Why do people become depressed?

Why do some individuals suffer from depression whilst others do not? Finding out what makes someone susceptible to depression is one of the most demanding questions for mental health professionals and researchers.

Depression is a serious mental health problem that can interfere with a person’s life. It can result in severe feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and a complete loss of interest in activities. It may also result in some physical symptoms of appetite change, pain, and sleeping problems.

The complications of depression is the main thing that is a more challenging condition to diagnose the main causes of it. Understanding the main reasons for what makes a person more likely to depression is the primary step in developing the treatment and prevention strategies.

It is also important to understand the complete mechanisms that cause the depression because this could help the researchers at predicting who will get depressed as well as predicting what the result of the depression would be within time and when this condition will be over.

Mental health professionals are prepared to anticipate how a person suffering from depression respond to antidepressants or other types of therapeutic treatments.

It is found by Centres of disease control and prevention ( CDC) that approximately 10 percent of adults are experiencing depression from 2009 to 2012. Depression is not easy to identify despite its prevalence.

What Causes Depression?

According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people are living with depression worldwide. The factors that contribute to depression can vary from individual to individual.

Some factors of depression can not be controlled, such as genetics. However, other factors, such as diet, can significantly help in the management.

Depression is prevalent in people of all races, genders, identities, ages, and in socioeconomic status. According to the 2017 report of the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 17.3  million people are affected by depression in the United States. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, around 1.9 million children were diagnosed with depression in the United States.

Biological Factors

There are some factors of depression that are related to biology, including genetics, brain chemistry, hormones and chronic pain/illness.


According to researchers, people with family members with depression are more likely to suffer from depression themselves. On the other hand, having a family history full of depressors does not mean that you will also necessarily suffer from depression. Some genes are inherited, and can result in an increased likelihood of depression.

It was published in the American journal of psychiatry by a large genome-wide study in 2019 that people suffering from depression due to the genetic predisposition have an increased risk for suicidal attempts.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for assistance and support from a trained counselor.

Brain Chemistry

The connection between brain chemicals and depression has been discussed for many decades, however, many doctors have opposing views. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are used to send messages between nerve cells in the brain. These neurotransmitters do not work effectively when a person is depressed, and this interrupts the regulation of mood.

It is suggested by some theories that certain levels of neurotransmitters cause depression. Some researchers however believe that depression causes low levels of neurotransmitters.

Some individuals take prescribed medications to treat their depression. These medications work on low-level neurotransmitters and have great results in some. However, there is another class of people who don’t see results when taking antidepressant tablets.


Women experience depression twice as often than men. The risk of depression increases by certain hormonal shifts, which occur more often in women than in men. For example, hormonal changes during pregnancy, giving birth, menses, and menopause can also cause depression.

It is estimated by the centers of Disease Control and Prevention that approximately 1 in 9 women are suffering from depression in the U.S. A study was conducted in 2010, concluding that 4% of fathers suffer from depression in the first year after a child is born.

It has also been found that people with thyroid conditions experience depression at some stage in their life. Low functioning thyroid called hypothyroidism leads to more symptoms of depression. As well, the overactive functioning of thyroid can also lead to depression and anxiety through hormonal changes.

Chronic pain and illness

People who suffer from chronic illnesses such as migraines, type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis experience depression more commonly. It is found that chronic pain and illness cause some biochemical changes in the body that can accompany depression.

Individuals suffering from illness and pain are more susceptible to depression, particularly when they are facing prolonged pain, or death loss.

On the other hand, mental illness may also lead to depression and anxiety. In addition, different mental health problems combined with depression should be treated as soon as possible.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors also play a significant role in the development of depression.


In 2015, a survey was conducted by the American Psychological Association and found that 64% of Americans said that that money is the significant reason for depression in their lives. People experiencing poverty  are more likely to suffer from depression as compared to those living above the level of poverty.

If people are not able to work or do not have any financial access to support, their living can also lead to mental illness, which can make it hard to break the cycle of depression.

It has also been found that when people with mental illness were given financial support and other social services, their symptoms of depression and anxiety improved a lot.

Early Trauma and Abuse

Trauma is one of the most well-studied risk factors of depression in early childhood. Adverse Childhood Experiences can increase a person’s risk of having both the mental and chronic physical illnesses that include depression . Although, researcher is still being done, it is proved that specific childhood experiences have a strong link with depression later in life.

There are three types of adverse childhood experiences: abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

  • Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual.
  • Neglect can be emotional or physical.
  • Household Dysfunction that include domestic violence, mentally ill parents, and a parent who is incarcerated.

The risk of mental illness, physical illness, and poverty is related to the individual’s ACE score. The risk of ACE increases with the increase of ACE’s.

According to researchers, child abuse alters the brain physically and changes its connectivity structure.  It is also found that the function of neuroendocrine may be altered in those people who suffer from stress as children.

In addition, a study was conducted in Massachusetts General Hospital in 2019 which proved that traumatic experience in the first three years of life may even alter the DNA of the child.

Environmental Exposures

The mental health of a person is also affected by their environment. For example, many people claim that they experienced depression in certain months of the year, which is sometimes called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

It has also been proved that many environmental exposures also contribute to different factors of depression. For instance, some researches have proved that the exposure of lead in children lead to poor mental health later in life.

In another study, it was found that children who spend their childhood in poor air quality appeared to be more likely to suffer from depression and were diagnosed with certain mental disorders by the time they turned 18.

Social Factors

Social factors also influence the risk of depression risk in addition to biological and environmental factors. These include a person’s personality, experiences of stress and depression, and social media.


There are many personality traits such as neuroticism, pessimism, low self-esteem, being a self-critical, or perfectionist are all associated with a higher risk of depression and several other mental health conditions that include anxiety and eating disorders.

Researchers are more interested in such personality traits that experience less depression in their lifetimes. Highly sensitive people with a troubled childhood are at a higher risk of depression than others.


Grief is a process that feels and looks like suffering from depression. The difference is that it starts with a particular event and gradually moves towards a stage of change or the stage of acceptance.

Grief appears in life when someone loses his loved one unexpectedly, suddenly and particularly in violent ways (such as murder or car accidents). Complicated grief has a relation with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depression occurs in severe form in individuals who suffered from a major loss in their life who already possess the depression condition.

Stress and Conflict

Significant life events, such as marriage, or negative events such as loss, or losing an ideal job are all causes of stress.

Our cortisol levels rise when we are stressed. One study states that serotonin levels are affected by the rise in cortisol levels.

A study conducted in 2010 in Japan linked depression with interpersonal conflicts.

In 2009, a study was published in Sweden by researchers who suggested that feeling excluded or left out at home, and serious conflict with bosses or employees can lead to depression.

Not only does depression effect adults, but kids may also be effected by depression. Kids and adults experience interpersonal challenges at school or high tuition costs that can lead to stress and intern cause certain physical and mental health outcomes.

According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of students have been bullied at school. The students in study were between the ages of 12-18.

Kids who are bullied are more likely to suffer from mental health problems including depression and anxiety according to the CDC. In addition, they also suffer from certain physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, etc.

Conflicts with family or friends also lead to more severe forms of depression and chances of depression increase more in those people who are prone to depression.

Social Media

Many studies have proved that social media has affected people mental health particularly in young people. It has also been found that through insecurities and comparison,  social media lead to depressive symptoms and causes anxiety and depression.

Social media reduces the person level of physical activity and real-life interaction that can contribute to depression. Socially isolation and a sedentary lifestyle are the two main factors that can cause poor mental health.

On the other hand, social media is helpful in many ways and for helping to detect the cause and manage depression.

Lifestyle Factors

Prescription medications

There are many medications that have the potential to cause depression. These include:

Using certain medications to treat mental health issues and sleep disorders may also cause depression in some individuals. It is suggested that the risk of suicidal thoughts increases in individuals under the age of 25, after beginning antidepressants. This is the reason the Food and Drug Administration has addressed a warning before using antidepressants.

Diet and physical activity

Various studies have suggested that mild depression can prevent major depression through some changes in lifestyle. Diet and gut microbes also play a role in the development of depression and anxiety. In addition, according to certain studies, the Mediterranean diet minimizes the risk in older people to avoid the symptoms of depression.

On the other hand, highly processed foods high in sugar and trans fats can worsen the depression, particularly when linked with a sedentary lifestyle. The main reason for this link between a sedentary lifestyle and highly processed foods is that these foods result in weight gain that can cause depression. It has also been found that overweight individuals are more prone to developing depression.

Many researchers have confirmed that a healthy diet and regular exercise does not only manage depression but also helps to prevent depression.

Substance Use

The use of drugs and alcohol to self medicate for mental illness is not uncommon for people suffering from depression. However, keep in mind that like some prescription medication, these illicit drugs also lead a person to depression.

Approximately 7.9 million people were suffering from depression and a substance use disorder in 2014 according to research obtained from the National Alliance on Mental health Drugand Health survey.


It can be difficult to find the right treatment when depression and substance use occurs at the same time. Treatment at a mental health facility is crucial in helping a person address both the depression and substance use disorders that may accompany them.

Final Verdict

The factors that contribute to the development of depression vary from person to person. Many people around the world struggle with mental illness and effective treatment is available, however the safest treatment takes a lot of time. Having supportive friends and family members, working with mental health professionals and doctors, and developing coping strategies at school or work are essential for overcoming depression.

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