Claiming nearly 300 million victims worldwide, depression is the most common mental health disorder in the world. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in five women and one in ten men will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people aged 15-44 and accounts for almost $210.5 billion of lost earnings per year. If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing depression, you are not alone.
Although there is not one standardized cause of depression, understanding the most prevalent depression causes and identifying the symptoms of the disorder is the first step on the road to recovery.
It is important to note that this article is not a replacement for medical advice. It is meant to help provide information on the path to healing, but should not be considered above professional opinion.
What is causing my depression?
Sudden changes in emotional experience and expression can be scary. Perhaps you have not felt well in months, but don’t know why. Here are some common factors that may be responsible for the onset of depression:
- Genetics — While depression is not a purely genetic disease, you may be genetically predisposed to depression if mental health disorders run in your family.
- Stress — Job transitions, a large move, financial crisis, change in life state and strained relationships are all situations that may cause stress and trigger a depressive episode.
- Trauma — Traumatic events such as the death of a friend or family member, or physical, emotional and sexual abuse may be the catalyst for the onset of depression. Childhood trauma plays a particularly strong role here as early trauma can have a lasting effect on the brain. Stress response centers in the brain may be negatively impacted on a chemical or structural level, hurting the brain’s ability to process emotions.
- Illness — Whether it is your own or that of a loved one, a chronic diagnosis or long-term bout with a major illness may contribute to your depression. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease are all associated with increased rates of depression.
- Chemical imbalance — Neurotransmitters in the brain center are responsible for various essential operations within your body such as sleep cycles, mood regulation and appetite. When they are not in balance, these processes may be significantly impacted, contributing to depression.
- Hormonal irregularity — Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate important signals to various parts of the body via your bloodstream. Major hormonal changes or imbalances commonly caused by puberty, pregnancy, menopause or thyroid disorders may lead to depression.
Identifying the potential causes of depression can help to assess the root of the disorder and begin the process of exploring treatment options.
How do I know if I have depression?
Everyone has moments, or even days, of diminished mood or sadness. This is normal and should not be an immediate cause of concern, but rather a sign that you are a healthy emotional being. You may be experiencing depression, however, if you have a sense of hopelessness that has become prolonged over two weeks or more.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a resource that compiles the expertise of over 160 medical doctors and clinicians worldwide. This manual outlines 157 medical disorders and provides pertinent information about their definitions, symptoms, rates of occurrence, possible causes, treatments and more. The DSM-5 lists two main criteria for clinical depression: depressed mood and anhedonia, or a lack of pleasure from things that used to be enjoyable. One or both of these symptoms must be present to consider diagnosis.
Additionally, the DSM-5 lists the following symptoms of depression and states that five must endure for two or more weeks.
- Trouble sleeping;
- Changes in appetite;
- Joint pain;
- Severe mood fluctuations;
- Decreased sexual libido;
- Memory problems;
- Withdrawal from social settings;
- Suicidal thoughts or self harm.
If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, it may be time to reach out and seek help.
Depression can make the challenges and routines of daily life feel unbearable. Here’s the good news: 80% of people treated for depression show improvements within 4-6 weeks of beginning treatment. If you are looking for a new beginning, here are some of your options:
- Therapy — Working with a trained psychotherapist is commonly found to be an effective form of treatment, providing valuable professional support through depression. Many practices offer virtual meeting options to suit your lifestyle.
- Medications — Talk to your doctor about pharmaceutical treatment options. Be aware of the risks associated with antidepressants, and understand the potential side effects before you begin. It may take some time to find the medication that is right for you.
- Hospital and residential treatment programs — When there exists a risk of harming yourself or others, a hospital or residential treatment program may be a good fit for the immediate future. Outpatient options are also available, offering partial supervision and support for those battling severe depression.
- Other treatment options — Brain stimulation therapies may be effective for those who do not respond well to antidepressants or who are at risk of suicide. In these treatment methods, electrical currents are used to improve neurotransmitter operation to promote mood regulation.
Get Help Today
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, there is hope. Schedule your appointment with one of our licensed clinicians today to begin treatment, or call 800-877-3628.