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Depressed Businessman

Causes of major depressive disorder may be biological, psychological, social, evolutionary, and/or drug and alcohol use. Researchers and psychiatrists alike believe that these are all factors that play a role in causing depression.


Researchers have discovered that there is an association between clinical depression and the functioning of three major neurochemicals, which are organic molecules such as serotonin, dopamine, and/or nerve growth factor that aid in the development of neural activity. The presence of an anti-depressant influences the balance of the three neurotransmitters that are housed within structures of the brain; they regulate emotion, reaction to stress, and the physical drive related to sleep, appetite, and sexuality. For example, norepinephrine is released when physiological changes are activated by a stressful event. Serotonin regulates neurotransmitter systems; decreased serotonin may affect how the neurotransmitter system behaves. As a result, depression arises as a result of low serotonin levels promoting low levels of norepinephrine.


Negative emotionality is a common precursor to depression. In fact, personality and its development are both integral to the occurrence and persistence of depression. Because depressive episodes tend to be correlated with adverse events, how a person copes with depression provides insight into their aptitude for resilience. Low self-esteem and distorted thinking are directly correlated to depression. Depression is less likely to occur for people who are religious, even though it is always not clear what are the causes and effects of depression. The main consensus among professionals is this: people who reflect upon their thinking and challenge their own beliefs often demonstrate improved mood and increased self-esteem.


Poverty and social isolation contribute to the increased risk of mental health problems. Child abuse is often a factor for developing one or more depressive disorders. During the time a child is learning how to become a social being, he or she is at greater risk for depression. Abuse of a child by a caregiver affects learning and distorts personality. In addition, major disturbances within the family dynamic, such as parental depression (particularly maternal), often contribute to the onset of additional depressive episodes. Life events that include marital conflict or divorce, death, and related parental problems are evidence of events that increasingly de-sensitize individuals to life, subsequently preparing them for depression.


As some evolutionary theorists suggest, major depression may increase reproductive fitness. Theorists posit that depression may be genetically incorporated into a human gene pool, which accounts for high heritability statistics and prevalence of depression among certain demographics. Depression is also a highly adaptive behavior relating to attachment and social rank. Current behaviors reveal much about adaptations that involve regulating relationships and resources. On the other hand, a counseling therapist’s view of depression is contrary to that of the general consensus that it has biochemical implications. The therapist suggests that depression is a suite of emotional programs activated by perception, over-negative, and a decline in individual usefulness; this decline is linked to guilt, shame, and rejection, albeit perceived. This suite of emotional programs has its base in ancient civilization where hunters were marginalized for their declining skills. This marginalization practice has evolved into a type of psychic misery.

Drug and Alcohol Use

High levels of substance abuse typically occur in the psychiatric population. Substance abuse is frequently linked to alcohol, sedatives, and cannabis and is a general topic among mental health community professionals. Depression and related mental health problems often have a substance-induced cause, making a dual diagnosis with respect to mental ill-health and substance abuse co-occuring and an integral part of the psychiatric evaluation. According to the DSM-IV, mental health professionals can diagnosis a patient with a mood disorder if the cause of the decreased mood is linked to the physiological effects of a substance. In other words, alcoholism, or the excessive use of alcohol, is a major contributor to the increased risk of developing major depression. Benzodiazepine, a psychoactive drug commonly used for alcohol detoxification, is a type of central nervous system depressant; the drug is used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and muscular spasms. Because it is a depressant, mental health professionals cannot make a dual diagnosis when both a mental health issue and the treatment of alcohol abuse are co-ocurring since certain drugs such as benzodiazepine increase risks associated with developing major depression. Chronic use of the drug can worsen depression and contribute to a protracted withdrawal syndrome. Methamphetamine abuse is also commonly linked to depression.

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