Do you know why some people are more susceptible to depression than others, even under the same circumstances? Finding out what makes a person more prone to depression remains to be one of the most critical questions for investigators and mental health specialists.
Although investigators don’t have a precise answer as to why certain people are more susceptible to clinical depression than others, there’s probably more than one responsible factor. Research has revealed everything from physical and chemical dissimilarities in the brain to environmental and social risk factors.
The intricacies of depression are what makes it a difficult condition to detect and treat. Understanding what might increase a person’s chances to experience depression is the preliminary step in formulating prevention and treatment tactics tailored to alleviate individual susceptibility to the condition.
Developing a more detailed comprehension of the numerous gears that lead to depression can also help investigators get better at anticipating who will get depressed as well as expecting how the condition will advance over time. With these details, mental health specialists can better predict how a person could respond to antidepressants or other treatment forms.
What Causes Depression?
Based on the World Health Organization research, more than 300 million people across the globe live with depression. Several people may have depression, although the responsible factor may be different for each of them depending upon their life circumstances.
There are some specific factors like genetics, that you don’t have any control over. However, there are some others, for example, your diet, that can be altered. While making a change doesn’t guarantee depression prevention, it can surely alleviate your risk to some extent.
Whether you could change them or not, it’s beneficial to be mindful of factors that may make you more susceptible to developing depression in your lifespan. Just keep in mind that investigators are still trying to figure out the role each element plays. So, if you have one or more causal factors, does it mean that you’ll necessarily have depression in the future. The answer to this question is – No. Some people don’t develop depression in their entire life, even after having multiple causal factors. Remember, people of any ages, races, gender identities, and socioeconomic status can have depression.
Following are some of the biological factors that may lead to clinical depression:
- Genetics: Investigators believe that people who have someone in their family who are depressed are more prone to become depressed. But having a family history of depression doesn’t imply that you will necessarily experience depression in your lifetime.
Several other factors have to align with a genetic propensity to cause depression. One study suggests that people with a genetic predisposition for major depression have an elevated risk for suicide attempts over psychiatric disorders.
- Brain Chemistry: There’s some link between brain chemistry and depression. However, scientists are still unable to figure out their exact relation. Some investigators believe that low levels of certain neurotransmitters (which our brain cells use to transmit signals to each other) could lead to depression. Other investigators have proposed that being depressed leads to low neurotransmitters, rather than being the other way around. The relationship could even go both ways.
What is certain is that certain people with depression feel better when they take medicines that work on these neurotransmitters. However, investigators aren’t persuaded this is sufficient to prove specific links between brain chemistry and depression, to a large extent as individual people with depression don’t feel better even after they take antidepressants.
- Hormones: Some hormonal changes can cause you to develop depression. For instance, the hormonal changes that occur during the menstruation cycle, pregnancy, giving birth, menopause, etc. could contribute to clinical depression.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 9 women in the U.S. claim to be experiencing postpartum depression. And based on one study, about 4% of fathers claim to have depression in the first year after they are born. It’s also not uncommon for people with thyroid disorders to develop depression. While symptoms can be increasingly common in people with a low-functioning thyroid (called hypothyroidism), people with an overactive thyroid (called hyperthyroidism) can also develop anxiety or depression.
- Chronic Pain And Illness: Depression is prevalent in people living with chronic ailments like multiple sclerosis, migraines, and type 2 diabetes. Research has demonstrated that chronic pain ailments could lead to biochemical changes that may cause specific depression symptoms.
An individual with chronic pain and illness can get depressed because of their condition, specifically when they face a loss of quality of life, a decreased level of routine functioning, persistent pain, and/or death. It is also believed that a person who is diagnosed with a mental illness can have another too in the future.
Conditions like anxiety and depression commonly exist together. While many mental health conditions can be diagnosed simultaneously and can affect one another, they may require to be treated in diverse ways.
- Early Trauma And Abuse: One of the significant risk factors for depression is trauma in early childhood. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) usually elevate a person’s lifelong risk of developing mental and chronic physical illnesses, such as depression. Previous studies have affirmed a strong association between particular childhood experiences and depression later in life. According to the CDC, ACE can be classified into the following three categories:
- Abuse: Emotional, physical or sexual
- Household dysfunction: Substance use, domestic violence, divorce, a parent with some mental illness, or a parent who is imprisoned
- Neglect: Emotional or physical negligence
A person’s ACE score is closely associated with their risk of mental and physical illness, poverty, and even untimely death. Risk elevates as the number of ACEs grows, and a person with four or more ACEs is known to be at the greatest risk.
Investigators believe that child abuse could transform the brain physically, as well as change its connectivity structure. Certain studies have also demonstrated that neuroendocrine function can be altered in people who experienced increased stress levels as children.
- Environmental Exposures: The locality in which a person lives can also significantly impact his mental heat]lth in numerous ways. For instance, some people report that they get depressed during certain specific months of every year. This condition is called a seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression.
Some studies also suggest that air pollution and other environmental exposures can be a causal factor for certain types of depression. For instance, some investigators believe that exposing yourself to lead during childhood may cause you to develop mental illness later in life. One study suggests that children who grew up in regions with low air quality are more likely to become depressed or be identified with conduct disorder by entering adulthood.
- Poverty: Based on a survey, 64% of American adults claimed that money was a significant source of stress in their lives. People living in poverty were twice more prone to have depression than those living at or above the poverty level. Living in poverty not only elevates your risk for depression but if they are not able to work or don’t have access to social support services, mental illness can make it quite challenging for you to escape out of a cycle of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Many studies and trial projects had demonstrated that when people with mental illness were provided with financial aid, anxiety and depression symptoms improved.
- Personality: Some specific personality traits, such as pessimism, low self-esteem, neuroticism, and being self-critical or a perfectionist, has been linked with a higher tendency toward depression and other mental illnesses, including anxiety and certain eating disorders.
Investigators are particularly interested in researching a personality trait that can make someone less susceptible to depression. The specific qualities that make certain people more likely to recover from adverse events could also be crucial in preventing and treating depression.
- Grief: Grieving is a procedure that can mimic depression, except that it generally follows a specific timeframe starting with an event (for instance, the death of a loved one) and slowly moving toward resolution or a stage of acceptance. Investigators are learning that grief can take a toll on the qualities of a condition that is quite similar to clinical depression, especially in terms of how long it stays (a few months or several years).
Complex grief is more likely to take place when your loved one has died all of a sudden, like those met with road accidents. Further studies are required to denote complex grief as a different condition formally, but it seems to have a close relationship to depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The stress resulting from death, significant loss, or another life stressor may be sufficient to provoke an episode of depression in someone who already tends to this condition.
- Stress And Conflict: Major events of life, including conventionally festive occasions such as getting married or negative events such as losing a job, could all induce stress. When we feel stressed, our cortisol levels go up.
One study suggests that increased levels of cortisol (significantly when they are chronically increased) could influence serotonin levels. Especially work-related stress could be a driver of depression. Losing a job is an apparent stressor, but the work environment may also lead to stress – particularly if it doesn’t feel supportive.
Disputes at work or school could also increase the chances of a person to become depressed. According to the CDC reports, children who are bullied are more prone to various mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
They also have a more tendency to develop specific physical ailments such as stomachaches and headaches. If you are prone to depression and face conflicts with family or friends, you are at significant risk of developing the condition.
- Social Media: Certain studies claim that the use of various social media platforms can impact your mental health, although more research is required to mark its significance. Many studies suggest that social media use may trigger the symptoms of anxiety and depression through insecurity, comparison, bullying/harassment, and fear of missing out.
The overuse of social media can also lead to depression by lowering a person’s physical activity level and real-time interaction. Being socially isolated and leading a sedentary lifestyle may also lead to poor mental health conditions apart from social media habits.
Different persons have different experiences of depression, but some individual factors can make you more prone to the condition’s course and progression. Mental illnesses are way more common than you might think, and the good thing is that they are treatable. All you need to do is consult a mental health specialist and find the safest and most effective treatment for your condition.