Causes of Depression: Why Does This Disorder Occur? Types, Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention and Outlook

We are talking about a real and mental illness that affects the brain.

Anyone suffering from depression will tell you that it is not imaginary or “it’s all in your head.” Depression is more than just feeling “down.”

It is a serious disease caused by changes in brain chemistry .

Research tells us that other factors contribute to the onset of depression, such as genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, pain, or difficult life circumstances.

Any of these factors alone or in combination can precipitate changes in brain chemistry that lead to many symptoms of depression.

Depression is considered a serious and limiting condition. It is also, unfortunately, a fairly common condition.

The World Health Organization characterizes depression as one of the most disabling disorders in the world, affecting approximately one in five women and one in ten men at some point in their life.

It is estimated that 21% of women and 12% of men in the United States will experience an episode of depression at some point in their life.

Depression does not discriminate. Men and women of all ages, educational levels, and social and economic backgrounds suffer from depression. There is no area of ​​life that does not suffer when depression is present.

Marriage, parenting, friendships, careers, finances – all aspects of daily life are compromised by this disease. Once an episode of depression occurs, it is also very likely to recur.

And the impact of depression can be even more serious when it occurs in combination with other medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, or cardiovascular disease, or with related disorders, such as anxiety or substance abuse.

The problems caused by depression are made worse by the fact that most people with the disease are never diagnosed, much less treated.

The good news is that when depression is identified and treated quickly, its symptoms are manageable and there are many effective strategies for living with the illness.

Depression is most effectively treated in its earliest stage when symptoms are less severe.

Each person experiences depression in a particular way. It can interfere with your daily work, resulting in lost time and lower productivity. Similarly, this disease influences interpersonal relationships and other health conditions.

Conditions that can contribute to or worsen depression include:

  • Epilepsy.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Degenerative brain disease.
  • Alzheimer disease.
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
  • Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Addison’s disease.
  • Mellitus diabetes.

Keep in mind that feeling depressed at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone. But, if you feel miserable or hopeless on a regular or constant basis, you could be dealing with depression.

Depression is considered a serious medical condition and can get worse without proper treatment. However, those seeking treatment often see improvements in symptoms within a few weeks.

Symptoms of depression

Depression can be more than a constant state of sadness or feeling “sad.”

Major depression can cause a variety of symptoms. Some affect your mood and others affect your body. Symptoms can also be continuous or come and go.

Depression can affect men, women, and children differently.

Symptoms of depression in men can include:

  • Mood : anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiety, restlessness.
  • Emotional: feeling empty, sad, hopeless.
  • Behavior : Loss of interest, no longer finds pleasure in favorite activities, feels tired easily, has suicidal thoughts, drinks excessively, uses drugs, participates in high-risk activities.
  • Sexual area : reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance.
  • Cognitive area: inability to concentrate, difficulty in completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations.
  • Sleep: insomnia, restless sleep, excessive drowsiness, not sleeping through the night.
  • Physical: fatigue, pain, headache, digestive problems.

Symptoms of depression in women can include:

  • Mood : irritability.
  • Emotional : feeling sad or empty, anxious or desperate.
  • Behavior: loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from social commitments, suicidal thoughts.
  • Cognitive area : think or speak more slowly.
  • Sleep – Difficulty sleeping through the night, waking up early, sleeping too much
  • Physical: decreased energy, increased fatigue, appetite changes, weight changes, aches, headaches, increased cramps.

Symptoms of depression in children can include:

  • Mood : irritability, anger, mood swings, crying.
  • Emotional : feelings of incompetence (eg, “I can’t do anything right”) or despair, crying, intense sadness.
  • Behavior: getting into trouble at school or refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or siblings, thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Cognitive area: difficulty concentrating, decreased school performance, changes in grades.
  • Sleep – Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Physical : loss of energy, digestive problems, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain.

The mental symptoms can derive further. These eight physical symptoms of depression show that depression is not just in your head.


The causes of depression are diverse. These causes can arise from biological factors to circumstantial ones.

Among the most common causes are:

Family background

There is an increased risk of developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.

Traumatic events of early childhood

Some events can affect the way the body reacts to fear and stressful situations.

Brain structure

There is an increased risk of depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active. However, scientists do not know if this occurs before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.

Medical conditions

Some health conditions can predispose you to the risk of depression.

These can be:

  • Chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Drug use and / or abuse.
  • Many other people may never know or recognize the cause of their depression.

Other risk factors and causes for depression may include:

  • Low self-esteem or poor self-concept.
  • Medicines.
  • Stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems, or a divorce.

There are several factors that can influence a depression condition, as well as who develops it and who does not. The causes of depression are regularly linked to other elements of health.

Depression test

The test to diagnose depression is non-existent. However, the specialist can make a diagnosis based on the symptoms and a consultation that evaluates its psychological aspect.

Within this evaluation, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about:

  • Your mood.
  • Your food disposition.
  • Sleep pattern.
  • Activity level.
  • Thinking.

Given the possibility that depression is linked to other health conditions, the doctor may also perform a physical exam and request some blood tests. Thyroid problems or vitamin D deficiency can trigger symptoms of depression.

Pay attention to the symptoms of depression. If your mood does not improve or worsens, go to a medical appointment, since being a mental illness, it can worsen and generate a series of complications.

When depression is not treated, complications can include:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Body aches
  • Drugs abuse.
  • Panic.
  • Automutilación.
  • Difficulties in couple relationships.
  • Predisposition to suicide

What are the types of depression?

Based on the symptoms, depression can be divided into categories.

These categories will depend on personal experience:

  • Mild and temporary episodes.
  • Serious and continuous depressive episodes.

There are two main types:

  • Major depressive disorder.
  • Persistent depressive disorder.

Major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder is the most serious form of depression. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that do not go away on their own.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must experience 5 or more of the following symptoms over a two-week period:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day
  • Loss of interest in most regular activities.
  • Significant weight loss or gain.
  • Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep.
  • Slow thought or movement.
  • Fatigue or low energy most days.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Loss of concentration or indecision.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

There are different subtypes of major depressive disorder (referred to by the American Psychiatric Association as “specifiers”).

These include:

  • Atypical features.
  • Anxious anguish.
  • Mixed characteristics.
  • Onset peripartum, during pregnancy or just after delivery.
  • Seasonal patterns.
  • Melancholic features
  • Psychotic traits.
  • Catatonia.
  • Persistent depressive disorder.

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) used to be called dysthymia. It is a milder, but chronic form of depression.

For the diagnosis to be made, symptoms must last for at least two years. PDD can affect your life more than major depression because it lasts for a longer period.

It’s common for people with PDD to:

  • Losing interest in normal daily activities.
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Lack of productivity.
  • Have low self-esteem.

Depression can be treated successfully, but it is important to stick to your treatment plan. Read more about why treating depression is important.

Bipolar depression

Bipolar depression occurs in certain types of bipolar disorder, when the person experiences a depressive episode.

People with bipolar disorder can experience significant mood swings. Episodes in bipolar 2, for example, typically range from high-energy manic episodes to low-energy depressive episodes.

This depends on the type of bipolar disorder you have. A diagnosis of bipolar 1 should only have the presence of manic episodes, not depression.

Symptoms of depression in people with bipolar disorder can include:

  • Loss of interest or enjoyment of normal activities.
  • Feeling sad, worried, anxious, or empty.
  • Not having energy or struggling to complete tasks.
  • Difficulty remembering or remembering.
  • Sleeping too much or insomnia.
  • Weight gain or weight loss as a result of increased or decreased appetite.
  • Thinking about death or suicide.

If bipolar disorder is treated, many will experience fewer, and less severe, symptoms of depression if they experience depressive episodes. These 7 treatments can help ease the symptoms of bipolar depression.

Depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety can occur in one person at the same time. In fact, studies have shown that 70 percent of people with depressive disorders also have symptoms of anxiety.

Although they are believed to be caused by different things, depression and anxiety can produce several similar symptoms. These include irritability, difficulty with memory or concentration, and trouble sleeping.

The two conditions also share some common treatments. Both anxiety and depression can be treated with therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, or alternative therapies, including hypnotherapy.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of one or both of the conditions, make an appointment to speak with your doctor. You can work with your doctor to identify coexisting symptoms of anxiety and depression and how they can be treated.

Depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

As its name implies, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the backbone of the entire category of disorders called obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Obsessions are repetitive and distressing thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as uncontrollable.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels compelled to perform in response to obsessions. These obsessions and compulsions consume sometimes (an hour or more per day). They create significant distress and / or interfere with a person’s functioning.

People diagnosed with OCD often find themselves in a loop of obsessions and compulsions. If you have these behaviors, you may feel isolated because of them. This can lead to withdrawal from friends and social situations, which can increase your risk of depression.

It is not uncommon for a person with OCD to also have depression. Having one anxiety disorder can increase your chances of having another. Up to 80 percent of people with OCD also have major depression.

This dual diagnosis is also a concern for children. Their compulsive behaviors, which may first develop at a young age, can make them feel unusual. This can lead to withdrawal from friends and this increases a child’s risk of depression.

Depression with psychosis

Some people who have been diagnosed with major depression may also have symptoms of another mental disorder, psychosis. When the two conditions occur together, it is known as depressive psychosis.

Depressive psychosis causes people to see, hear, believe, or smell things that are not real. People with the condition may also experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability.

The combination of the two conditions is particularly dangerous. This is because a person with depressive psychosis may experience delusions that lead them to be suicidal or take unusual risks.

It is not clear what causes these two conditions or why they can occur together. But treatment can successfully relieve symptoms. Treatments include medications and electroconvulsive therapy.

Understanding the risk factors and possible causes can help you understand the initial symptoms. Read more about depressive psychosis, how it is treated, and what doctors understand about why it occurs.

Depression in pregnancy

Pregnancy is often an exciting time for people. But it is still common for a pregnant mother to experience depression.

Symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:

  • Changes in appetite or eating habits.
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Anxiety.
  • Losing interest in activities and things that you used to enjoy.
  • Persistent sadness
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering
  • Sleep problems, including insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Treatment for depression during pregnancy can focus entirely on talk therapy and other natural treatments.

While some women take antidepressants during pregnancy, it is not clear which ones are the safest. Your doctor may encourage you to try an alternative option until after you deliver.

The risks of depression do not end once the baby arrives. Postpartum depression (currently called peripartum-onset major depressive disorder) is a major concern for new mothers.

Recognizing the symptoms can help you spot a problem and seek help before it becomes overwhelming.

Depression and alcohol

Research has established a link between alcohol use and depression. People who have depression are more likely to abuse alcohol.

Of the 20.2 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, about 50 percent had a co-occurring mental illness.

According to a 2012 study, 63.8 percent of people who are dependent on alcohol have depression.

Drinking alcohol frequently can make depression symptoms worse, and people who have depression are more likely to misuse or depend on alcohol.

Treatment for depression

Living with depression can be difficult, but treatment can help improve your quality of life. Talk to your doctor about possible options.

You can successfully manage symptoms with one form of treatment, or you may find that a combination of treatments works best. It is common to combine medical treatments and lifestyle therapies, including the following:


Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or antipsychotics.

Each type of medicine used to treat depression has potential benefits and risks.


Talking to a therapist can help you learn coping skills. You can also benefit from family or group therapy sessions.

light therapy

Exposure to doses of white light can help regulate mood and improve symptoms of depression.

This therapy is commonly used in seasonal affective disorder (now called seasonal pattern major depressive disorder).

Alternative therapies

Ask your doctor about acupuncture or meditation. Some herbal supplements are also used to treat depression, such as St. John’s wort, SAMe, and fish oil.

Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement or combining a supplement with a prescription drug because some supplements can react with certain medications.

Some supplements can also make depression worse or reduce the effectiveness of medications.


Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity three to five days a week. Exercise can increase your body’s production of endorphins, which are hormones that improve your mood.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

Drinking or using drugs can make you feel a little better. But in the long term, these substances can make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.

Learn to say no

Feeling overwhelmed can make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. Setting limits in your professional and personal life can help you feel better.

Take care

You can also improve the symptoms of depression by taking care of yourself. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, avoiding negative people, and participating in fun activities.

Sometimes depression does not respond to medication. Your doctor may recommend other treatment options if your symptoms do not improve.

These include electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat depression and improve your mood.

Natural treatment for depression

Traditional depression treatment uses a combination of prescription medications and counseling. But there are also alternative or complementary treatments that you can try.

It is important to remember that many of these natural treatments have few studies showing their effects on depression, good or bad.

Likewise, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve many of the dietary supplements on the market in the United States, so you need to make sure that you are buying products from a trustworthy brand.

Talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your treatment plan.


Various types of supplements are believed to have some positive impact on the symptoms of depression.

Grass of San Juan

Studies are mixed, but this natural treatment is used in Europe as an antidepressant drug. In the United States, it has not received the same approval.

S-adenosil-L-metionina (SAMe)

This compound has been shown in limited studies to possibly alleviate the symptoms of depression.

The effects were best seen in people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of traditional antidepressant.

5-hydroxytryptophanone (5-HTP)

5-HTP can raise serotonin levels in the brain, which may alleviate symptoms. Your body makes this chemical when you consume tryptophan, a building block of protein.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These essential fats are important for neurological development and brain health. Adding omega-3 supplements to your diet can help reduce symptoms of depression.

Essential oils

Essential oils are a popular natural remedy for many conditions, but research on their effects on depression is limited.

People with depression can find relief from symptoms with the following essential oils:

Wild Ginger – Breathing in this strong scent can activate serotonin receptors in your brain. This can slow the release of stress-inducing hormones.

Bergamot – This citrus essential oil has been shown to reduce anxiety in patients awaiting surgery.

The same benefit can help people who experience anxiety as a result of depression, but there is no research to support that claim.

Other oils, such as chamomile or rose oil, can have a calming effect when inhaled. Those oils can be beneficial during short-term use.


There are no secrets about how important and necessary it is to consume vitamins. Research suggests that two vitamins are especially helpful in relieving symptoms of depression:

  • Vitamin B: Vitamins B-12 and B-6 are vital for brain health. When your B vitamin levels are low, your risk of developing depression may be higher.
  • Vitamin D – Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin because exposure to the sun supplies it to your body, vitamin D is important for brain, heart, and bone health.

People who are depressed are more likely to have low levels of this vitamin.

Many herbs, supplements, and vitamins claim to help relieve symptoms of depression, but most have not been shown to be effective in clinical research.

Learn about the ones that have shown some promise, and ask your doctor if one is right for you.

Prevention of depression

Depression is generally not considered preventable. It is difficult to recognize what causes it, which means that preventing it is more difficult.

But once you’ve experienced a depressive episode, you can be better prepared to prevent a future episode by learning what lifestyle changes and treatments are helpful.

Techniques that can help include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Maintaining treatments.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Building strong relationships with others.

Other techniques and ideas can also help prevent depression.


Depression can be short-term or long-term. Treatment generally does not make this mental illness disappear completely, but it does allow the symptoms to improve and the condition to be much more manageable.

To regulate and control the symptoms of depression, medications and therapies must be combined and correctly linked. If a treatment does not produce the desired results, it should be replaced by another.

The family environment is also required to be patient and willing to help the person suffering from this disease.