What causes depression?

What causes depression?

The causes of depression are not entirely understood. Things that may trigger depression include:

  • Major events that create stress, such as childbirth or a death in the family.
  • Illnesses, such as arthritis, heart disease, or cancer.
  • Certain medicines, such as steroids or narcotics for pain relief.
  • Drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs.

These and other factors can cause certain brain chemicals to get out of balance. As soon as the imbalance is corrected, symptoms of depression generally go away.

What are the symptoms?

Depression can cause different symptoms in different people, and they may be hard to notice at first. For example, a child may seem grouchy and irritable. An older adult may be forgetful. If you think a loved one is depressed, learn more about what symptoms to look for, and urge the person to get help if needed.

People who are depressed may:

  • Think and speak more slowly than normal.
  • Have trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.
  • Have changes in their eating and sleeping habits.
  • Lose interest in things they enjoyed before they were depressed.
  • Have feelings of guilt and hopelessness, wondering if life is worth living.
  • Think a lot about death or suicide.
  • Complain about problems that don't have a physical cause, such as headache and stomachache.

All of these symptoms can cause a problem with your quality of life. If you have had a few of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. You may have depression that requires treatment.

If you think you may have depression, take a short quiz to evaluate your symptoms:


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