Depression: What Causes It?


The causes of depression are varied. Some illnesses are easily detected, and the root cause identifiable, thus making treatment straightforward. However, the causes of depression are a little more tricky to identify.

A common misconception is that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that is simply cured by medications. However, we know that, depression is actually a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Therefore, it really comes down to history, quality of relationships, lifestyle and health choices, and coping skills –even more so than genetics.

Common risk factors

  • Minimal social supports
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Stressful life experiences
  • Financial burdens
  • Adverse early childhood experiences like abuse
  • Trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of gainful employment
  • Distressing health problems or chronic pain

Recognizing the cause of depression aids in determining how it is treated. For example, if you are depressed because you just received a lay-off notice, the best treatment option might be to work towards finding another job instead of taking an antidepressant. Perhaps you moved to a new city and are feeling lonely, then finding new friends and building a social support network will likely leave you more fulfilled than going to therapy. In these types of situations, the remedy to depression is a change in situation.

Adverse childhood experiences, trauma, substance abuse, and health problems require different interventions. In most cases, therapy is the treatment option of choice. You will not feel better instantly however, over time you will start to get your groove back.

4 things you can do to feel better

  • Reach out to others. The more isolated you are, the more depressed you are likely to become. Connect with others even if you don’t feel like it. Just talking and being with a supportive person can help ease some of the distress you may be feeling.
  • Exercise. Just getting out of bed can be a major task when you’re depressed. Exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants when it comes to depression symptom management. Move your body. Take a walk, put some music on and dance around, go to yoga. Start small and build up your activity. Try it for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Eat well. Reduce foods that are known to affect your mood, like caffeine, alcohol, fats, and sugar. You don’t have to do this all at once. Little steps will take you a long way.
  • Find meaning. Cuddle your pet or loved one, volunteer, spend time in nature, find a hobby that you might like. Of course, you’re not going to feel like doing any of these things, but as you start living in the world again, you will start to feel better.

When to get professional help

Sometimes support from friends and family and healthy lifestyle changes are not enough to alleviate the symptoms of depression. If this is you, then please know that many effective treatments are available.

Therapy. The therapists at Unstuck Psychological work with you to identify and work through the root causes of depression. We also help you find new coping skills.  The therapists at Unstuck use a variety of therapeutic methods one of which is EMDR therapy. EMDR is known for its long-term effectiveness for the root causes of depression like trauma, childhood abuse, chronic pain.

Medication. Medication may be the right option if you are suicidal or violent. However, while it may help with some of the symptoms of depression, it is not a cure or a long-term solution. Medications used to treat depression come with side-effects and known drawbacks. It is important to assess this option carefully with your physician.

In summary, depression may be a part of your life right now, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. The therapists at Unstuck Psychological can help you break the patterns of depression and get your life back. Learn more about our risk-free consultation.

Written By

Picture of Robin Chamberlain

Robin Chamberlain

Robin, lead psychologist and CEO at Unstuck Psychological, utilizes her extensive experience to foster meaningful change in clients’ lives. Her approach combines kindness, evidence-based strategies, and creative expertise for effective therapy.