What Causes Depression & Common Symptoms

Depression is a complex mental health condition brought on by a wide range of external and internal factors. Signs and symptoms can vary between individuals.

Depression Part 1: Common Causes & Symptoms Seen With Depression

Estimated watch time: 5 mins 


Depression is often the result of biological, genetic, environmental and psychological factors. More than 264 million people around the world deal with depression. Symptoms can include physical pain, digestive problems and changes in appetite along with the more recognizable symptoms such as sadness, irritability and hopelessness.

This video details more about depression, what causes it and what the symptoms are.

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Understanding Depression Part 1

This lesson will be about what causes depression and what are the most common symptoms seen with depression.

What is depression? 

I like to describe depression as a mental state. Usually described by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, self-reproach, with accompanying signs of agitation, withdrawals from interpersonal contact, such as isolation from family, friends and loved ones. Oftentimes individuals with depression also have difficulty with sleep, changes in appetite, changes in motivation and loss of interest in doing things they used to enjoy. In addition, individuals with depression can exhibit changes in cognition such as poor attention, poor concentration, being forgetful, unable to focus.

This mental state and its symptoms ultimately result in detrimental effects in all aspects of an individual’s life.

What causes depression?

Research suggests that a combination of biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological factors all play a very important role in depression.

For biological factors, we will focus on the neurochemistry and anatomical changes in the brain.  Ideally, your body will produce adequate levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin which results in a balanced mood.

In depression, there is disruption of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine resulting in a decreased amount of these neurochemicals in your brain.

Genetics play a very important role in depression.  Therefore, having a positive family history increases your risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another blood disorder.  It is unclear how depression can be inherited. But it is believed to be in several genes. People who have a first degree relative, such as a parent or a sibling, with depression appear to have a two to three times higher risk of developing a condition compared to the general public. However, many people that will develop depression, do not have a family history of a disorder, and many people with an affected relative never develop a depression disorder.

There are many environmental and psychological factors that can contribute to depression.

Common examples of environmental factors include the loss of a loved one, economic problems, being homeless, and having a history of drug or alcohol use. 21% of people with a substance use actually have depression.

The most common psychological factors include an early childhood trauma history and low self-esteem.

Depression is a complex mental illness, and he has many common signs and symptoms, such as having a persistent, sad interest or empty mood. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. Irritability. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, decreased energy, or fatigue, moving or talking more slowly, feeling restless or having trouble sitting still. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. Difficulty sleeping.  Appetite and or weight changes. Thoughts of suicide or death. Or suicide attempts. Aches or pain, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is a very common mental health condition. More than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Women are more affected than men. Depression can lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year old individuals.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Data, they report 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one episode of depression. They also report that major depressive episode was higher in females versus males.  8.7 percent of females and 5.3 percent of males have had a depressive episode. They also report that prevalence of major depressive episodes was highest among adults ages 18 to 25.

In the next lesson we will discuss how depression is diagnosed.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.