What causes depression?

Theresa Nguyen, Mental Health America

Depression is a mental health problem that comes from changes in your brain. The changes relate to how your brain produces and absorbs neurotransmitters, how it’s circuits work, inflammation, and even how it’s built (grey matter). These biological changes can start because you have a family history of depression, or it can start after changes and stressors in your life.

Some people feel depressed but don’t understand why. Like there’s nothing to be sad about but I feel so sad and I can’t control these feelings. If you feel this way – it’s possible you have a genetic predisposition to depression, that depression might run in your family, or that you have what professionals call “clinical depression.” There’s no environmental explanation for it -but your brain is changing in a way that causes depression symptoms.

Other people feel depressed or sad after events and changes in their lives. It is totally normal to feel sad after bad things happen. Feeling grief after losing someone important is expected. Feeling sad during a breakup or changing schools is also expected. But if you feel depressed after a long period of time – even though things have gotten better – you might have clinical depression. This might have started with an event – but grew into something more.

Finally – if life is really hard, trauma and stress can cause depression. You may be bullied all the time, maybe home life is stressful and unhappy, or school sucks and doesn’t get better. Even though it’s expected that you should feel sad, these types of experiences put you at risk of having depression. It’s especially hard if your situation hasn’t changed and you don’t know what life without sadness feels like.

The biological part and the environmental parts all affect one another. It’s a nature and nurture thing.

Even though there are scientific explanations for what depression is. Trust your gut – if you feel like you’re depressed, you know that you feel sad and the feeling is not what you want to feel. You can do something about that and getting better is totally possible.

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