According to the National Institutes of Health, depression is most likely the result of a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, and social factors. “We don’t really know what causes depression,” says Dr Victor Schwartz, who works to protect teen and young adult emotional health. For many people, the episodes stem from a loss or a disturbing life change, he says. Certain medical conditions such as an under active thyroid, cancer, and heart disease may also trigger depression. So too, can hormonal imbalances that happen after childbirth and during menopause. “Medications such as sedatives, sleeping pills, and high blood pressure medication can also precipitate depression symptoms,” Dr Schwartz says.
Dr Peter Economou, a cognitive behavioural therapy specialist, says that diagnosing depression isn’t easy. “It’s not like a strep test – there is no positive or negative result with mental health because there are an infinite number of variables that can contribute to depression.”
An overwhelming feeling of sadness
Feeling sad is an emotion that is part of everyday life. But if it lasts more than two weeks and others are noticing your mood change, it may be time to consider whether you might have depression. If you’re not sure, here’s a way to determine the difference between clinical depression and everyday sadness. A good rule of thumb, according to Dr Schwartz, is to recognise if you’re handling sadness in a way that’s different from your past reactions to the emotion. For example, if you turn to substance or alcohol abuse, that may be an indication that you’re depressed and not merely sad. If sadness is interfering with the way a person lives their life, it may call for a medical evaluation, he says. A medical professional can help determine if therapy or medication might help you, or recommend other lifestyle changes that may help such as diet, exercise, or more socialisation.