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Depression - Cause

Depression is a disease. It isn't caused by personal weakness, and it isn't a character flaw. When you have depression, there may be problems with activity levels in certain parts of your brain, or chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters may be out of balance.

Most experts believe that a combination of family history (your genes) and stressful life events may cause depression.

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  • Genes: Your chance of having a bout of depression is greater if other family members have had depression. You may have inherited a trait that makes you more likely to get depressed. If this is true for you, a stressful life event is more likely to trigger depression.
  • Thinking styles: How you think can affect how you feel. You may be more likely to become depressed if you tend to:
    • Think in extremes. For example, thinking, "If I can't do something perfectly, I might as well quit."
    • Concentrate on your weaknesses and ignore your strengths.
    • Take things personally that have little or nothing to do with you. For example, if your boss has a stern look on his or her face, you think "My boss must be mad at me, because he (or she) is not smiling."
    • Pay attention to the dark side of things, or exaggerate the chances of a bad outcome. For example, thinking "If I make a mistake, I will be fired from my job."
  • Life events: Stressful life events can trigger depression. For example, you could become depressed if you have:
    • Lost a loved one.
    • Had a baby (depression after childbirth).
    • Recently divorced.
    • Been diagnosed with a long-term disease such as diabetes or heart disease.

Sometimes even happy life events, such as a marriage or promotion, can trigger depression because of the stress that comes with change.

Just because you have a family member with depression or have stressful life events doesn't mean you'll get depression. You also may get depression without going through a stressful event.

Other causes

Health problems also can cause depression. For example, both anemia and an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can lead to depression. Treating the health problem usually cures the depression.

Certain medicines, such as steroids or narcotics, can cause depression. If you stop using the medicine, the depression may go away.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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