What Is Depression? And Where Does It Come From?


Do you ever feel really sad, lonely, angry or hopeless? Do you feel this way frequently? Have these feelings lasted for a couple weeks or impacted your daily living? If so, there is a chance you could be suffering from depression.

Depression is a common but serious medical illness. It is one of the more common mental health concerns for people in America and around the world. In fact, a 2020 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness showed approximately 21 million U.S. Adults (8.4% of the population) had at least one major depressive episode. Depression isn’t just feeling sad or having a bad day. According to the American Psychiatry Association, depression can negatively impact the way you feel, the way you think, and the way you act. Some common symptoms of depression include: changes in sleep, changes in appetite, lack of energy, decreased concentration, loss of interest in activities. Some people even have thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Where does depression come from? One may feel these thoughts, feelings and symptoms come out of nowhere. If you have feelings of depression, may not be sure what caused it or why you are depressed. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests depression can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. In the rest of this article, we explore these areas to gain some understanding of the causes and risk factors for depression.

Topic Of Discussion


Mood disorders, such as depression, have a tendency to run in families. Has a member of your family ever been diagnosed with depression? If so, then you could have a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression. Experts from Stanford University School of Medicine believe approximately 40-50% of depression cases are caused by genetics.

British researchers have been able to isolate a gene that appeared to be common among family members diagnosed with depression. In their study, they found that this specific gene was found in more than 800 families with recurrent depression.

It needs to be noted that you are not guaranteed to be diagnosed with depression because a family member has it. This simply means you have a higher risk of having the diagnosis as well.

Biological Factors

Some people experience depression due to biological factors such as their brain structure. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that makes us “feel good”. When the brain is in short supply of Serotonin, it may lead to symptoms of depression. This can be treated with medication to help give our brains an additional boost of the needed chemicals.

Physical Health can also play a role in depressive symptoms. Conditions such as chronic illness, insomnia, diabetes, chronic pain, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, heart disease and cancer can put someone at higher risk for depression. The mind and body are linked. So when you find that you are having a physical health issue, it is not uncommon to find yourself having changes in your mental health as well. Physical health impacts mental health in a couple of ways. The stress of having a chronic health condition can initiate a depressive episode. There are also certain health conditions such as: thyroid disorders, Addison’s disease, and liver disease can cause depressive symptoms.

Environmental Factors

Continuous exposure to abuse, neglect and violence are also environmental risk factors for depression. One’s marital status, relationship changes, financial standings, and where they live can play a role in having depression. A person’s physical environment plays a factor. For example, if a someone lacks access to health-related resources such as nutritious foods, and they tend to eat more processed and refined foods, their body and mind won’t function well. As a result, if they come up against a major stressor, they may not have the resources to effectively cope.

Social environment factors also play a role. An example of this may be someone not having a good strong support system. As an example, let’s say you are going through a divorce or recently lost your job. Having support from family or friends is important for your ability to cope. Other social environment factors may be: social stigma (such as being part of the LGBTQ+ community), history of abuse, toxic relationships, lack of religious affiliation or community, and lack of meaningful work or hobbies.

Psychological Factors

There are several psychological factors such as trauma, major life changes, and stress that can lead to depression. When people experience trauma at an early age, it can cause lasting changes in how their brains respond to fear and stress. These changes may lead to depression. Some people may face stressful life events. If they do not have the ability to cope with the stress, it could lead to having depressive symptoms.

People are at risk of depression after the loss of a friend or loved one. Following the loss, grieving individuals may experience some of the same symptoms of depression: trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and loss of pleasure or interest in activities. Though depression and grief share some symptoms, depression is different from grief. Depression usually involves self-loathing or a loss of self-esteem, while grief typically does not.

Depression, even in severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, therapy, or a combination of the two. Though it is common, depression can be a serious problem. If you feel you are struggling with depression and feel like you need help healing, Tri-Star Counseling is here to support you. We would love the opportunity to help empower you to overcome any obstacles your depression may be causing you. Contact us for an appointment. It would be our privilege to help you.

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