Causes of Depression



The two most important things for you to know are that:

  1. You are not alone
  2. Depression is a treatable condition; There are many treatment options for you, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological.


  • Symptoms of Depression

    Often a debilitating disorder, major depressive disorder results in a persistent state of sadness and/or a lack of joy. Clinical depression is often also associated with feelings of excessive guilt or apathy, difficulties getting motivated, poor libido, low concentration and energy, disrupted sleep, feelings of sluggishness or restlessness, social isolation or withdrawal, and thoughts of death. Often depression and anxiety occur together; Thus, many people suffer from anxious depression, and many others experience depression as a secondary reaction to ongoing, persistent and pervasive anxiety.

  • Symptoms of Depression

    If you suffer from depression, then you are not alone: The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Over 14 million American adults suffer from depression every year. Unfortunately, clinical depression can be a deadly disease. Each year in the United States, more than 30,000 people successfully commit suicide, 60% of which suffer from depression.

    Depression has no racial, cultural or economic boundaries and effects both men and women. While women are almost twice as likely to suffer from clinical depression, depression in men may be under-reported.


Potential Causes of/Contributors to, Depression:

Current theories about the possible causes of or contributors to depression include:




  1. Neurotransmitter dysregulation: While the mechanism of action of antidepressants is not known, it is believed that these medications alter mood through the regulation of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
  2. Aberrant nerve cell growth and neuronal connections.
  3. Genes: Depression often runs in families. Some individuals are genetically vulnerable.
  4. Stressful life events: Early childhood loss or trauma, or later adverse events in adulthood, increase the risk for depression
  5. Reproductive life transitions: For some women, the postpartum, peri-menopause and the premenstrual days are times of increased risk for depression. Men are also more vulnerable to experience depression after the birth of a child.
  6. Medical illness: Certain illnesses are associated with depression, such as chronic migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, low thyroid hormone (or hypothyroidism), heart disease, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, stroke, lupus and other autoimmune illnesses, multiple sclerosis, low vitamin D or vitamin B12, or cancer.
  7. Substance Abuse: Some medications can actually cause depression, so it is important that you review your list of prescription and over-the-counter medications with your physician.


American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Heron, Melonie, et al. Deaths: Final Data for 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports, 2009 April:57 (14). .

Kessler, RC, et al. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IVdisorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun: 62 (6):617-27.

Kessler, RC, et al. The epidemiology of major depressive disorder; results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). JAMA. 2003; 289(23): 3095-3105.

Murray CJ, Lopez AD. Evidence-based health policy – lessons from the Global Burden of Disease Study. Science. 1996; 274 (5288): 740-743.





  • Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center



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Kira Stein, MD, APC are not responsible for links to external web pages or sites that have changed or present inaccurate information at the time of review. Information and links found on this site are intended to help educate patients about psychiatric conditions and treatments and in no way should be construed as treatment directions or recommendations for any individual person.

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