While depression can happen to anyone, for reasons that are not always fully understood, a number of factors may put you at greater risk for depression. In many cases, these factors cannot be proven to cause depression, but there are strong correlations between them and the occurrence of depressive episodes. Some risk factors may be preventable with lifestyle changes, while others may only be treatable through intervention from mental health professionals. There is no way to say with certainty what actually caused any given bout of depression. Only a qualified mental health professional can help you evaluate your depression and determine potentially beneficial treatments.
Lifestyle risks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also co-exist with depression. Research shows that mood disorders and substance abuse commonly occur together.” While it’s not clear whether substance abuse causes depression or vice versa, there is a very high chance that if you’re a substance abuser, then you will have depression as well. In addition, excessive use of caffeine and nicotine may also lead to depression, especially during periods after heavy use. Stress, lack of sufficient good-quality sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet and lack of sunlight may also contribute to depression.
Traumatic events. Certain events — such as the loss of a loved one or a potentially life-threatening event like an injury or illness — may lead to one or more bouts of depression. While it is extremely common and natural to have an initial mourning phase following a loss, there are times when it can turn into an ongoing issue that will likely require some kind of therapy or treatment. In addition, some events may lead to other mental health issues such as PTSD, which are often accompanied by bouts of moderate to severe depression.
Family links. It’s not certain whether or not depression is genetic, but it does seem to run in families. One hypothesis is that families are often exposed to similar circumstances or are brought up in similar ways of thinking that may lead to depression issues. A genetic component may contribute to imbalances of important mood-regulating chemicals in the brain. Whatever the cause, if you have family members who suffer from depression, then you are also considered to be at higher risk.