Depression rarely just fades away on its own.
It can change the way you see yourself, your relationships, and the world in general.
It can wear you out and wear you down, taking hold of your life and mood.
But where does depression come from?
It may help to understand some of the 5 most common causes of depression:
Biology: Your brain is wired differently.
In recent years, brain imaging has increased our knowledge of how brain regions and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) regulate mood. Areas in the brain that are significant players in depression are the amygdala, thalamus, and hippocampus. Important neurotransmitters affecting mood, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are suppressed.
The amygdala is stimulated when a person remembers events that are emotionally charged. Activity in the amygdala is increased when a person is sad or depressed. The thalamus receives much of the body’s information and sends it to the correct parts of the cerebral cortex. Problems in the thalamus may link sensory input to unpleasant feelings. The hippocampus region has been shown to be smaller in the brains of depressed people. Studies suggest that prolonged exposure to stress impairs nerve cell growth in this region.
Brain receptors can also become over-sensitive or insensitive to certain chemicals. Release of neurotransmitters may become excessive or inadequate. This type of system failure can lead to serious mood disruption.
Genes: Your family tree makes feeling better difficult.
Certain genes make certain people more vulnerable to depression. Some genes have a greater influence on stress response, making depression more likely in troubling times. Twin and siblings studies show a marked increase in depression among people with shared DNA.
Resilience: Your ability to bounce back is impaired.
An inability to cope with change, life events, or relationship problems can affect your mood deeply. The following circumstances present challenges to your mood if you have diminished coping skills:
Susceptible temperament: You may simply have a worldview supported by your genes and life experiences that influence your moods. This viewpoint is conceived early on and negative thinking, poor self-image, or tendencies toward social isolation may become your fall back when loss, disappointment, or rejection happen.
Stress: The physiological consequences of ongoing stress due to work or relationship challenges, trauma, grief, or change can be significant to a balanced mood. Stress then triggers chemical responses in the body. Short term, the body can recuperate. Long term, your body’s systems can become stuck or hypersensitive, resulting in depression or mania.
Environment/SAD: Some people have difficulty dealing with changes to their surroundings. Seasonal changes especially affect those susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The short, dark days of winter make adjustment a challenge, as mood is impacted by the lack of light and disruption to the body’s internal clock.
Chronic pain or illness: You hurt all the time.
Medical conditions and poor health have also been linked to depression. Suffering from the symptoms of thyroid imbalances, heart disease, degenerative conditions, cancer, or stroke can often contribute to hopelessness, exhaustion, and depression.
Pharmaceutical effects/substance abuse: Chemicals compromise contentment.
Sometimes, depression or mania is a side effect of drugs, like steroids or blood pressure medication. Talk to your doctor to determine whether an evaluation of dosage or possible drug interaction might be impacting your mood. Recreational drugs and alcohol significantly impact mood too. These substances work to deplete your brain of the “feel-good” neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, leading to depression.
Feeling better is possible. Talk to a professional, gain a deeper understanding of how your brain and body are being affected, and learn the skills to turn your mood around.
To find out more about counselling for depression, call Neil Ward Counselling in Glasgow on 07970 860 711.