Every normal healthy human being has bouts of loneliness and sadness but these are entirely separate from depression, a mentally debilitating sickness that is said to affect one in every four people at least once in their lifetime. Whilst the signs of depression are more known today than it was, it’s still somewhat unclear what actually causes depression but studies have given strong hints on these possible reasons:
Potential causes and signs of depression:
Depression can be caused by a wide variety of reasons. But studies have categorized potential causes into three distinct groups: biological, psychological, and environmental (social and/or family environments) factors.
Biological: Depression may part of your genetic makeup
Years of research and awareness still hasn’t led to conclusive scientific evidence on what really causes depression. But a popular theory comes from an “imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord” taken from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The 50-year-old “serotonin hypothesis”, wherein the depression is caused by “diminished activity in the serotonin pathways” doesn’t offer enough evidence to produce conclusive findings.
A study from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in The Netherlands, however, unearthed a gene, NKPD1, which may be tied to Major Depressive Disorders. The authors suggested they have discovered “significant association between the depressive symptoms with the NKPD1 gene.” The study was conducted on genetically homogeneous peoples, the Erasmus Rucphen Family (ERF) and is so far one of the strongest links between genetics and depression.
Psychological: Our own unique minds and different perspectives may trigger depression
A study from Harvard outlined our temperament as a source of depression. While our genetics are a more concrete way of identifying the root of depression, how we deal with emotions and life events is a broader reason. Cognitive scientists identify our worldviews as a factor in shaping our temperament. For example, those of us who are self-critical may be more sensitive to criticism and withdrawing from jobs or situations, which open us to criticisms. On the other hand, even-keeled individuals may take criticism less personally and also have less-critical views of themselves.
Both biology and environment are tied to our temperaments. For example, those with high oxytocin levels may be more emotionally hypersensitive than most as they feel more intensely. Conversely, people who are not used to high-pressure environments may feel stressed when they are put in these situations.
Environmental: stress from external sources like work and personal relationships
“You’re only human” is a phrase often referred as consolement for moments when we fail or feel vulnerable. It means we recognize ourselves as fallible irrational creatures who both feel and think. Life events that cause stress can make us more susceptible to depression as studies show a potential link between stress and depression. The study notes that in times of stress, the hippocampus shrinks and neuters our short-term memory and learning abilities.
Stressful life events like the death of a loved one or stressful work or academic environments are all likely causes of depression. This ties back to our temperaments and genetic makeup as some individuals with high oxytocin or self-critical view may react more negatively to a strained personal relationship.
Knowing the signs of depression is half the battle and learning more on their causes further helps us understand and alleviate this mental illness.