There is no formula that leads to depression. Based on the most advanced research it can involve either physiological processes, or external circumstances, or both. This is what makes it difficult for doctors — especially if they are only seeing you once — to understand the factors that are playing a role in your situation.
Think of depression (and mental illness) like a case of “which comes first — chicken or the egg?”. Except in this case, it’s more like which came first, “the mood or the behavior?”. That is to say, did some malfunction occur in the way your body works? Or, did something happen to you that caused a change, overtime, in your brain chemistry?
And, are you truly depressed from a chemical imbalance. Or, are you simply stressed and have learned to deal with it through avoidance behaviors?
This next section will help you decipher the difference. You won’t read this explanation anywhere else. A doctor may tell you different but based on what I know about depression this is how I see it and explain it.
How can you get depression? There are two ways it develops and they are often connected
Neurological contributors that cause depression
Shifts in your biology during different development periods and/or as a result of your own actions can lead to brain chemical imbalances. Here are the two ways your brain chemistry can be affected:
- a) Developmental: Changes happen naturally as your body hits developmental milestones, such as hormonal shifts.
For example, there are studies that suggest that women during perimenopause (the period leading up to menopause) may be more susceptible to depression due to decline in the hormone estrogen.
- b) Intentional: There are actions you can take that lead to depression. If you aren’t eating healthy foods (we’ll get to this later) it can negatively affect your mood.
This is easy to understand if you think about the effects you may experience from exercise. Immediately after you exercise your brain receives a surge of chemicals called endorphins. They cause you to feel relaxed and joyful.
So, if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Or, you encounter a developmental milestone, it’s important to be aware that these physiological factors can greatly affect the way you feel.
Circumstantial contributors that cause depression
Throughout your life, small or large traumas can happen to you (with or without your control). When they happen to you the way you learn from them can lead to negative thought and unhealthy behavioral patterns.
Your brain is hardwired to ensure your survival. It’s simply a information processing system. So based on outside events, it learns how to act. Your brain actually makes a decision on what to do before you take action.
Your thoughts also lead to changes in your brain’s anatomy. Those structural changes can lead to brain chemical issues.
Thought patterns over time cement new pathways. And pathways can result in chronic negative thoughts. Your brain anatomy naturally adapts and prunes communication pathways that aren’t being used properly. This process is known in scientific circles as: Neuroplasticity. So if you are sad for a long time it can actually lead to neurological changes in your brain’s anatomy and function.