Depression is a common but serious condition that can affect the way you think, feel, and act. It is a feeling of sadness that is persistent and pervasive, and often leads to a loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable. Other symptoms include a change of appetite and weight, trouble sleeping enough or sleeping too much, loss of energy or purpose, social isolation, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. Many people notice a tendency to increase substances like alcohol or rely on avoidance behaviors like working or watching TV excessively.
What causes depression?
The causes of depression are enormously complex, likely caused by a mixture of genetics, biology, personality, and life events. Research suggests that depression often is caused by one or more of the following:
- Abuse. The painful results of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can make you more vulnerable to depression later in life.
- Age. People are at higher risk of depression as they age, due to a variety of reasons like social changes, grief, life transitions, and chronic pain or illness.
- Conflict. Personal conflicts or disputes with family members, friends, or romantic partners can lead to depressive symptoms.
- Death. Grief after the death of a loved one, though natural, can increase the risk of depression.
- Genes. You may be at higher risk of depression if others in your family have had it as well, especially parents or siblings. The genetics of depression, like most psychiatric disorders, are not as simple or straightforward and may also involve environmental influences.
- Major events. Any kind of life transition can lead to depression, even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, moving, having a baby, or getting married. Even more so can moving, losing a job, going bankrupt, or getting divorced. However, the syndrome of clinical depression is never just a “normal” response to stressful life events.
- Medications. Some drugs can increase your risk of depression.
- Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can contribute to the risk of developing clinical depression.
- Serious illnesses. Sometimes, depression happens along with a major illness or may be triggered by another medical condition.
- Substance misuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance misuse problems also have major or clinical depression.
Like with many other mental health disorders, therapy is a primary form of treatment. Therapy for depression often combines a variety of techniques that emphasize identifying negative thinking patterns, processing painful memories and emotions, pondering deep existential and religious concerns, emphasizing mindfulness, and building a healthy self-care regimen.
An estimated 1 out of every 10-15 US citizens have experienced the symptoms of depression in the past year, which has had a significant impact on relationships, academics, work, and home life. Multiple studies and decades of research have shown that counseling is a highly effective and long-lasting treatment for depression.