For young adults depression is something to be aware of as this is the time of your lives where you may first experience it. The pressures and anxiety of being on your own for the very first time can seem overwhelming and can lead to depressed feelings. So what causes us to go through this grief? It is hard to know why one person may suffer from depression while another may not. While the exact causes may be hard to pinpoint for some people, there are many different factors that can contribute to a person having a major depressive episode. From a person’s biology and genetics to environmental influences to severe trauma, research has found definite links that certain factors can have on a person’s mental state and whether or not they may be more prone to developing a depressive disorder.
Changes in the normal function of the brain and its chemistry can affect a person’s mood. Fluctuations in neurotransmitters, chemicals that allow brain cells to communicate with each other, can leave a person vulnerable to develop depression. Two specific neurotransmitters are linked with depression, serotonin and norepinephrine. Research indicates that lower levels of serotonin can disrupt sleep and cause anxiousness and irritability. Low levels of norepinephrine can decrease excitement and alertness and lead to fatigue and may be responsible for depressed feelings and moods associated with depression. A vast number of anti-depressant medications aim to counteract the imbalance of these neurotransmitter levels in the brain and restore normal brain function.
Cortisol is another chemical that may be associated with depression. A person’s body produces the hormone cortisol when presented with stressful circumstances. Depressed and highly stressed patients show abnormally high levels of cortisol. The exact link is between cortisol and depression is not completely known.
Mental illness has a tendency to “run in the family”. Those who have family members who have suffered from depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are at an increased risk of developing these psychological disorders. This does not mean that a family history guarantees a person will suffer mental illness nor does it mean that someone without a family history will not. A family history of mental illness simply increases a person’s chances and they should be extra vigilant to look out for depression symptoms and those of other mental health disorders.
Traumatic Experiences and Abuse
Traumatic events can leave some people to battle with bouts of major depression. Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can distort the way that some patients look or feel about themselves leading to depression that can last for years if left untreated. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers often find themselves struggling with depression.
Life Altering Events
Undertakings such as a new job, moving to a new city or environment, going off to school, a promotion with increased responsibility can have profound effects on those prone to depression.
Anxiety and Stress
Heightened anxiety levels and stress can cause depression. Work stress, relationship stress and other stress-heavy life situations can lead to or make an already depressive episode worse. Those with poor capabilities to cope with stressful situations may tend to withdraw and isolate themselves. Increased levels of anxiety and stress can increase or decrease the levels of certain chemicals in the brain making for certain people making them more susceptible to bouts of depression. Prolonged stress can alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain leading to an unhealthy imbalance.
Certain illnesses and sickness may cause depression. Depression may either be a side effect or symptoms of a particular illness or it may be the result of having to deal with a major ailment.
Some conditions such as heart disease, cancers, strokes or diseases that affect hormonal levels such as those of the thyroid may cause depression in patients.
Medication Side Effects
Certain medications may include depression as one of the side effects suffered by those taking them. Medications such as some steroids, blood pressure medication, antibiotics, birth control pills or sleeping pills may produce or increase the severity of depression over prolonged periods of time.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Extended substance abuse can alter the brain chemistry in individuals that can lead to depression or make it worse if already present. While some people may drink, for example, because the feel depressed, others may also be depressed because they drink. It may be a two way street in some cases when it comes to substance abuse and depression.
These are just a few of the currently known potential causes of depression and other mental illness. The brain is a highly complex organ that controls all of our emotions, impulses and thought processes. Research is always ongoing and new studies and discoveries are constantly bringing immense insight on its inner workings and how it relates to those who suffer with depression.
Depression is an illness of the brain that is often linked with an imbalance of chemicals that are responsible for normal brain function. Certain factors and events can alter the proper levels of these chemicals and leave a person susceptible to developing depression.
While in some instances it may be quite easy to link a patients depression to a certain event or condition, for some people the actual cause of their depression may never be known. It may be a combination of different factors and causes which may lead one to suffer a depressive episode. Because of the vast array of causes of depression, those with a predisposition such as a family history should be aware of the potential to be a depression sufferer.