If you are depressed, it is not always easy to figure out why. Depression is rarely triggered by a single cause, and often has complex and multiple causes. Depression can come from a mixture of genetics, adverse childhood experiences, other past events, current circumstances, and a range of other risk factors. Here you read about 7 common contributing causes of depression.

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This article is based on an overview made by WebMD, and on current research results in connection with the various aspects described. Here are some of the factors that can play a role in depression.


  1. Biology. Researchers have long tried to find out what happens in the brain when people become depressed. Research has shown that certain types of neurotransmitters in the brain - including serotonin, GABA and dopamine - appear to play a role in what is called "depressive states". These findings are interpreted to indicate that biological conditions play a contributing role in relation to depression. 
  2. Genetics. Researchers have shown that when there is a clear incidence of depression in your family, you have a higher chance of becoming depressed. A higher risk of depression has been found in people where a first-degree relative has depression. Genetic relationships are complex, and for example, being able to have a genetic predisposition for personality traits such as neuroticism will also help to explain that some people have a higher genetic risk of depression than others.
  3. Sex. Studies suggest that women have a higher risk than men of becoming depressed, but it is difficult to judge for sure why this is so. Early life events, mental health problems, and sociocultural roles may explain why women are at a higher risk than men of developing depression.
  4. Health conditions. Both depression and anxiety are common sequelae of somatic health disorders. Conditions such as cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, and many other physical ailments are mentioned as conditions that can increase the risk of becoming depressed.
  5. Trauma and grief. Trauma, such as violence or physical or mental abuse - whether early in life or more recently - can trigger depression. Grief after the death of a friend or loved one is in itself a normal feeling, but (like all forms of loss) grief can sometimes lead to depression. Studies suggest that childhood trauma may contribute to an increased risk of depression by making the person more vulnerable to responding to stressors later in life. 
  6. Changes and stressful events. It is not surprising that people can become depressed during stressful circumstances in life - for example during a divorce or while having to provide extensive care for a sick family member. It has also been shown that positive changes - such as getting married or starting a new job - can sometimes trigger depression. It has been described in studies that the stressful events in themselves cannot explain why one gets a depression, but that it is also related to the underlying vulnerability of the person who is exposed to the stressful life events. 
  7. Medications and psychoactive substances. Many prescription drugs can cause symptoms of depression. However, it is described that an ordinary depression differs somewhat from the depression-like conditions that can be triggered as side effects of drugs. It is not uncommon for depressed people to develop alcohol problems or substance abuse, and it often turns out that alcohol and drug problems can lead to a further worsening of the depressive state.


Some people have a clear experience that they are depressed. For others, depression may be more hidden, but still fully present. Depression is often a reaction to difficult and often complex life difficulties, and people are endowed with different vulnerabilities to react depressively to stressful life events. Depression is a mental illness that can affect many people - and regardless of the cause, there are good ways to both prevent and treat depression.