Causes and Contributing Factors of Depression:

Depression is complicated and "often a response to past and current loss...To feel bad in reaction to profoundly sad events is to be in touch with reality. In such times, depression is like a car's low-oil-pressure light - a signal that warns us to stop and take  protective measures." (Meyers, 2010) "To grind temporarily to a halt and ruminate, as depressed people do, is to reassess one's life when feeling threatened, and to redirect energy in more promising ways" (Watkins, 2008). However, when a person becomes stuck in a depressed mood, it may be time to look at contributing factors to get answers and help. 

There can be many possible causes for depression. A number of factors may need to be considered. The most common causes of depression are listed below:

Adrenal Fatigue - The adrenal glands produce adrenaline and affect a person's energy, ability to think as well as  moods. If the adrenals are worn out, their ability to work with the hypothalmus and pituitary glands found in the brain is also affected. This hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal partnership regulates mood, energy, response to stress and many other functions.

Chemical imbalance - A chemical imbalance in the brain can be part of depression. (See genetic below) Hormones also affect a person's mood and can play a part of depression as well.

Cycle - Depression can be part of a viscious cycle. "...often brought on by stressful experiences - losing a job, getting divorced or rejected, suffering physical trauma - by anything that disrupts our sense of who we are and why we are worthy human beings. This disruption in turn leads to brooding, which amplifies negative feelings, But being withdawn, self-focused, and complaining can by themselves elicit rejection (Furr & Funder, 1998; Gotlib & Hammen, 1992)."*

Genetic - Scientists believe that at least 50% of the risk for depression is genetic. The gene 5-HTT, has two sides called alleles. If these sides are short, they don't carry as much protein to help with the hormone serotonin which is responsible for mood. After stressful situations - especially a constantly stressful lifestyle (like job loss, divorce, or living with persons with ADHD, autism, chronic illness, etc.) less protein is produced by the gene and an individual is more likely to experience depression after stressful circumstances. 

Loss - job, loved ones, relationships, freedom

Stress - abuse: either physical, sexual or emotional
               genetic propensity toward a decreased ability to handle stress
               environmental - learned behaviors and social structures which lead to low self-                                            esteem, lack of opportunity
               chemical imbalance: hormones affect mood

Postpartum - There is no good time for depression, but for anyone struggling with depression after giving birth, it couldn't come at a worse time. Just when a mother needs to be at her best to care for the demands of a helpless newborn, (and learn how to be a mother if it's a firstborn) depression can make that practically impossible. Famous actress, Brooke Shields suffered with postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor and get help. 

Mid-life crisis

Marital strife - A marriage in constant conflict can encompass many issues. In a society with a high divorce rate, many people have not had a role model for a healthy marriage with healthy boundaries.  Television sitcoms and popular music offer little in the way of advice since they often portray codependent relationships and relationships lacking in respect for one another. To take a look at the characteristics of a healthy relationship, click here

Marriage can also be acutely affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or more commonly known as AD/HD. According to the national non-profit organization, Children & Adults with Attention and Hyperactivity Disorder 
(CHADD), "Conflict and discord are common in marriages and partnerships involving an individual with undiagnosed AD/HD." Click here to read more. 

Relationships - Constant conflict or crisis in relationships can contribute to depression. All people have behavior patterns and personalities. To take a look at these patterns and personality traits which can create ongoing conflict, read:  A Secret Sadness: the hidden relationship patterns that make women depressed by Valerie E. Whiffen, Ph.D.

Abuse - physical, emotional, spiritual, verbal


Drug abuse

Alcohol abuse

Environmental Factors - 1. a social structure leading to low self-esteem, 2. lack of opportunity, 3. learned behaviors such as a pessimistic view of life

Certain vitamin deficiencies like an inadequate level of vitamin B12. Longterm deficiency of B12 can cause depression. To find out how as well as additional symptoms, click here.

Some medications

For further information on causes click here.
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References: accessed 12/15/2010.

American Psychological Association accessed 3/4/2009.

NIMH accessed 3/4/2009.

Myers, David G., Psychology 9th edition, Worth Publishers, New York, 2010.

Psychology Information Online accessed 4/13/2009.

WebMd accessed 12/15/2010. accessed 12/15/2010.
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