Top Causes of Depression

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Causes of Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that affects millions of people every year. While the root causes of depression are still being studied, researchers have identified several potential factors that may contribute to its development. Here, we explore some of the most common ones. If you think you may be suffering from depression, reach out to a physician or therapist for professional help.


Temporary feelings of sadness and distress are normal responses to loss. In most cases, these feelings fade with time as you adjust to the reality of your new situation. However, some people suffering from depression overreact to adverse life events and experience intense feelings of grief that last for months or even years. In some cases, these individuals may find it challenging to lead their usual everyday lives because they remain stuck in a state of emotional turmoil. This type of depression, known as major depressive disorder, is often treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT aims to help people better understand themselves and their places in the world. By gaining an improved perspective about your memories, emotions, and thoughts, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with difficult situations. CBT helps clients deal with negative thought patterns that contribute to depression and teaches them how to replace these thoughts with more positive ones.

Drug Use

Many drugs cause significant changes in the chemicals that regulate our moods, such as dopamine and serotonin. If you are depressed and seek to self-medicate with drugs, you may worsen your condition by disrupting the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. Additionally, many types of drug use inhibit the ability to process information and make sound judgments. Under the influence of the drug, you may inadvertently create additional problems for yourself by acting on impulse and making it even more challenging to find a way out of your depressive state.

Conversely, some types of drug use may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of depression. The effects of alcohol and other drugs are often short-lived and can be highly unpredictable. In most cases, if you drink or take drugs to treat your depression, you will only experience a short reprieve from your symptoms. Once the substance begins to wear off, you may experience a “crash” as your depression returns in full force. It is important to reach out to a therapist or wellness center for help if you have a substance use disorder.

Lack of Sleep

Inadequate sleep has been linked to several mental health issues, including depression. When you do not get enough sleep, your body produces fewer feel-good hormones. Without these chemicals, the brain is unable to regulate moods properly. This can leave you feeling tired and irritable throughout the day and lead to depression as you struggle to keep up with life’s daily demands.

Sleeping less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night can significantly increase your risk of developing depression. It is important to remember that everyone’s biological clock is different, so each person responds differently to sleep deprivation. If you are concerned about your sleep patterns, it’s a good idea to ask a doctor or therapist for guidance.


Stress may not cause depression, but it is a major contributing factor. When you experience frequent or ongoing stress, your body releases large quantities of cortisol and other hormones that can disrupt normal brain functions. Under conditions of extreme stress, you may be more prone to developing clinical depression as your brains fail to function correctly, and you struggle to adapt to the changing demands of your environment.

When you cannot adapt and cope with stress, you may enter a state of depression in which it is difficult to feel joy or satisfaction in life. You may experience rapid mood swings and less desire to interact with others. You may feel overwhelmed by the little things in life that once seemed to roll off your back. You may also have difficulty sleeping, eating, or focusing on the tasks at hand.

Health Conditions

Hormonal imbalances caused by health conditions like hypothyroidism can contribute to depression. When the body produces insufficient hormones that regulate moods and appetite, it can be challenging to keep emotions in check. People who have sleep disorders are more likely to develop depression due to hormonal imbalances, as they may produce too much cortisol while they are sleeping.

Many emotional issues can become more severe due to physical conditions that affect how the body works. If you believe that a physical condition is a factor in your depression, consult a medical professional for proper treatment and care.

Prolonged Exposure to Toxic Substances

Chemicals and toxins such as pesticides and herbicides can wreak havoc on the body and the brain in particular. These chemicals may cause mood swings and other types of mental distress. If you are exposed to toxic chemicals for prolonged periods, your risk of developing depression increases dramatically.

The link between toxic substances and depression is becoming more apparent as scientists recognize how dangerous chemicals can be when they contact human cells for extended periods. We live in a world filled with toxic chemicals that can be easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Avoid contact with even the most negligible amounts of these dangerous chemicals because they may contribute to depression and other mental health issues.

Suppose you are concerned about possible exposure to toxic materials. In that case, it may be in your best interest to replace all personal care products, household cleaners, and air fresheners with safer alternatives. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to avoid exposure to toxic materials, consider switching over to organic produce in your diet.

Chemical Imbalance

Research suggests that for some people, neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can contribute to depression. Many pharmaceutical drugs used to treat clinical depression cause the brain to produce abnormally large quantities of these chemicals to promote a positive mood.

If you are experiencing a depressive episode, it may help to take an herb or natural supplement designed to promote the right balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. These natural supplements can help restore optimal functioning and may reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

You need access to safe and effective treatment options when you feel depressed. Pharmaceutically produced antidepressant drugs can be hazardous. If your doctor recommends one, ask about possible side effects, and be aware that you may need to try several medications to find the one that works best for you.

Relationship Problems

Many people misunderstand the nature of depression and assume that they can “get over it” with enough willpower. If you are experiencing depression, you need to understand that relationship problems or problems at work may be contributing to it.

If you are unable to focus on your work due to depression, it may be time for you to reach out to your boss to discuss the problem. If he or she does not take your feelings seriously, you may need to find a new job that supports your mental health needs.

If you are experiencing problems with a significant other, speaking openly about your feelings may be all that is needed to resolve the conflict. If you and your partner are unwilling to address your feelings, it may be best to end the relationship and move on with your life.


There is no denying that genetics play a role in developing depression. Scientists have discovered that people with close relatives who suffer from depression are more likely to develop depressive symptoms.

However, this does not mean that you are destined to develop depression because your parents or siblings struggle with the condition. Recognize that genetics only increase the risk of developing this mental health disorder. Your genetic predisposition does not automatically determine your destiny. If you know of family members who are dealing with depression, do everything in your power to avoid contact with situations that could trigger your own depressive symptoms.

Chronic Illness

While a chronic illness does not cause depression, there is a link between disease and depression. For example, people who deal with chronic pain are more likely to experience depressive symptoms during difficult periods of their lives.

People who suffer from long-term conditions such as arthritis, lupus, thyroid problems, or cancer often struggle to maintain a positive outlook on life. If you are dealing with a chronic illness, it may help to join a support group to interact with others who understand what you are going through.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors may increase or decrease your risk of developing depressive symptoms. If you are constantly exposed to loud noises or bright lights, you may be more likely to develop depressive symptoms. Make sure that the lighting in your house is not too harsh and that you are taking frequent breaks from any noise sources.

Many people find it difficult to fall asleep due to exposure to bright lights or loud environmental noises. If sleep deprivation is causing you to struggle with depressive symptoms, try using blackout curtains and earplugs to get a better night’s rest.

Lack of a Social Support System

While genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role in developing depressive symptoms, social support also plays a vital role in mental health. People who have strong social support networks are less likely to develop depression because they feel that they have someone to reach out to when they need help.

If you lack a robust support system, you may be more likely to develop depressive symptoms, especially if you have few other sources of gratification in your life. To avoid or relive feelings of depression, try to form meaningful relationships with some of the people you encounter in your day-to-day life.

Personality Factors

Isolation can be a problem for people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia If you have bipolar disorder, your depressive episodes may cause you to lose interest in social activities you once enjoyed. Loss of interest in and withdrawal from social interaction is also linked to schizophrenia.

If you have been diagnosed with either of these conditions and notice a sudden change in your behavior, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself what is troubling you. Although it is easy to ignore feelings of depression when struggling with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the depressive symptoms will only worsen if left untreated.

People who struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are also more likely to develop depressive symptoms than the rest of the population. Individuals with OCD are typically perfectionists. If you’re one of them, you may set very high goals for yourself and find it difficult to cope when you don’t attain them.

While OCD and perfectionism are not the same, they have traits in common. If you have perfectionistic tendencies, it’s important to consider how you relate to others in social situations and not allow other people’s expectations drag you down.

Adolescent Factors

While environmental and personality factors appear to be significant risk factors for developing depressive symptoms, adolescent factors may also increase or decrease your risk of developing these symptoms.

People who are constantly exposed to violence or who are victims of violence are more likely to develop depressive symptoms. People who regularly struggle with bullying in school may also be at greater risk for developing depressive symptoms later in life.

To avoid developing feelings of depression, it’s important to create robust support systems when you’re young. If you find that you are struggling to cope with bullying in adolescence, reach out and seek professional help from a licensed mental health care provider.

Depression is caused by various factors, including genetics, environmental factors, personality factors, and adolescent experiences. If you feel depressed, reach out to someone in your support system or seek help from a caring licensed professional like those on our team at Defining Wellness Center. We can talk about your specific risk factors and determine the most effective treatment plan. Give us a call today.

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