What Causes Depression? 5 Causes & Treatment Options

August 2022

Depression can be triggered by internal factors (which vary from person to person) and external factors (which are out of a person’s control). It often occurs as a result of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors that affect neurotransmitter levels. Serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline levels are typically noted to be imbalanced in cases of depression. 

It is important for people with depression to be monitored by a psychologist and/or psychiatrist so that the underlying cause of depression is managed. A health care professional can initiate treatment to relieve symptoms and promote quality of life. 

Some factors that can lead to the development of depression include: 

1. Bullying or emotional blackmail

People who are victims of bullying or emotional blackmail may experience emotional trauma which can trigger depression. People who are frequently insulted over a long period time may eventually believe that what is said about them is true, which can decrease self worth and lead to depression. 

2. Major life events 

Certain major life events, like a divorce, unemployment, the loss of a loved one, a break-up or other traumatic situations can often cause depression. Situations that are associated with persistent stress, like frequent arguments at home or work, are more likely to contribute to depression, as the prolonged nature of discord can produce feelings of guild, loss of confidence, decreased trust in others and low self-esteem.

3. Serious and chronic illness 

The diagnosis of a serious illness like a stroke, dementia, cancer, HIV, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome or lupus can cause depression. Many people may struggle with addressing their own preconceptions of the disease, as well as coping with painful treatments or the daily fear of dying.

Families of cancer patients and caregivers of those who are totally dependent may also develop depression due to mental exhaustion and the constant worry of losing a loved one. 

Misinformation about the disease, radical lifestyle changes and financial strain related to illness are strong risk factors that can also give rise to depression.

4. Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances, like decreased estrogen that occurs during pregnancy, post-partum and menopause, can also play a role in the development of depression. A lack of omega-3 can also decrease a person’s capacity to manage their emotions and mood. 

5. Medications

Prolonged use of medications like levodopa, alprazolam, simvastatin, aciclovir can decrease serotonin production, which can lead to depression. Serotonin is a hormone that is related to your sense of happiness and wellbeing. Nonetheless, not all people who take these medications will develop depression. 

Online depression symptom checker

To assess your risk for depression, confirm your symptoms below: 

  1. 1.I feel happy when I watch TV or read a book.
  2. 2.I am excited about good things that are coming my way.
  3. 3.How I look is important to me.
  4. 4.I feel like my mind is sharp.
  5. 5.There are moments throughout my day that bring me happiness.
  6. 6.I can laugh spontaneously and have fun.
  7. 7.I like to keep-up my old hobbies.

If it important to highlight that a depression diagnosis can only be confirmed by a psychologist and/or psychiatrist following a thorough assessment that evaluates your symptoms, lifestyle habits, healthy history and family history. 

Read more about the symptoms of depression that you shouldn’t ignore. 

Treatment options

Depression treatment is aimed at promoting the patient’s quality of life. This condition is often monitored by a psychiatrist, who can prescribe antidepressants and mood stabilizers. The type of medication, the dosing and how long to take it for will vary depending on the severity of depression, which can be described as mild, moderate or severe.

In addition to medication, patients should also participate in psychotherapy, which aims to address the difficult emotions or feelings that are contributing to the depression. You mental health care provider can help identify coping strategies that promote wellbeing and quality of life. 

You are also encouraged to engage that activities that promote your well-being, like exercising, reading, walking outside or meditation. These activities help to regulate the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. 

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Updated by Tua Saude editing team, on August of 2022.
Our team made up of medical doctors and health professionals from various fields such as nursing, nutrition, physiotherapy, clinical analysis and pharmacy.