What Causes Clinical Depression?

By: Stuart Porter, NP


If you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, or if you are experiencing some of the symptoms, you may be wondering what’s causing it. There are actually many different contributing factors to clinical depression.

Depression can be caused by both biological and external or environmental factors. Read on to learn more about how clinical depression is caused and the various treatment options available.

Biological Factors

Clinical depression has many biological causes. The first is what many refer to as a chemical imbalance but may actually be faulty nerve cells in the brain. According to Harvard University, researchers are finding links between depression and slower communication between areas of the brain. So if you have depression, your brain could simply be struggling to create new neurons as quickly as it should.

Another factor that contributes to clinical depression is genetics. Research shows that mental illnesses like clinical depression run in families. So if a member of your immediate family has depression, you are more likely to have it as well.

Depression could also be a symptom or result of another medical issue like:

  • A vitamin deficiency
  • An autoimmune disorder like Lupus
  • A hormone imbalance
  • A degenerative neurological disorder like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s diseases
  • Low thyroid and other endocrine disorders
  • A virus like mononucleosis, hepatitis, or HIV
  • Cancer
  • Stroke

Similarly, depression is a common side effect of a lot of different medications, including antibiotics, antifungals, antimicrobials, antivirals, hormones, sleeping aids, heart and blood pressure medications, and a variety of others. Always be aware of the possible side effects of any medication you are taking and let your doctor know if you start to experience severe depression symptoms.

External Factors

Along with biological factors, there are external factors that can make you more prone to clinical depression. For example, a stressful life event like the loss of a job, a trauma like the loss of a loved one, or the trauma of abuse can all trigger a chemical reaction in your brain, causing depression.

Your environment can also contribute to your mood. About one to two percent of the population suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which usually occurs in the winter months. SAD is believed to be caused by lack of sunlight exposure, so going outside may help combat the symptoms of this disorder.

Treatment Options

Regardless of the cause of your clinical depression, you have a variety of treatment options. There are many medications that help promote serotonin production, which could help improve brain function. Your doctor may prescribe one of these medications to help relieve some of your depression symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that antidepressants usually take about a month to start working.

If you want to relieve your symptoms more quickly, ketamine therapy may be an option. Ketamine is an anesthetic, but it has proven itself an effective depression treatment when delivered in small doses through an IV.

Another option is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive treatment that provides similar results as antidepressant medications. TMS uses magnetic pulses to target the areas of the brain that are affected by depression. This treatment promotes serotonin production and helps damaged neurons repair themselves.

Finally, therapy is a great option for someone who is experiencing depression that was brought on by a stressful or traumatic event. Therapists can teach you the skills you need to cope with the stresses that life inevitably brings.

If you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, there is most definitely a cause as well as a number of different treatment options for you. Don’t give up hope. Contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to learn how you can take back your life. And visit our community resources page to find the support you need.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.