Causes & Effects of Depression

Understanding Depression

Learn about Depression Treatment

Everyone will experience sadness at one point or another. Feeling sad is completely normal, but when this emotion begins to overpower everyday living, it can be a sign of a much bigger problem.

Depression is a mental health disorder that can deeply impact your life, and cause symptoms such as irritability, pervasive sadness, and an overall feeling of emptiness. Physical symptoms can also develop, adding to an already distressing experience.

There are many different kinds of depression; however, the most common are major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Regardless of the kind of depression that you might be experiencing, treatment is available.


Statistics about Depression

Depressive disorders are extremely common throughout America. The following statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) help describe its pervasiveness:

  • 8 million adults in the United States are affected by depression.
  • Depression typically begins between ages 18 and 25, then increases after age 50.
  • Women are 1.4 to 3 times more likely to report symptoms of major depressive disorder than men

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

factors. Some of the most common genetic and environmental causes and risk factors of depressive disorders include the following:

  • Traumatic events
  • Bullying in childhood
  • Gender (women are more likely than men to report depression)
  • Family history of depressive disorders
  • Age
  • Substance use disorders
  • Loss of a loved one

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

When a depressive disorder has set in, you can experience your own set of unique signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms will likely depend on circumstances such as the kind of depressive disorder you are experiencing and what your history looks like. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of depressive disorders include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Slowed movements and speech, or a decrease in movement or speech
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Less attendance in social activities or pleasurable activities
  • Crying or tearfulness
  • Anxiety or jittery behavior
  • A decline in work or school performance

Physical symptoms:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue or listlessness
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Oversleeping or inability to sleep
  • Somatic pains such as headaches or stomachaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Slowed cognitions
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Distractibility
  • Trouble making decisions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Shame, guilt, or sadness
  • Withdrawal from usual activities
  • Irritable affect
  • Thoughts of suicide or wanting to “give up”

Lasting Effects

Effects of Depressive Disorders

A depressive disorder that continues without treatment can become extremely dangerous, especially if it is occurring alongside another condition like a substance use disorder. Many effects can develop in the face of depressive disorders, including the following:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Job loss
  • Substance use
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Self-harm
  • Relationship conflict and strain
  • Sleep problems and exhaustion
  • Difficulty keeping up with work or responsibilities
  • Family conflict
  • Risky or dangerous behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse or Mental Health Issues

It is not uncommon for an individual with a depressive disorder to also grapple with symptoms of another mental health condition, which is known as having a co-occurring disorder. Someone with a depressive disorder is at greater risk for struggling with the following mental health issues:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
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