What is Depression?

What causes depression?

There is no single cause of depression. It seems to be due to a combination of factors, including life events (such as a death in the family, a significant relationship breakdown or prolonged periods of school or work stress) and biological factors (genetics or hormones). Having said that, there really is no simple answer for why people experience depression.

Dr Stewart Hase: You’ve probably had the experience of using a torch that gradually became dimmer and dimmer as the battery lost its power. Your brain is an electrical system. It consists of millions of cells called neurons that become active when stimulated by certain chemicals. So, when you speak or move, or sense something, that is the result of a chain of chemical reactions that create a small electric current. In depression, just like in our battery, the chemicals in the brain malfunction and do not supply enough electricity for the brain to work properly.

Depression seems to run in families and, recently, some genes have been identified that appear in about 40% of people with depression. Some people with the ‘depression gene’ will start experiencing symptoms early in life, others later. Depression can also be caused by stressful life events that seem to overpower the person or from prolonged stress. Often, people who experience depression also experience anxiety.