Depression

(These images are copyrighted © 2015 by Marilee Snyder on behalf of the artists, and may not be reproduced in any form without the artists’ express written permission.)

Depression seems to be correlated with (or caused by) the complex interaction of many factors. It is also quite possibly a cause, in the sense that a “vicious circle” can develop with a number of factors.

Depression can be triggered by stressful life events, and the intensity and duration of such events can contribute to the likelihood of depression.  Yet an event which one person finds intolerably stressful may not affect another person in the same way.  So stress isn’t the only factor.

Each person’s genetic makeup also seems to play a role in susceptibility to depression under different stressful conditions. Mood disorders like depression can run in families to a certain extent, although genetics are not the only predisposing factor in families.

Family relationships are at least as important as genes, if not more so.  Childhood abuse, domestic violence, sibling animosity—which may involve sexual, physical, and emotional elements—are definitely causative factors.

One’s socioeconomic environment, beyond just family influences, also affects one’s susceptibility to depression. Factors like one’s social support network, intimate relationships, employment or school situation, neighborhood milieu, etc. determine how vulnerable an individual may be to depression.  Poverty level is often easily correlated with depression (sometimes an effect, sometimes a cause, often both).

Season is another factor which is correlated with depression for many people.  The most common pattern is that colder, darker, more overcast times of the year correlate to the lowest moods.  This is often called “seasonal affective disorder”.  Some people  thrive better in sunnier seasons and places, and their depressive symptoms remit when they live in sunnier places.

In addition, personal characteristics such as personality, cognition, and gender have been found to be correlated with mood.  These personal characteristics are not necessarily causes, however.  Negative thinking patterns are often associated with depression.  The meaning of stressful events also contributes.  And, according to the DSM IV-TR, women are diagnosed with depression twice as frequently as men (More often seeking help? More often studied? More vulnerable socioeconomically? Different sensibilities? etc.).

Brain chemistry also plays a role.  Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which carry messages between brain cells (neurons) and other cells.  Delicate imbalances in neurotransmitters can have far-reaching effects on mood and other mental disorders. The issue here is similar to the issue with factors mentioned above, in that depression can be a cause of alterations in brain chemistry, as well as an effect.

Nutrition, exercise, and sleep have at least as much influence on reducing depression as many medications prescribed for mood disorders, according to the experience of many individuals. So by eating right (visit a nutritionist or dietician), making sure you take a good multivitamin/multimineral supplement, as well as additional nutrition interventions, you can greatly improve your mood. In addition, increasing your activity level does all kinds of wonderful things for your mood. And improving your sleep habits is just as important. I urge you to consult trusted, “tried and true” authorities as you make changes to your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.

In summary then, depression is multi-determined, quite complex, and unique to each person.  We each have our own vulnerabilities and strengths, resilience, determination, and opportunities to learn, heal, and move through it.

These are some of the symptoms:

SadnessPessimismPast failureLoss of pleasureGuilty feelingsPunishment feelingsSelf-dislikeSelf-criticalnessSuicidal thoughts or wishesCryingAgitationLoss of interestIndecisivenessFeeling worthlessnessLoss of energyChanges in sleeping patternIrritabilityChanges in appetiteDifficulty concentrating, Tiredness or fatigue, and Loss of interest in sex.

Symptoms of depression can vary across differences in gender, age, and culture.

Act to Take Care of Yourself: Ask for Help.