“Depressed” is a combination of ‘de’ which means down and ‘press’ which is to flatten. Thus the meaning is a deep flattening down. It is stronger than sadness which is a short-term condition. Rather, depression lasts for a notable period of time and is present regardless of surroundings, people, lifestyle, and abilities. Contrary to some pop-psychology, depression is not a sign of weakness, a lack of purpose, not living in the moment, or an unstable character. Rather, it is an uncontrollable state of mind of which there are over 100 diagnosable types.
Depression is not to be ignored or taken lightly. When it is, the feelings don’t diminish, instead, they intensify causing an inability to function at home, work, or even doing pleasurable activities. Left untreated, it can worsen into to suicidal thoughts and/or self-harming behavior. So discovering the cause for the depression is very important. At the root of every depression is something that sparked it, even if it is chemical. Knowing this makes the difference in treatment options because each of the 100 plus different types all has different types of treatment.
Here are 15 common list causes of depression.
- Change in environment. Martin hates change, so much so that he wears nearly the same thing every day. So when his job mandated that he move to another location, the change sparked a situational depression called adjustment disorder. This made going to his new job difficult and hampered his abilities to adjust to his new surroundings. Depending on the person, it can take a month to a year to fully adjust to new circumstances. Therapy does help. It is important to be patient with this process and not try to rush it.
- Change in hormones. Nicole just had a baby six weeks ago and now can’t get out of bed, let alone take a shower. Despite her best efforts, she struggles to attach to her baby and feels distant from everyone. She is very reluctant to talk about it for fear of what others might think. Most days, she wants to crawl in bed and not get out. This is an indicator of postpartum depression and she needs to been seen immediately by a medical doctor and a therapist as it often gets worse before it gets better.
- Recent trauma. Most survivors of a traumatic experience don’t feel the effects until things have settled down. Rachael was in a car accident that landed her in the hospital for a week and another victim in a coma. Even though it wasn’t her fault and she was grateful that she survived, the depression hit about three months later. She started waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares, experienced panic attacks and had trouble riding in a car, let alone driving. This could be post-traumatic stress syndrome which requires therapy to fully recover.
- Past trauma. Tim became deeply depressed when his son turned nine years old. Unsure of why this was happening when his life seemed to be so good, he went to therapy. It turned out that he was nine years old when his father died in a fire. This traumatic memory didn’t fully surface until he saw his son at the same age. This is delayed grief and frequently happens when a child is too young to process what has happened.
- Abuse fog. There are seven types of abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, mental, financial, sexual, and spiritual. Frequently, more that one type of abuse is utilized in a relationship. Over the long-term, abuse can turn into complex post-traumatic stress syndrome which often results in depression. This depression, often known as abuse fog, keeps a person trapped in the abuse cycle, hopeless, unable to get out. Therapy is the best method of treatment for this type of depression because it can take years to fully recover from abuse.
- Loss of family member. Ashley struggled after the loss of her husband of 21 years. She depended on him so much and now that he was gone, she felt lost, disoriented, and heavy. She knew that depression was a part of the grieving process but it was dragging on longer than she expected. There is no real timetable for depression grief. Expect it to take at least a year for close family and less than that for more distant relationships. Grief share support groups are extremely helpful when dealing with a loss. It helps to know that others are experiencing the same symptoms.
- Change in status. Mark’s marriage was over. He couldn’t believe that after 25 years, the marriage was ending. At the same time, he experienced a downsizing at work. The combination of the two life events hit him hard and felt like his life was over. Very quickly, Mark spiraled into thinking about suicide. This is a severe major depressive disorder and needs to be treated immediately by a medical doctor and a therapist. Any time a person has suicidal thoughts, this must be taken seriously and treated immediately.
- No real cause. Monica had been tracking her husband’s depression for a couple of years and noticed a pattern. He would be very depressed for several days refusing to get out of bed and then a few weeks later he would be very excited, unable to sleep, and even manic for another couple of days. Then the pattern would repeat every six weeks. This is most likely a type of bipolar disorder which is a brain chemistry depression and needs to treated by a psychiatrist and a therapist. Because the cycles often intensify as a person ages, it is very important that they be under professional care and be monitored. Proper medication does work.
- Shift in life stage. Every stage of life contains an opportunity to grow, be stagnant, or diminish. According to Erik Erickson’s psychosocial development, there are eight stages which occur during a person’s lifetime. The successful completion of each stage can minimize feelings of depression whereas unsuccessful outcomes can accumulate and compound depression feelings. This becomes a type of reoccurring depression that requires therapy to resolve and heal from the past.
- Change in thought patterns. After several failed attempts at a business, Sue started believing that she was a failure. Her internal self-talk was so negative with thoughts like, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m never going to achieve,” and “I’m worthless”. It was void of any positivity. This unbalance led to a depressive disorder which required cognitive therapy to stop the negative self-talk.
- Repressed emotions. Dave’s go-get-it attitude served him well. By 40 years old, he achieved a level of success that he dreamed about as a kid. However, in order to get there, he ignored his physical and emotional needs which resulted in a severe ulcer and colitis. Now, forced to slow down, all of the emotions he ignored came to him in a flood. This type of emotional depression needs to work through in therapy. Once completed, many find that the physical symptoms are relieved after the emotional ones have been addressed.
- Emotional release. During a yoga pose, Monica became so overwhelmed with emotion that she started crying. It took a while for her to realize that her body had held onto sadness from a running injury and the pose she did, released it. But this type of release has a tendency to release other emotions that the body has stored. It takes some time for the body to work out past traumas, abuse, and injuries. As the body releases the emotion, a short-term depression ensues.
- Change in the body. As Kelsey aged, she began to hate her body. She was upset that despite exercise and eating right, she could not maintain the weight she wanted. Her body made it through two kids, a knee surgery, and a thyroid condition but still, she wasn’t satisfied. She wanted her old body back so she began to resort to her old eating disorder ways. This type of depression is related to body image and an eating disorder. Just because a person is no longer a teenager, doesn’t mean they are not susceptible to eating disorder depression. This requires treatment by a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and therapist.
- Financial stress. This may sound like an odd cause of depression, but it’s not. Adjusting to a fluctuating income, an uncertain economy, pressures from the demands of having a family, and trying to keep up with the Joneses can spark financial depression. Talking to a therapist and a financial planner is very helpful. Denying that financial stress is real will not make it go away, it just guarantees that it will remain longer.
- Spiritual low. When Scott made a commitment to change his lifestyle and live more consistently within his Christian roots, he thought everything would be better. And it was for a while, but then he encountered a spiritual depression where he couldn’t feel or hear from God anymore. This caused him to question his transformation and wonder if it was real. It is normal to have highs and lows in spiritual life. This type of depression requires self-awareness, acceptance, and patience.
While this list doesn’t cover all of the types and causes of depression, it is meant to highlight the most typical ones. Whatever the cause, it is not too late to get some professional help.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for assistance. The national suicide prevention lifeline is 800-273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.