Some Common Causes Of Depression
Some factors that contribute to depression include:
- Brain chemistry: The “chemistry” of depression is not well understood, but researchers do know that an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters can happen in anyone, even in the absence of an obvious “trigger.
- Non-modifiable risk factors: Some influences, such as brain structure, genetic predisposition, and environmental exposures, are not something a person can control.
- Modifiable risk factors: Risk factors that fall under the category of lifestyle choices are considered modifiable, but the extent to which an individual can do so will depend on their own ability and how much support they have.
Depression can make it much more challenging to address factors that might be contributing to depression, such as substance use or diet. As much as it is a mental illness, depression can also be physical. Symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue can make it difficult for people to take on lifestyle modifications, such as exercise, even if they want to and believe they could help.
To make these changes people need to have the right tools and a good deal of support. To get treatment, a person with depression needs to feel safe talking about how they are feeling.
A person who believes they are depressed for no reason may not feel they deserve to ask for or get help. Thats why its important to focus less on the reason for depression and instead think about the causes.
Depression Is Different From Sadness Or Grief/bereavement
The death of a loved one, loss of a job or the ending of a relationship are difficult experiences for a person to endure. It is normal for feelings of sadness or grief to develop in response to such situations. Those experiencing loss often might describe themselves as being depressed.
But being sad is not the same as having depression. The grieving process is natural and unique to each individual and shares some of the same features of depression. Both grief and depression may involve intense sadness and withdrawal from usual activities. They are also different in important ways:
- In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest are decreased for most of two weeks.
- In grief, self-esteem is usually maintained. In major depression, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common.
- In grief, thoughts of death may surface when thinking of or fantasizing about joining the deceased loved one. In major depression, thoughts are focused on ending ones life due to feeling worthless or undeserving of living or being unable to cope with the pain of depression.
Grief and depression can co-exist For some people, the death of a loved one, losing a job or being a victim of a physical assault or a major disaster can lead to depression. When grief and depression co-occur, the grief is more severe and lasts longer than grief without depression.
Perceptions Can Affect Treatment And Outcomes
Looking at the causes helps people understand that being depressed is a medical condition, not a choice.
Depression can be, needs to be, and deserves to be treated. However, there are many different ways to treat the condition. What works for one person may not work for another, and some people have to try many different options before finding something effective.
Its also not unusual for people to need to try different treatments throughout their lives to manage depression, as the condition can change and evolve in response to changes in a persons life .
If you are depressed but dont understand why, you may recognize that you need help and may want it, but may also be struggling with the feeling that you dont have the right to ask for help.
Know this: Every person with depression deserves treatment.
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Dont Make Any Hasty Decisions
Ultimately, you may find that you simply cannot continue living/dealing with a depressed person. If you feel theyre dragging you down too, it may be time to consider distancing yourself. This may mean anything from taking a brief respite, to a permanent parting of ways.
In any event, take time to weigh your options carefully before making any decisions that you will have to live with permanently. While the decision to leave or not will undoubtedly be emotional, keep in mind that decisions made in anger are rarely wise ones.
What Illnesses Happen With Depression
Itâs common for people to have other medical or mental health problems along with depression, such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobias, substance use disorders, and eating disorders. If you or a loved one has symptoms of depression or another mental illness, talk to your doctor. Treatments can help.
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Helping A Suicidal Friend Or Relative
If you see any of the above warning signs:
- get professional help for the person
- let them know they’re not alone and that you care about them
- offer your support in finding other solutions to their problems
If you feel there is an immediate danger, stay with the person or have someone else stay with them, and remove all available means of committing suicide, such as medication.
Over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers can be just as dangerous as prescription medication.
Also, remove sharp objects and poisonous household chemicals such as bleach.
Even When We Know What Depression Looks Like We Can Miss It In Ourselves
Much of my work as a clinical psychologist has focused on treating individuals with depression, so I’ve learned a lot about what it looks like. And yet when I gradually slipped into my own state of depression some years ago, I didn’t recognize it.
Over time, I had developed the telltale symptoms, including a pervasively negative view of myself as a “loser.” In hindsight, it’s obvious that I was thinking like a depressed person, but at the time I believed the self-loathing thoughts. Finally, I recognized that they were being driven by my mood.
My experience could be chalked up to “another psychologist without self-awareness,” and yet I don’t believe that tells the full story. Many people I’ve treated have described a similar blindness to their own depression, until it became unmistakable.
Even the people we’re closest to might not realize we’re depressed, especially if we’re good at “soldiering on.” They may sense we’re not at our best, but might attribute it to other factors.
Given the greater public awareness of depressionand professional experience in my casehow is it possible to not know when it’s present? There are several factors that can play a role:
1. Depression can look really different from person to person.
2. Depression tends to develop gradually.
3. In a related way, the various symptoms of depression often develop at different times.
4. There may be an obvious reason for feeling down.
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Why Girls Are More At Risk For Depression Than Boys And How To Help Them Cope
Posted April 25, 2018
Until the age of 12 or 13, girls and boys experience roughly equal rates of depression. This changes dramatically by age 13 at that point, girls are twice as likely as boys to become depressed. This 2:1 ratio is present throughout adolescence and adulthood, so that one of the highest risk factors for depression is being female.
What is going on for girls around age 13? And why do early adolescent pressures affect them so much more than boys? Part of it is the way that girls respond to the problems, stress, and tumultuous change that is swirling around them. They dont always know the best way to cope effectively with their strong emotional reactions and to the many conflicts that emerge at this age. Consider five key differences that increase girls risk for depression:
1. Girls are more likely than boys to experience multiple stressors at once.
2. Girls have greater emotional sensitivity than boys.
Girls have greater overall emotional intensity than boys and feel higher levels of almost every emotion. Studies of girls and boys brains show that girls can recognize and read emotions faster than boys, and while this can serve as a strength, this very same emotional sensitivity can also make them more vulnerable to depression1.
3. Girls place more importance on relationships than boys.
4. Girls are more likely than boys to have excessive empathy.
5. Girls are more likely than boys to co-ruminate.
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Understanding A Loved Ones Depression
If someone you care about is dealing with depression, you may not be sure how to support them. If your attempts to help are rejected or dont seem to do any good, you may become frustrated and impatient.
If you feel tempted to tell someone who is depressed to try harder or just snap out of it, it may be a sign that you are overwhelmed or experiencing burnout. If this happens, its important that you pause and take time to reflect on your own feelings. You wont be able to help someone else until you have taken care of your own emotional needs.
When youre worried about a person you care about, the feelings of fear you have may come across as anger when youre talking to them. Even if you aren’t mad or speaking in anger, depression can make it harder for a person to really hear what you are saying. They may interpret your words as being dismissive, accusatory, disappointed, or any number of emotions that arent necessarily accurate.
When youre speaking to your loved one with depression, keep this in mind if it seems like your conversations are full of miscommunication. Although you may want to remind them of all the good things in life or point out that it could be worse, platitudes such as these arent usually helpful for a person with depression to hear.
Can I Come Over And Hang Out
Levity can go a long ways, and a casual visit can help accomplish more than one thing.
One, your loved one might not be up for a group hang, but they may enjoy some one-on-one time to chat.
Two, you can help out with chores and housekeeping while youre there enjoying their company.
Keeping your environment generally organized and tidy may be among the first outward-facing things that slip when depression or anxiety worsen. This means that laundry and dishes might pile up.
This can be especially true when your loved one is also a caregiver of children or other people.
Dont make a show of helping out, and dont comment on how cleaning up will make them feel better. Just do what you can with their permission without seeking anything in return.
Be sure to ask and confirm a time before you show up. No one likes an unexpected visitor!
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Are The Signs Of Untreated Depression In Men Different From Those In Women
Men who have untreated clinical depression may exhibit more anger, frustration, and violent behavior than women. In addition, men with untreated depression may take dangerous risks such as reckless driving and having unsafe sex. Men are not aware that physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain, can be symptoms of depression.
Lifestyle Changes For Depression
Lifestyle changes, such as making art, journaling, exercising more, and practicing yoga or mindfulness, can also alleviate depression and the stress that can heighten it. Alternative treatments like massage, acupuncture, and light therapy may also help.
Diet changes, too, can uplift your mood by reducing inflammation and helping to ensure your brain gets the nutrients it needs to function at its best.
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Does Depression Look The Same In Everyone
Depression can affect people differently, depending on their age.
Children with depression may be anxious, cranky, pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die.
Older children and teens with depression may get into trouble at school, sulk, be easily frustrated feel restless, or have low self-esteem. They also may have other disorders, such as anxiety and eating disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or substance use disorder. Older children and teens are more likely to experience excessive sleepiness and increased appetite . In adolescence, females begin to experience depression more often than males, likely due to the biological, life cycle, and hormonal factors unique to women.
Younger adults with depression are more likely to be irritable, complain of weight gain and hypersomnia, and have a negative view of life and the future. They often have other disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and substance use disorders.
Middle-aged adults with depression may have more depressive episodes, decreased libido, middle-of-the-night insomnia, or early morning awakening. They also may more frequently report having gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.
How Can I Help A Loved One Who Is Depressed
If someone you know has depression, help them see a health care provider or mental health professional. You also can:
- Offer support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Invite them out for walks, outings, and other activities.
- Help them stick to their treatment plan, such as setting reminders to take prescribed medications.
- Make sure they have transportation to therapy appointments.
- Remind them that, with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
Take comments about suicide seriously, and report them to your loved ones health care provider or therapist. If they are in immediate distress or thinking about hurting themselves, call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
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Can You Think Of Anything Contributing To What Youre Experiencing
This can be a very gentle way of allowing your loved one to arrive at their own conclusions for why theyre experiencing a depressive episode. It lets them have their revelation on their terms without any leading or presumptive remarks.
This might also be a good time to ask whether theyd like to talk with a mental health professional.
Just dont push or ask about sensitive experiences that may make your loved one feel exposed, or anxious to come up with something.
For most people, its not one thing that triggers a depressive episode. There are many triggers or reasons that cause or worsen depression.
And remember, for many people, theres nothing tangible that can explain why they feel the way they feel, and thats OK.
There Is Still Hope Because Your Low Thoughts And Emotions Are Not The Truth
One of the hardest things about depression is that it takes away your ability to feel hopeful.
I remember, during one of my lowest times, having an overwhelming feeling that nothing would ever be good again. Rationally, I knew that probably was not true, but my emotions and anxious thoughts were screaming that there was no hope.
Depression plays tricks with your thoughts and emotions. Many Christians are used to having an emotional experience of their faith, such as feeling a spiritual high on a retreat or feeling close to God during a powerful time of worship. When youre depressed, you are probably not going to have those emotional experiences.
The good news is that your relationship with God depends upon His unchanging faithfulness and not on your changeable emotions. Counter the lies running through your head with the truth in the Bible.
God has said, I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from Gods love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow not even the powers of hell can separate us from Gods love.
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Misconception: Depression Is A Sin
Variation: Being depressed means you are failing to trust God. Being depressed means you are failing to be joyful in all things or to give thanks to God.
Reality: Depression is an illness, not a sin.
If you get a cold or suffer from back pain or any physical illness, does anyone ever tell you that youre being sinful or failing to trust God because you are in pain? It sounds unreasonable because it is. Its just as unreasonable to say suffering from depression or any other mental illness is a sin.
God created a perfect world, but when evil entered, perfection was shattered and the world was never the same. We all suffer in some ways from the results of evil breaking into Gods perfect creation. Illness, whether it be physical or mental, is one of the many ways we see how broken our world truly is.
Yes, mental illness is often triggered by stressors or negative environmental factors, but that does not mean it is not real. Physical illness is also frequently triggered by stressors and negative environmental factors. Stress can cause ulcers and increase the risk of a heart attack, very serious illnesses that, like depression, need treatment, not condemnation.