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

Does Hormonal Contraception Raise Suicide Risk?

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on November 22, 2017 in ExperiMentations
New research looks at how different factors related to hormonal contraception may affect risk of suicide, providing important information for clinicians and patients.
CCO Creative Commons

Surrendering to Gratitude

By Diana Raab PhD on November 22, 2017 in The Empowerment Diary
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the downer things happening in the news?This week is a good time to consider and write about all you have to be thankful for. There's plenty!

Can a 4-Step Self-Help Therapy Technique End Upset Feelings?

Therapists use this technique to help their clients gain insight and feel better. Can it also relieve upset feelings if you use it as a self-help technique?

How to Help Teens Cope with Cyberbullying

By Katie Hurley, LCSW on November 21, 2017 in Worry-Free Kids
Worried about teens and cyberbullying? You're not alone.

Why Has Self-Harm Tripled Among Tween and Teen Girls?

By Jean M Twenge Ph.D. on November 21, 2017 in Our Changing Culture
Why are three times as many girls harming themselves? There's a likely culprit.

You Can’t Go Home Again

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in A Swim in Denial
“Home for the holidays” promises “all the comforts of home,” but also brings the sorrows of home. Why do we do it? Is it a homing instinct? An addiction? Just unfinished business?

How to Metabolize Painful, Dark Emotions: A Letter

By Gregg Henriques Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Theory of Knowledge
A letter writer asks for advice on dealing with painful, dark emotions.

The Perfectionist Mistake About the Meaning of Life, Part 2

Would rejecting perfectionism about the meaning of life push us to mediocrity and meaninglessness?
Jianne Soriano/VoicesofYouth

Mental Illness and Violence

By Rachel Pruchno Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in All in the Family
Most people with mental illness are not violent. But some are.

When Reconciliation Is Impossible

By Kathy McCoy Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Complicated Love
What do you do when there's nothing you can do to reconcile with an estranged family member? What if you don't want to reconnect? Here are some ideas for making peace with what is.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

By Russell Grieger Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Happiness on Purpose
The purpose of all psychotherapy is to free people from the ravages of misery. But first, they must think and act truthfully. Find how with this 5-step process to find happiness.
Courtesy of Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon

Discovering Meaning Through "The Village"

By Alex Pattakos Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in The Meaningful Life
Do you feel a sense of connection and belonging in your neighborhood and work community?

East-West Cultural Differences in Depression

By David Ludden Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Talking Apes
The incidence of depressive and anxiety disorders is far lower in Asia than in the West. Different ways of thinking about negative feelings may be the key.
Negative Space/stocksnap

Tis The Season

If you aren't looking forward to this holiday season, you aren't alone.

Estrangement and the Holidays

By Kathy McCoy Ph.D. on November 15, 2017 in Complicated Love
Has estrangement from a parent or adult child led to holiday blues? The holidays bring opportunities to reconnect or to begin healing.

Long-Term Effects of Antipsychotics

Data support the long-term use of antipsychotics in persons with schizophrenia. However, less is known about the efficacy of long-term use for other conditions.

Emotion Rules When There is Depression

Negative thinking styles have more power than positive ways of thinking when you're depressed. Try MAP or move, ask, play.
eric maisel

What You Can Expect From an Authoritarian, Part 2

Based on research on authoritarian wounding, learn what you can expect from authoritarian contact and how you can heal the wounds inflicted by that contact.

The Workplace Bully and The Office Sociopath

Individuals who are competent, successful, cooperative and unlikely to confront the bully, or take action when bullied, are particularly susceptible to workplace bullying.

A Hidden Cause of Resistant Depression

By Emily Deans M.D. on November 12, 2017 in Evolutionary Psychiatry
Patients can suffer for many years with treatment-resistant depression. In one tantalizing study, a significant percentage were helped with a single vitamin supplement.
association for business psychology

An Unexpected Sight in the Rearview Mirror

By Lawrence D. Blum M.D. on November 12, 2017 in Beyond Freud
It is unusual, at age 75, to suddenly view more than 50 years of struggles in an entirely new light.

What's So Hard About Parenting Children With Mental Illness?

What are parents of children with illness most stressed about? A new research study gives us some answers.

Understanding Depression

By Clifford N Lazarus Ph.D. on November 10, 2017 in Think Well
Clinical or major depression is a potentially deadly illness that affects many millions of people at any given time. Here's how to gain a better of understanding of it.

Grudges Are Empty Calories to Brock Lindow

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on November 10, 2017 in Brick by Brick
"Life was punching me right in the mouth."
Crestock

Relief from Night Terrors This Veterans Day

By Kathleen Frazier on November 09, 2017 in From Sleepwalker to Sound Sleeper
For veterans suffering from debilitating night terrors, a veteran's son has created an app to stop night terrors.

Opiate Addiction: A Cautionary Tale and Case Discussion

By Jeffrey Deitz M.D. on November 09, 2017 in Case Conference
See how one courageous woman is surviving and thriving while getting treatment for opiate use disorder.

Enhancing Mental Health For Veterans Through Technology

Artificial Intelligence will enhance mental health support for veterans through the first-ever meditation voice app launching this week in partnership with National Geographic.
eric maisel

What You Can Expect From an Authoritarian

Based on Dr. Maisel's primary research on authoritarian wounding, learn what you can expect from authoritarian contact and how you can heal the wounds inflicted by that contact.
dreamstime

Don’t Let Chronic Pain Throw You into the Future

By Golan Shahar Ph.D. on November 08, 2017 in Stress, Self, and Health
The dangers of pain-based catastrophizing.