Causes of Depression

There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors. Trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation that overwhelms the ability to cope may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.

Research with brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), shows that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate—neurotransmitters—may also be affected. It is not clear which changes seen in the brain may be the cause of depression and which ones the effect.

Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting there may be some genetic vulnerability to the disorder.

Recent posts on Depression

The Connection Between Migraines and Psychological Trauma

By Jean Kim M.D. on June 26, 2017 in Culture Shrink
Migraines may have a neurobiological connection to the same systemic pathways that affect trauma and mood, and can occur more frequently in people with a history of abuse.

How Do Psychotherapists Think?

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on June 26, 2017 in Hot Thought
Psychotherapists need complex reasoning to determine how to help the people they treat. Such assessment is not simply matching features, but requires building a causal account.
123rf/pgiorgiomtb

Sitting with Suffering

Mastering our environment is something that can feel impossible when the odds of anything getting better are slim.

Rolling Back the Clock on Mental Health in our Country

The Senate health care bill could be disastrous for our country on multiple levels.

You Are More Than Your Emotional Pain: You Are a Person

When you are in emotional pain, do your best to resist defining yourself primarily by that pain which you carry within. You are a person of great worth. Try to see this.

Genes, Ions, and Other New Frontiers in Psychiatry

A gene related to ion channels common to many families with mental illness leads us to new discoveries and treatments based on actual brain pathology.

Do You Need Drugs for Your "Chemical Imbalance"?

By Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. on June 22, 2017 in Think, Act, Be
Research reveals some surprising news about the role of serotonin in depression—and suggests millions of Americans taking drugs for depression would do just as well on placebo.

The Loneliness Epidemic and What We Can Do About It

By Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. on June 22, 2017 in Feeling It
Our need to feel special is may be feeding a loneliness crisis. Here's what we can do!
"Stoop Storytelling"/Leah Miller/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why We Share Our Private Stories

By Barb Cohen on June 22, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
How do we find our place in the world? By standing up and telling the stories in which we play the starring role.

Death Is Inevitable but Not Inevitably Dreadful

In some circumstances, dying may be less awful than people think.

In Pursuit of Happiness: Why Pain Helps Us Feel Pleasure

By Brock Bastian Ph.D. on June 22, 2017 in The Other Side
Is happiness just about the good times? Do painful experiences only make us unhappy? Here is new research on why our painful experiences are in fact necessary for happiness.

The Badass Personalities of People Who Like Being Alone

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on June 21, 2017 in Living Single
What are the personality characteristics of people who like spending time alone? What about people who are unafraid to be single? Four studies offer an affirming profile.

Anxiety as Depression Waiting to Happen

Why does anxiety often lead to depression, and even create further anxiety? This article provides an answer, and discusses a key factor in overcoming the comorbidity.

I Am a Teen and Have Feelings Toward a Teacher

How to deal with feelings toward a teacher.

Social Loneliness May Make the Depressed Even More So

Clinically it has to be labelled mental illness, this depression. Is it an illness, however, this need to converse authentically?

Baby Care: Baselines for Mental Health

By Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. on June 18, 2017 in Moral Landscapes
For most babies, early experiences are undermining their short- and long-term mental (and physical) health.

The Factor That Administers Cognitive Control over Emotions

Some recent research on poor cognitive control and depression has overlooked four issues. This post suggests that it is cognitive understanding of reality that regulates emotions.

Three Habits Calm People Never Practice

Are you sick and tired of feeling stressed? Research explains the link between unhealthy mental habits and anxiety. Learn what to do instead.

How Maternal Personality Problems Affect Children

How does parental personality dysfunction affect the future mental health of offspring? New research highlights how psychological issues carry over through generations.

Parent Mental Illness Casts Long Shadow on Children

Research reveals that parent mental illness can greatly impact children.

Five Things Not to Say to Someone with Manic Depression

By David Leite on June 14, 2017 in Notes on a Banana
Do your words hurt or help someone with manic depression?

Our Kids Are Not All Right

By the age of 26, diagnostic rates of addiction were two to three times those in national norms.

The Tyranny of Perfectionism

Severe and fierce perfectionism is no laughing matter.

Could the Seasons Affect Your Mood?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight that may upset your biological clock.

Can Pet Crickets Improve the Well-being of the Elderly?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on June 12, 2017 in Animals and Us
A high quality randomized control study finds that caring for pet crickets has a surprisingly positive impact on the well-being of elderly people.

Can E-Cigarettes Reduce Smoking Among the Mentally Ill?

Vaping is the new replacement for cigarette smoking. Is it a better choice?

The Vitamin Cocktail of Courage

Choosing to take even tiny courageous actions can be a powerful antidote to toxic shame and a vitamin cocktail for our Zesty Selves. Drink up.

Icebergs and Childhood Mental Illness

It's time to destigmatize childhood mental illness.

What Dogs Can Teach Us about the Main Cause of Depression

Psychologists have long pondered what is the cause, and the evolutionary purpose, of depressed feelings. Dogs have the answer.