What Causes Depression
No Straight Answer to a Complex Question
There is no simple answer to the question, just as there are no magic cures for depression either. Perhaps it is something that can be snapped out of as cynics suggest – more likely though it is a mental condition that emotionally suffocates its victim while it feeds upon itself. Current thinking around what causes depression to take root and grow centers around a process that begins at a theoretically controllable level, and finally evolves into clinical depression.
The precursors of depression are believed to be biological deficiencies the neuro-circuitry of our brains that potentially affect the way we view our world. Insufficiencies of compounds including noradrenalin, serotin and dopamine can cause our neurotransmitters to malfunction and transmit scrambled data from our senses to our minds. This is perhaps why depressed people view everything in the same dreary way and are often incapable of returning affection, caring and concern. Many people with these chemical imbalances never contract depression though. Hence on its own this is insufficient explanation for what causes depression to erupt, although we do know that the condition correlates well with deficiencies in these compounds.
It is thought likely that severe emotional stress could be the second building block for depression. Stressors can be almost anything, and in this regard it is important to note that stress tolerance varies between individuals. This means that a situation that may be tolerable to most can cause unbearable stress to other people. Major causes of stress in our modern world include pressure to perform to peer group norms, a culture that demands instant gratification, a feeling of inadequacy, and a sense of not belonging. Outward signs of high stress levels include upset tummies, persistent headaches, an inability to concentrate and disturbed sleep patterns. In all cases there are further concomitant shifts in brain chemistry and signs of mild depression too.
Although the gun is now primed and the trigger cocked, the barrel is not smoking yet. We now know how to single out a person who might become seriously depressed and just need one more key to complete a model of what causes depression.
The final key to the multi-faceted origins of depression lies in what are known as psycho-social triggers. These are experiences that take place at points where the world outside impacts hardest on our core values of how we really want things to be. They could be economic changes in our lives like losing jobs, being demoted or retrenched. They might also be to do with key relationships like divorce or the death of a partner. Sometimes, though, the world just becomes too big for us as age and infirmity creeps up. We realize that things are never going to match our dreams and step change down into the persistent gloom of full-blown depression.
The enigma behind all of this is that many people have not become depressed, despite having a complete set of biological precursors and emotional stressors, and experiencing cataclysmic psycho-social incidents as well. Until we know where they derive their inner strength, we will never fully understand what causes depression either.