In a year, about 15 million Americans struggle with depression. Its prevalence is more than what people assume, partly because only 20% actually seek consultation and treatment. It is a silent mood affectation that may lead to long-term consequences and wrong life decisions. People tend to play down depression for different reasons. For instance, an individual might be scared that admitting to having depression might make others treat him differently, or it might make him believe that he is more vulnerable than he actually is. There are a lot of possible reasons as to why people feel depressed; here are 10 scientific reasons that may explain why:
- Personality Style
People have different personality traits, and there are a lot of scales that identify which type of personality profile you belong in. Some of the most common are the Myers-Briggs personality classification, and for personality scales that determine links to depression, there is the Temperament and Personality Questionnaire. The types of personalities that are linked to a greater risk for developing depression are the Anxious Worrying type, the Social Avoidance and Personal Reserve types, the Self-Critical type, and the Rejection Sensitive type. These personalities are predisposed to developing non-melancholic depression when put under certain pressures that stress the individual.
- Trauma at a younger age
The possible emotional repercussions of adverse events happening during childhood are many, one of which is the possibility of developing depression. Each traumatic experience, like abuse, rape, or loss of a parent or sibling, can compound with developing brains and help shape the individual’s personality in such a way that it will not be able to cope well enough to stresses encountered during adulthood. This can be averted through proper counseling and therapy as soon as the traumatic cause is known, but will also depend on the child’s perseverance and reaction to the treatment.
- Major environmental or life events
These refer to occurrences that are mostly out of our control, like losing a family member, a divorce or breakup from a serious relationship, or losing a job. In these cases, depression is a normal (and healthy) response for a certain period of time. The Kubler-Ross model of Grief follows 5 steps, namely Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Different individuals each have unique timelines when it comes to coping with loss and dealing with grief, but eventually the depression phase will be over and acceptance will be experienced. Support from friends and family is essential for a more positive outcome.
Loneliness can spark a depressive mood, which in turn drains the individual’s will to socialize, leading to the development of a cycle of social aversion and loneliness. It is an overwhelming problem that affects a lot of people especially in a busy world, where personal interaction is only done per necessity and everything other type of interaction is done electronically or through the phone. The lack of opportunities to socialize can lead to depression, especially for people who are extroverts, or those who rely on people for external motivation in their goals and aspirations in life.
- Hormonal Changes
Fluctuations in hormone levels, especially those that are produced by the thyroid gland, tend to create mood imbalances that make people feel depressed. Women are more vulnerable to this due to the hormonal changes that happen during the menstrual cycle, leading to pre-menstrual mood swings and depression, as well as pre- and post- menopausal mood changes. Some are more sensitive to mood changes than others, and for severe cases, hormone-regulating medications can be given to lessen the effect of the hormone fluctuation every month.
- Mood Disorder
The presence of a mood disorder is differentiated from hormonal swings because fluctuating hormones do not regulate it. Mood disorders are caused by biochemical alterations in specific areas of the brain. Once the chemical regulation is disturbed, depression can be one of the effects. The lack of neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain lead to depression, and antidepressants target these hormones to bring the individual back to his pre-depressive state. All types of depression somehow affects serotonin function, whereas dopamine and norepinephrine utilization are more likely impaired in psychotic and melancholic type of depression. Responses to antidepressants vary widely, but a lot see improvement after being treated. One should not take the possibility of depression due to a mood disorder lightly. Seeking professional help is the best option.
- Chronic Stress
People are designed to handle stresses in a short span of time, enough to invoke physical responses from the body. Our stress responses are brief and should not be extended for long periods of time. Unfortunately, the types of stresses that today’s environment brings are more of the chronic kind: debt, loneliness, trauma, job problems, and a lot more. All these stresses take a toll on the body because it does not have enough time to recover, and the stresses just keep adding up. Since these types of stress cannot all be fully eliminated, then the piling does not stop, leaving the body depleted and prone to developing depression.
- Weather Changes
Moods are affected by weather, especially during winter months. This is partly due to less physical activities under the sun that are likely to lift one’s mood. In studies, spring led to improved mood with increasing number of outdoor activities. Some people are more prone to get depressed during winter months than others. A special subgroup in this category is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, wherein sufferers (mostly women), go into depression with resulting sleep, appetite, and motivational changes.
There have been studies that showed a genetic link in people who suffer from depression. Although there are a lot of environmental factors that are usually the culprit for triggering depression, one should also take into consideration a family history. Forty percent of those suffering from depression are able to link the condition to a family member, indicating the possibility of gene coding affecting certain reactions in the brain that lead to vulnerability and increased risk for developing depression.
- The Inner Critic
A lot of people are too hard on themselves. Small mistakes can lead to nightlong self-berating about what has gone wrong and what could have been done otherwise. People get so accustomed to the inner critic that we perceive this as normal, and allow ourselves to be emotionally battered by our own subconscious. Self-criticism is healthy at small doses, but too much leads to self-hate, depression, and feeling unworthy of happiness. A way to think in a more positive light is to try to talk to yourself as if you were trying to encourage a friend to do better every time he does something wrong.