What Causes Depression?

Risk Factors and Triggers for Depression

What Causes Depression?

By Depression Connect StaffA Published at November 8, 2011 Views 4,478 Comments 1 Likes 5

As with many mental illnesses, depression is an extremely complex disease. The National Institute of Mental Health says neural circuits that regulate mood, thinking, sleep, behavior and appetite don’t function properly during depression. In addition, chemicals that brain cells use to communicate are out of balance.

But what leads to these changes in brain chemistry? The short answer: It depends. Depression occurs for a variety of reasons, and each person is unique. Here are some of the most common factors involved:

Family History

Depression often runs in families. It’s thought that depression can be passed from one generation to the next, but the exact way this happens is unknown. Possible explanations include genetics or behaviors people learn at home – or both.


Hormone changes from thyroid problems, menopause, pregnancy and a number of other conditions can change the body’s balance and may trigger depression.

Substance Abuse

Drug or alcohol abuse raises your risk of depression. One study reported that nearly 30 percent of people with substance abuse problems also had major or clinical depression.

Life Events

Depression can be triggered by a variety of life events. Personal conflicts with family members or friends are one example. Other events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, financial problems and high stress can trigger depression in some people.


Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can lead to depression. Trauma during childhood may make a person especially susceptible to depression later in life.

Serious Illness

Depression can develop as a reaction to serious illness, or co-exist with the other condition.

Regardless of the cause, it’s important to know that depression is not something you can just “shake off” or “snap out of.” But you do have power: You can seek help when you need it from family, friends, or medical professionals.

  • Share
    Email Email
    Print Print Twitter Twitter
    Facebook Facebook
Hide the Social Toolbar Show the Social Toolbar