Feeling low and depressed at times is a normal human emotional state – as normal as is a feeling of happiness and excitement. But, feeling low and depressed for a long time can be a sign of some psychological ill-being. Human mood changes are complex. A particular event that is making someone happy can make others depressed and sad. Similarly, an event of excitement for one person can be a completely usual occasion for another person. All this is because of different surroundings, dissimilar perception and, most importantly, the varying levels of neurotransmitters in brains of different individuals.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers of the brain. The brain sends either excitatory or inhibitory signals to all the regions of the body via neurotransmitters. Simply put, when these chemicals are released at nerve endings of an organ, they either switch it on or shut down its functions. The emotions of a person are also modulated by the presence or absence of particular neurotransmitters. Depression is also a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. 1
What are the symptoms of depression?
The depression symptoms can vary in different individuals. Some people may feel low and exhausted for many days without any obvious reason, while, others may show different signs. Usually, the depression symptoms last for more than two weeks. The symptoms of depression are: 2
Common causes of depression
What causes depression is a common concern of every individual. The important thing to note here is depression can arise either by a single factor or by the combination of multiple reasons. Here are 25 common causes of depression and some tips for managing them.
In the current circumstances, COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most important causes of depression, globally. 3 The uncertainty, despair and hopelessness have increased after the second wave. This can directly increase the depression and may even worsen the symptoms in depression patients.
The age of an individual is related to depression. The teens are particularly vulnerable to depression because of multiple reasons. 4 The frontal lobe, responsible for personality, develops rapidly in teenage. The child becomes aggressive, irritable and often exhausting.
Depression can affect any individual regardless of gender but the risk is relatively higher in females. 5 The mechanism behind this is unknown. A possibility is the cyclical hormonal changes may alter the brain chemistry and produce depression.
4. Presence of comorbid
The presence of chronic ailment like diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, etc. affects the quality of life of an individual. The affected person usually develops the feeling of hopelessness and may become socially isolated. Sometimes the disease requires the person to stop the activities of his/ her interest. All of these can lead to depression. 6
5. Premenstrual syndrome
It is a psychological disorder that occurs after the ovulation and ends with the onset of periods. The syndrome is characterized by emotional, physical and psychological issues. The woman may feel irritable, depressed and become oversensitive for no reason. There is a strong association of pre-menstrual syndrome with depression. 7
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition affecting women of reproductive age. It can present variably in different females. Symptoms can be menstrual irregularities, acne problem, weight issues, hirsutism (presence of facial hair) and fertility problems. The symptoms of PCOS may produce depression in women. 8
Ageing is the process that produces significant changes in the body, including memory loss, cognitive impairment, generalized weakness and some age-related disorders. These can restrict the person's normal active daily life activities and may isolate him/her. Not being able to cope with the ageing changes may lead to depression. 9
8. Family history
People who have a family history of depression are at high risk to develop it. 10
9. Brain structure
Sometimes any abnormality of the frontal lobe produces depression. The mechanism behind this is unclear.
10. Alcohol abuse
Excessive alcohol intake for a long time increases the risk of depression. 11
11. Drug abuse
Prolong use of recreational drugs develops many psychiatric disorders including depression. 11
12. Certain medication
Some therapeutic drugs can affect brain chemistry and lead to depression.
13. Presence of other mental illness
People who have any mental illness are more likely to get depression. 12
14. Socioeconomic problems
The financial issue and related problems can trigger depression in the individual.
15. Loss of job
Sudden loss of a job is related to financial problems. The person may become severely anxious and depression may develop. 10
In some individuals, retirement may lead to depression. It may be because the person has to leave the previous working lifestyle and now adapts to the new one. The problem is not being able to utilize the free time, which can lead to depression.
17. Prolong work stress
Working in a stressful environment for long can cause depression. 10
18. Separation/Divorce/ Recent break up
Separation from the partner is an important cause of depression. 10
19. Death or loss of a loved one
The recent death of a loved one may affect individual badly and lead to depression. 10
20. Early childhood trauma
In some people, early childhood traumatic memories lead to the development of psychiatric disorders. 10
Other common causes of depression are:
21. Recent trauma
22. Continuous stressful events
23. Low self-esteem
24. Living in an abusive relationship
25. Long-term isolation
How to manage depression?
Depression is a worrisome condition as it may lead to the death of an individual by suicide, if left untreated. The management of depression does not necessarily depend on anti-depressive medication. Here are some tips that may help to manage depression: