Understanding Depression

Causes | Basics | Symptoms | Signs | Types of Depression

Biological Causes | Genetic Causes | Environmental Causes
Psychological Causes | Medical Illness Causes | Other Causes.

Most experts think psychological factors can play a role in the development of depression. There are a number of psychological factors that can be influential as a cause and we will review them on this page. However, it is usually the combination of two or more major factors that can lead to an episode of depression. For example, a combination of biological, environmental and psychological factors could be involved in a depressive disorder.

Psychological Causes of Depression

There are number of psychological factors that have been identified that can make you susceptible to depression. We will use two broad categories to list and discuss these factors - extraneous and inner.

Extraneous psychological factors

The following extraneous psychological factors can increase the risk of depression in individuals. Please note that all the factors below deal with childhood experiences.

  • Physical and/or sexual abuse.
  • Frequent discord in the home.
  • Siblings that were shown greater parental approval and partiality over others.
  • Excessive demands and standards were imposed on the children.
  • Excessive humiliation and shame were used as disciplinary tools.
  • Early loss of one or both parents (death or divorce).
  • Emotionally distant parent(s), lack of support, warmth, comfort, and love.

However, the latter two factors in the list above are more significant and more important in the understanding of psychological causes of depression. An interesting statistic is that children who are raised by distant parent(s) - with little or no support, warmth, comfort or love - become adults with a risk factor ten times greater than the general population of developing depression. This is a significant statistic and most experts agree that these adults are more vulnerable to develop depression, particularity when other factors are present.

There are additional extraneous factors that are part of "present-day" life that also increase the risk of depression. Although these "present-day" factors can contribute to an episode of depression, they are considered less significant than the childhood factors mentioned earlier on this page. Some of more common "present-day" factors contributing to depression are:

  • Loneliness
  • Unhappy relationship with your spouse or partner
  • Difficult divorce
  • Unhappy working environment
  • Lack of employment for extended periods

Of the five factors above, loneliness is perhaps the most significant in its role in depression. This is because you do not have a close friend to talk to about your problems. Acquaintances are not a substitute for close friends. You need somebody with whom you can trust and share your most personal thoughts and problems.

Inner (inherent) psychological factors

Inner or inherent psychological factors are also referred to as personality traits. Various types of personality traits can influence or cause an episode of depression. The most common psychological personality traits that can be linked to the development of depression are:

  • Pessimistic attitudes and thinking
  • Excessive emotional sensitivity
  • Excessive passive behavior
  • Perfectionstic attitude or personality
  • Inability to trust other people
  • Emotional dependence on others
  • Low or fluctuating levels of self-esteem

Pessimistic people have a strong tendency to think and express themselves in a negative manner when encountering a problem. They typically see the glass as being "half empty" while others see it as "half full." Another interesting statistic is that young people with pessimistic and negative attitudes are 16 times more at risk of depression than other people. Three major signs of negative and pessimistic thinking are:

    1. A belief that your life is full of bad experiences.
    2. A belief that your life will continue to be full of bad experiences.
    3. A habit of blaming yourself for every misfortune.

People with excessive emotional sensitivity are seen as nervous or emotionally volatile. They tend to react with strong negative feelings when confronted with some of life's problems. Sometimes they are described as touchy

People with excessive passive behavior are identified by a certain group of reactions to problems and misfortune. A person with this behavior will typically become discouraged with the "search for a solution" and essentially give-up or run-away from the problem. Generally this is a learned behavior from childhood. This person has failed to learn how to resolve problems. Solving problems requires rational thought, definition, and a strategy for a solution. As one wise sage once said, "Defining the problem well is 50% of the solution."

People with some of these psychological factors present are more likely to develop depression because they are less able to cope with stress and find solutions to life problems within their family, work and social environments. They tend to be overwhelmed by stress, tension and problems where others are not. Therefore, if you have some of these psychological factors present in your life, what can you do? Read about treating depression.

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