What causes clinical depression?

For better or for worse, depression seems to be an increasingly common topic everywhere you turn. While so many people reporting so much sadness isn’t something to celebrate, it is good to know that the stigma surrounding mental health disorders like depression is starting to dissipate – and that more and more people are courageously speaking up about their experiences.

Depression doesn’t discriminate; anyone can be diagnosed. Wealthy people. Impoverished people. People who love going to the gym, and do so religiously. People with chronic physical ailments. Young people. The elderly. Students. CEOs. Literally anyone can find themselves depressed – because depression can occur for so many reasons, triggered by so many things.

For some of us, depression is a result of a stressful life event, like the death of a loved one, divorce, a job loss, or financial instability. While all of us will experience an upsetting event like this at some point, not all of us will get through it unscathed. Some of us will feel low for so long that it sticks – and turns into depression.

There’s also some proof that one negative thing can lead to another, so the initial stressful life event may not bring depression on all on its own, but the domino effect can. For instance, you may lose your job, which causes financial strain. This anxiety may cause distress between you and your partner, which might bring on arguments, distance, or sometimes, a break up. That heartbreak may cause you to withdraw from your friends or family. And all of this, together, can cause you to become depressed.

So while there are no hard and fast rules to becoming depressed, there are certain circumstances which may put you at risk.

Stressful life events

A death in the family. A relationship breakdown. A major loss. A move. Financial collapse. All of these can be extremely hard on a person, and the sadness can last much longer and deeper than you ever anticipated.

Family history of mental illness

If anyone in your family has had a history with mental illness, you’re at a higher risk for developing one yourself, especially if the individual is a member of your immediate family, like a parent or a sibling.


If you’re not the type of person to surround yourself with loved ones or friends, or if you’ve become alienated through the years, your risk of depression is greater. Loneliness is a trigger, even for those who are always around other people.


Have you assessed your own take on who you are? Do you think you’re unlovable, unlikeable, unintelligent, cowardly, or other negative things? People who have low self-esteem and low self-worth are at a higher risk of developing depression. If you grew up hearing how small or insignificant you were, that might have something to do with your self view now.

Substance abuse

If you rely on drugs or alcohol to feel better or get by, that’s a sign that you need help for addiction, but it could also mean that you’re headed for depression, if you’re not already there. It’s been proven that alcohol changes brain chemistry, which can increase the risk for depression.

Chronic illness

People who are living with a life-threatening illness, like cancer, are at a higher risk of depression; so are those who have suffered severe head injuries. The fatigue, constant appointments, heavy medication, and persistent reminders of the ailment can all cause depression.

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