Exploring what may contribute to depression can help in possibly knowing what to do to avoid it.
Before we go any further, I want to get one thing straight. There is no single cause of depression, we simply do not know enough about the brain and its functioning to know what may cause it; or even why some people will get depressed when others, given the same or similar circumstances, will still be able to function.
The Black Dog institute of Australia concluded after research that people with the following personality types are more at risk of developing depression than others. Those who are high on the first four factors are at distinctly greater risk to depression (especially non-melancholic depression):
1. High levels of anxiety, which can be experienced as an internalised ‘anxious worrying’ style or as a more externalised ‘irritability’
2. Shyness expressed as ‘social avoidance’ and/or ‘personal reserve’
3. Self-criticism or low self-worth
4. High interpersonal sensitivity
5. Perfectionism is somewhat protective against the onset of depression but if depression occurs, it can result in longer episodes
6. A ‘self-focused’ style is likely to be at greater risk for brief depressive episodes only
If you recognise any of the above as traits you may possess, do not panic. A higher risk does not necessarily mean that it will happen, but it can be useful to acknowledge the risk in order to look at ways you can reduce the risk.
It is important to note that there is no single cause for depression; rather it’s a combination of stress and a person’s vulnerability to developing depression. Some key factors that can contribute are:
• The predisposition to developing depression can be inherited
• Other biological causes for depression can include physical illness, the process of ageing and gender
• Stress can trigger depression but understanding its particular meaning to the person is important
• Certain temperament and personality styles pose risks for developing non-melancholic depression
Establishing a healthy lifestyle containing the three foundations for mental health of:
In addition, becoming aware of your own personal risk factors and learning active coping mechanisms for if/when stressful or depressing situations happen can be a good idea as well.
One thing that I think is useful to remember is that in life things happen that can be depressing, upsetting and make us sad. Losing a loved one for example is a naturally depressing situation. Being sad in such circumstances does not necessarily mean "depression" will result. Sadness is a normal reaction to situations of loss, learning how to process grief and giving ourselves permission to grieve may go a long way to reducing the incidence of depression in society.
Bad things happen, traumatic events occur. I sometimes wonder if there isn't too much focus put in the media on being "happy", being "strong", pushing aside feelings of grief and sadness simply because it can be challenging to witness in others.
Allowing ourselves to simply feel can be valuable. Realising that anxiety and depression are common conditions that can affect anyone at anytime can be relieving in itself.
You are not alone!
Instead of feeling that we "should" be able to cope, or that we "mustn't" be sad for long can lead to suppression of emotions which, if continued for a period of time may lead to the more serious aspects of depression.
One of the most damaging expressions can be "it will get better in time", this can put an unrealistic expectation onto us that there is somehow a magic time frame after which we "should" be alright.
Instead, recognising that we are all different, each of our set of experiences and circumstances are unique. There is no one in the whole world with the exact same life history and current situation to us. Recognising this can help us realise that we will all process distressing events in a different way.
Learning what works for each of us, acknowledging and allowing our feelings of sadness and/or fear at distressing events can be a powerful way to start the healing process.