What are the 3 Main Causes of Depression?

Depression can occur in anyone and is incredibly common. In fact around 20% of people will have depression at some point in their life, though this figure may be much higher. Women tend to be diagnosed with depression more than men, but this may simply reflect that women are more likely to seek help from their doctors than men.

Depression symptoms vary between individuals but generally the overriding symptom is that of feeling low for an extended period of time. This is different to just feeling sad. The symptoms of depression can have a considerable impact on day-to-day life for some individuals. It can impact their relationships, and can even prevent them from working, getting out of bed and performing basic self care activities.

Here are some of the symptoms you may experience if you have depression:

  • Feeling irritable
  • No longer getting pleasure from activities that you once enjoyed
  • Having trouble sleeping whether, that is too much or too little
  • Feeling tired and fatigued throughout the day
  • Increased or reduced appetite
  • Feelings of anxiety and restlessness
  • Issues remembering and concentrating 
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Low libido

These are just a few examples of the symptoms of depression and they can range greatly in severity between individuals. You may experience some (or all) of these very lightly whereas others may feel crippled by them.

If you are unsure if you have depression and would like to get a better idea of your mental health,  you can take the PHQ-9 screening questionnaire that your GP would use to get an idea of whether you are depressed or not. 

The Main Causes of Depression

Why do people get depressed? The brain is a perpetual mystery and as such the main causes of depression are not fully understood. However, we do know what can trigger, exacerbate, and put us at a higher risk of depression. 

Physical Conditions

Physical pain has been shown to have a link to depression. This means that for people with chronic pain and illnesses such as fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain in the body, they may be more at risk of depression. This can also be the case with other physical health problems like Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis as they influence your lifestyle or how you live your life.

Life Events

It will likely come as no shock that the busy lives we lead can have a detrimental impact on our mental health. Sometimes life throws us curve balls that can not only be really challenging, but can trigger depression. Examples include being made redundant from a job, grief from losing someone you love, a relationship breakdown, trauma (whether this happened as a child or adult), and being bullied. Any life event can trigger depression – not just negative ones – and so can a build up of smaller events. 

Family Medical History

Although there is currently no gene for depression, there are clear correlations showing that if your parents or close relations have had depression, this can increase your risk of depression. However, the good news is that this doesn’t guarantee that you will develop it. 

The truth is that there are many factors that can make us more vulnerable to depression. These include persistent sleep problems, drugs and alcohol use. Even certain medications have depression as a side effect.

Getting Help for Depression

The good news is that many people with depression are able to recover and lead happy and fulfilling lives with the help of treatment.

Some of the most common treatments for depression include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and antidepressants. You may or may not find these effective –  in some cases, people find that CBT and antidepressants are not helpful and that their symptoms persist. In these cases, a non-invasive, drug-free treatment for depression, called repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) can be used. rTMS treatment for depression is only available in very limited locations on the NHS and most people will need to seek this treatment from a private clinic. 

rTMS works by gently stimulating the part of the brain that regulates mood. It is a very effective treatment for depression and has been used for years in the US before coming to the UK.

But how do you know when to seek help for depression? If you have been feeling low for more than two weeks or if any of the above symptoms are affecting your life and making day-to-day life difficult, it’s time to seek help from your GP or from a private clinic. 

If you have a friend who you think may be suffering with depression, it can be helpful to make it clear you are there for them if they want to talk, and to suggest that they seek guidance from a professional. Sometimes, just knowing that a friend or family member is there to support you can make a whole world of difference.


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