Physiological Causes of Depression

January 30, 2011

Although we do know a fair amount about the factors that are involved with depression there are probably no single answers as to what causes people to become depressed. Research suggests that there are important genetic factors related to depression that express themselves terms of temperament. That is to say that some people are simply born with more of a tendency to be anxious, irritable, or depressed than other people.

However, other important physiological factors can also be involved. Depressive symptoms can be caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder, or by external chemicals including medications, illegal drugs, and alcohol. Sometimes hormonal changes, including those that occur during the week prior to menstruation or after the birth of a child, can create symptoms of depression.

Additional physical contributors to feelings of depression include environmental factors such as reduced exposure to light or physical inactivity. The long-held view that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain has recently come under increasing criticism. As our understanding develops, Neuroscientists have now begun to look more closely towards the circuitry of the brain to find answers as to why some people are more prone to depression than others.

The good news for individuals who suffer from depression is that physiological factors are just the tip of the iceberg of what causes depression. There are many psychological, social, and behavioral factors that play an equally important role in the development of depressive symptoms. These factors are far more amenable to change than our biology and are the reason that there is a great deal of optimism regarding the treatment of depression through the use of psychotherapy.


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