having an experienced, licensed therapist or counselor to talk to — someone who will listen and advise without judgment — can make a huge difference as you begin the recovery journey. A depression therapist can help you understand the origins of your depressive feelings, offer a safe place to express your thoughts and emotions, and help you devise practical ways to cope. These days, therapists work both in-person and virtually; there is a way to fit therapy into almost any lifestyle.

The therapy approaches most often used to treat depression include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy.

In some cases, therapy alone can treat depression, but often severe cases of depression are best treated with psychotherapy and medication.

Mindfulness Therapy

Mindfulness is known to help decrease depression and provide helpful coping mechanisms—behaviors that reduce distressing depression symptoms. Mindfulness therapy employs techniques of mindfulness like becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions nonjudgmentally, centering your values, and letting distressing emotions pass through you. 


Antidepressants are a common and effective treatment for depression, especially when combined with talk therapy options. 

Lean on Your Support System 

The first step in getting help is to admit to yourself—and perhaps to a family member or friend—that you may be depressed. Quite often, people around you may see signs but hesitate to say anything. "Once you're open to the possibility of diagnosis, there are many ways to get help," says Dr. Leuchter. Let your loved ones support you.


Depression is a debilitating and sometimes life-altering condition that can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. The good news is that, for the vast majority of people, depression can be treated. With the proper care, we can regain quality of life, develop new ways to manage difficult emotions, and relationships can once again become truly enjoyable.

Treatment for depression often involves both psychotherapy and medication, and it is essential to seek professional help rather than trying to battle the condition alone. Although there are no quick fixes when treating depression effectively, those who have suffered through its dark cloud know how life-changing therapeutic help truly is.

Find the right therapist who helps you make realistic goals: Finding the right therapist can be incredibly daunting, but taking the time to do so is worth it. A good therapist should be not only knowledgeable but also compassionate and patient. Ask questions about their experience and specialty areas before entering into a therapeutic relationship and whether they offer in-person and teletherapy sessions. Finding someone you feel comfortable discussing your life with and willing to work with to solve any issues or goals you want to accomplish within the therapy process is essential.

At Lifebulb, we do our best to offer various resources, flexible availability, insurance coverage options, and affordable self-pay rates. If you reach out to us, whether we're the best match for you or not, we'll do our best to point you in the right direction or get you connected with the resource for you.

Call us today. We’re ready to help!

Find Your Therapist


Frequently Asked Questions

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is one of the most trusted and effective depression treatment one who experiences Depression must take. Self-help plans include bringing specific lifestyle changes like keeping yourself active and eating well, which helps bring improvement in particular people with Depression. 


Lastly, attending group meetings and connecting with people who understand what you feel precisely can calm your nerves and help you loosen even more positively. You can find one of the best depression therapist in Cherry Hill, Edison, Toms River depression counseling on Lifebulb.

Focusing on your positive traits will help you think more positively. A nutritious diet, regular exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about yourself are some lifestyle adjustments you can make to boost your self-esteem. 

There isn't any proper cure for Depression as of now. However, the happy news is that there are several ways and treatment approaches by which you can control and manage Depression and cope with it. Studies say that 80% of those who seek Depression therapy show drastic improvement within 4 to 6 weeks. 

Depression can have many different causes. It has numerous triggers and a wide range of potential causes. A traumatic or stressful life event, such as a death in the family, a divorce, a sickness, a layoff, or concerns about one's career or finances, maybe the culprit for some people. Causes of Major Depressive disorder can frequently result from a combination of reasons. Most people cope with the causes of depression or what causes depression by identifying these trigger points and understanding the need to seek professional help from a depression therapist at the right time. Also, you can cope with the causes of depression by focusing on your positive traits which ,will help you think more positively. A nutritious diet, consistent exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about yourself are some lifestyle adjustments you can do to boost your self-esteem. 

Having painful or stressful experiences, such as being physically or sexually abused, losing a loved one, or facing financial difficulties even if it was planned, going through a significant life transition, all can be summed up to be what causes depression and anxiety or simply the causes of depression. Also, what causes depression and anxiety can again be having a medical condition, like cancer, a stroke, persistent pain, or any sort of other chronic illness.

Cause of major depressive disorder and what can cause depression or affect people can be as follows: Sadness, tears, emptiness, or a sense of helplessness. irrational behavior, impatience, or frustration, especially over trivial issues. loss of enjoyment or interest in the majority or all of the typical activities, such as hobbies, sports, or sex. sleep disorders, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping. 

Yes, researchers have found a strong genetic and hereditary component of depression. Genes alone are not enough to cause depression, but when genetics and environmental factors (like stress, trauma, life changes, or a loss) work together, they can cause depression. Research has found that if you have a family member who struggles with depression, you'll be 40% more likely to experience depression yourself. 

Sometimes it can feel like your life is going great, so there's no reason why you should be depressed. Remember that sometimes the cause of depression can be hidded: a mix of genetics and brain chemistry working against you. Also, there is no such thing as "bad enough". If you are experiencing depression, that enough is cause to seek treatment. 

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