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Causes, types & treatments for depression

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Updated on March 7, 2016

Life is full of circumstances beyond our control. Tough times are characterized by sadness, mood downswings, and feelings of despair. Often, these feelings can be mistaken for depression. However, depression is a medical condition that can’t be simply characterized by sadness or feelings of despair. On the contrary, some depressed people may not even exhibit any signs of sadness. Depression takes a toll on an individual’s day to day life and may last for quite a while, making it difficult to function and enjoy life in the same way as before. Nevertheless, on a brighter side, depression can be treated if an appropriate diagnosis is given. The first step towards overcoming the problem is to understand the causes, signs, symptoms, and treatment of depression.

Types of Depression

Depression can take many forms which include major, mild, manic, and seasonal depression. Major depression is characterized by an individual’s inability to experience pleasure and enjoy life. If untreated, it can last for up to six months. The symptoms are constant and can be recurring.

Dysthymia is a mild type of depression during which an individual feels mildly depressed with a possibility of brief periods of normal mood. The symptoms are not as intense as compared to major depression, but they can last for up to two years.

Manic depression is characterized by alternating depression and manic episodes. It is treated differently from other forms of depression as antidepressants can worsen it. Manic depression is also called bipolar disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is another type of depression that changes with seasonal patterns. It comes with the onset of winter as the days become shorter (fewer sunlight hours).

Causes and Risk Factors of Depression

Unlike most illnesses that have a specific cause, depression is complicated. There is no specific or straightforward cause of depression that has been established. However, according to experts, depression is brought about by a blend of psychological, biological, and social factors. Therefore, your coping skills, lifestyle choices, and relationships can play a part in causing depression in addition to certain risk factors that can make you more vulnerable. Some of the causes and risk factors of depression are as summarized below:

  • Substance abuse
  • Relationships and marital problems
  • Loneliness
  • Family history of depression
  • Financial problems
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Health problems or chronic pain
  • Lack of social support
  • Stressful life experiences
  • Unemployment

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Symptoms Unlike sadness, depression symptoms can last for a long time and affect your day to day activities including your social life and ability to work. One gets stuck with unrelenting and intense feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness. These symptoms may vary from one individual to another; it is important to seek medical assistance if you experience the following depression symptoms.

  • Weight or Appetite changes
  • Anger and irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of interest in normal day to day activities
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Feeling physically drained, fatigued, sluggish and tired
  • Increased physical complaints such as back pains, headaches, stomach pain, or muscle aches
  • Reckless behavior such as substance abuse or compulsive gambling
  • Self-loathing


Your depression treatment is determined by the cause of depression. Therefore, it is important to understand the underlying cause of your depression for you to be able to overcome the problem. When it comes to treatment, what works for you may not work for another person; therefore, the treatment may vary among different individuals. You and your doctor will need to take some time to look at the varying treatment methods so as to settle on the best approach which in many cases may involve a combination of lifestyle changes, social support, emotional skills building, medication, and professional help.

On the other hand, making healthy lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on depression, although they are not a full depression treatment. Such changes include:

  • Challenging negative thoughts
  • Cultivating supportive relationships
  • Healthy eating to naturally boost mood
  • Practicing relaxation techniques