What causes depression?

October 3rd, 2023

Torben Bergland, MD

About 300 million people worldwide have a depressive disorder. Each person is unique. Each depression is unique. Though the symptoms maybe be similar, each person's pathway into depression is unique and often complex. In order to recover and heal from depression, it may be necessary to understand what caused the depression in the first place.

There are four essential dimensions to our lives; the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. Excessive stress in any of these aspects of our lives may push us down. Let's look closer at each of them.

The biological dimension is about what goes on in our bodies. Problems like physical illness, deficient diet, insufficient exercise, sleep deprivation, addictions, and genetic dispositions may increase the risk of depression.

The psychological dimension is about what goes on in our minds. The following personality traits may increase our risk of depression:

  • Worrying

  • Rumination

  • Perfectionism

  • Negativity

  • Low self-esteem

  • Excessive self-criticism

  • Relational insecurity

Such traits tend to affect our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors negatively. 

The social dimension is about the context and relationships we live in. Many people suffer traumatic and painful experiences like:

  • Neglect

  • Abuse

  • Conflicts

  • Loneliness

  • Loss

Such experiences may leave deep wounds and lasting scars. They take time to heal.

The spiritual dimension is about whatever gives us a sense of meaning, purpose, significance, and hope. If we feel disconnected from ourselves, family, community, work, nature, or God, life may feel empty and the future bleak.

All of us carry burdens others cannot see. All of us have struggles that others do not know. Therefore, we all need kindness, support, and someone to share our burdens with. When each dimension of life is filled with good things, they may lift us up, not push us down.

In the next article, we’ll explore what goes on in the depressed brain.

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