Physical Causes Of Postpartum Depression
It is most commonly believed that postpartum depression stems from the drastic hormonal changes that take place during and after childbirth. Decreased estrogen and progesterone levels place the body into a sudden hormonal shift. This is thought to trigger emotional repercussions.
However, many non-depressed women experience the same drop in hormones and have the same estrogen levels as women who do have PPD.
Sleep deprivation may also play a large role in causing postpartum depression. Following childbirth, women often do not get enough sleep due to their new responsibilities caring for their child. A lack of sleep can greatly impact how a woman functions, feels and handles situations. Without proper and consistent sleep, women may start to exhibit signs of postpartum depression.
Life Expectancy And The Risk Of Suicide
Depressed individuals have a shorter life expectancy than those without depression, in part because people who are depressed are at risk of dying of suicide. Up to 60% of people who die of suicide have a mood disorder such as major depression, and the risk is especially high if a person has a marked sense of hopelessness or has both depression and borderline personality disorder. About 2â8% of adults with major depression die by suicide, and about 50% of people who die by suicide had depression or another mood disorder. The lifetime risk of suicide associated with a diagnosis of major depression in the US is estimated at 3.4%, which averages two highly disparate figures of almost 7% for men and 1% for women . The estimate is substantially lower than a previously accepted figure of 15%, which had been derived from older studies of people who were hospitalized.
Depressed people have a higher rate of dying from other causes. There is a 1.5- to 2-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease, independent of other known risk factors, and is itself linked directly or indirectly to risk factors such as smoking and obesity. People with major depression are less likely to follow medical recommendations for treating and preventing cardiovascular disorders, further increasing their risk of medical complications.Cardiologists may not recognize underlying depression that complicates a cardiovascular problem under their care.
How Can I Help A Loved One Who Is Depressed
If someone you know has depression, help them see a health care provider or mental health professional. You also can:
- Offer support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Invite them out for walks, outings, and other activities.
- Help them stick to their treatment plan, such as setting reminders to take prescribed medications.
- Make sure they have transportation to therapy appointments.
- Remind them that, with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
Take comments about suicide seriously, and report them to your loved ones health care provider or therapist. If they are in immediate distress or thinking about hurting themselves, call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Don’t Miss: Can Depression Get Worse With Age
Depression Causes Within The Brain
Neurochemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine help regulate mood and the sense of pleasure. If their levels become low or imbalanced, the brain doesnt work optimally, mood isnt regulated evenly or correctly, and depression can arise.
Structures within the brain are involved in depression as well. The prefrontal cortex, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and hippocampus are involved, among other functions, in stress responses, emotions both negative and positive, and thoughts. As with the brains neurochemistry, the brains structures can become thrown off-kilter and lead to depression as a result.
In addition to activity within the brain, outside factors impact the brain and its ability to keep us depression-free. Any of the other causative factors can change or interfere in how the brain operates.
Genetics can fall into this category as well. Having a first-degree relativea parent, sibling, or childwith depression increases someones chances of also developing depression. This isnt a guarantee, of course, and minimizing other depression causes can help negate heredity.
Risk Factors For Depression
Depression can affect anyoneeven a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances.
Several factors can play a role in depression:
- Biochemistry: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.
- Genetics: Depression can run in families. For example, if one identical twin has depression, the other has a 70 percent chance of having the illness sometime in life.
- Personality: People with low self-esteem, who are easily overwhelmed by stress, or who are generally pessimistic appear to be more likely to experience depression.
- Environmental factors: Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty may make some people more vulnerable to depression.
You May Like: How Long Does Postnatal Depression Last
Who Is At High Risk For Depression
Those most at risk for developing depression include women, the elderly, those with a personal or family history of depression, chronic stressors, those with other concurrent mental and physical health conditions, low socioeconomic status, and those taking medications that may cause depression, like birth control or some anxiety medications.
What Can I Do At Home To Feel Better While Seeing A Doctor For Postpartum Depression
Here are some ways to begin feeling better or getting more rest, in addition to talking to a health care professional:
- Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
- Dont try to do too much or to do everything by yourself. Ask your partner, family, and friends for help.
- Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
- Talk about your feelings with your partner, supportive family members, and friends.
- Talk with other mothers so that you can learn from their experiences.
- Join a support group. Ask your doctor or nurse about groups in your area.
- Dont make any major life changes right after giving birth. More major life changes in addition to a new baby can cause unneeded stress. Sometimes big changes cant be avoided. When that happens, try to arrange support and help in your new situation ahead of time.
It can also help to have a partner, a friend, or another caregiver who can help take care of the baby while you are depressed. If you are feeling depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby, dont suffer alone. Tell a loved one and call your doctor right away.
Recommended Reading: What Can I Take For Depression During Pregnancy
What Are The Risk Factors For Depression
Risk factors for depression are elements in your life that increase your chances of developing depression. Numerous types of depression risk factors exist. Some are part of the world in which you live, while others are within you. Any single risk factor can make you more susceptible to depression, but the fewer you have, the smaller your chances for being diagnosed with depression. This illness becomes more likely as risk factors accumulate and eventually reach a tipping point. Knowing what the risk factors are for depression can help you avoid or minimize them to nurture your mental health.
Life Events And Depression
Research suggests that continuing difficulties, such as long-term unemployment, living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, long-term isolation or loneliness or prolonged exposure to stress at work can increase the risk of depression.
Significant adverse life events, such as losing a job, going through a separation or divorce, or being diagnosed with a serious illness, may also trigger depression, particularly among people who are already at risk because of genetic, developmental or other personal factors.
You May Like: Who To Go To For Depression And Anxiety
Natural Approaches To Depression
Depression requires active treatment, because the disorder can have enduring effects on brain function that make future episodes more likely. The longer a depression episode lasts, the more likely a future episode.
However, there are many ways to treat depression, and some of the most effective, especially in cases of mild to moderate disorder, do not require a prescription or medical-type intervention of any kind.
Depression can be seen as a kind of cave, and it takes some time and effort to get out of the cave. But it is possible, usually by learning some new patterns of thinking and doing. Nutrition plays a role as well.
For more see Natural Approaches to Depression.
List Of Depression Causes
As researchers continue to look for answers about this frustrating, often debilitating illness, they are discovering factors that seem to be depression causes. These include:
- Ones environment
- Social elements
Each of these has its own set of factors that are linked to depression. The more you know about them, the more you can minimize their effects or, when thats not possible, at least be aware of what they are so you can monitor your mood and general health and stay ahead of depression or prevent a depression relapse.
Don’t Miss: How To Cure Depression And Anxiety
How Is Biology Related To Depression
Researchers have noted differences in the brains of people who have clinical depression compared with those who do not. For instance, the hippocampus, a small part of the brain that is vital to the storage of memories, appears to be smaller in some people with a history of depression than in those who’ve never been depressed. A smaller hippocampus has fewer serotonin receptors. Serotonin is one of many brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that allow communication across circuits that connect the brain regions involved in processing emotions.
Scientists do not know why the hippocampus may be smaller in some people with depression. Some researchers have found that the stress hormone cortisol is produced in excess in depressed people. These investigators believe that cortisol has a toxic or “shrinking” effect on the development of the hippocampus. Some experts think depressed people may be simply born with a smaller hippocampus and are thus inclined to have depression. There are many other brain regions, and pathways between specific regions, thought to be involved with depression, and likely, no single brain structure or pathway fully accounts for clinical depression.
Early Losses And Trauma
Certain events can have lasting physical, as well as emotional, consequences. Researchers have found that early losses and emotional trauma may leave individuals more vulnerable to depression later in life.
Profound early losses, such as the death of a parent or the withdrawal of a loved one’s affection, may resonate throughout life, eventually expressing themselves as depression. When an individual is unaware of the wellspring of his or her illness, he or she can’t easily move past the depression. Moreover, unless the person gains a conscious understanding of the source of the condition, later losses or disappointments may trigger its return.
Traumas may also be indelibly etched on the psyche. A small but intriguing study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who were abused physically or sexually as children had more extreme stress responses than women who had not been abused. The women had higher levels of the stress hormones ACTH and cortisol, and their hearts beat faster when they performed stressful tasks, such as working out mathematical equations or speaking in front of an audience.
Don’t Miss: Things To Know About Depression
How Common Is Depression
Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the country. An estimated 17.3 million adults in the US reported having at least one major depressive episode over the course of a year, a 2017 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows.
Thats 7.1% of all adults ages 18 and older. Women have a higher prevalence of experiencing a major depressive episode than men .
Depression is especially crushing for the workforce: Its the number one leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The total economic burden of MDD is estimated to be $210.5 billion per year in the United States alonea figure that reflects costs associated with missed days, reduced productivity, treatment for depression, and suicide.
Seek Support For Symptoms Of Depression
Depression is often not recognised and can go on for months or even years if left untreated. Its important to seek support as early as possible, as the sooner a person gets treatment, the sooner they can recover.
Untreated depression can have many negative effects on a persons life, including serious relationship and family problems, difficulty finding and holding down a job, and drug and alcohol problems.
There is no one proven way that people recover from depression. However, there is a range of effective treatments and health professionals who can help people on the road to recovery.
There are also many things that people with depression can do for themselves to help them recover and stay well. The important thing is to find the right treatment and the right health professional for a persons needs.
Don’t Miss: Major Depressive Disorder Medication List
What Is Major Depressive Disorder
Sadness is a natural part of the human experience. People may feel sad or depressed when a loved one passes away or when theyre going through a life challenge, such as a divorce or serious illness.
These feelings are usually short-lived. When someone experiences persistent and intense feelings of sadness for extended periods, then they may have a mood disorder such as major depressive disorder .
MDD, also referred to as clinical depression, is a significant medical condition that can affect many areas of your life. It impacts mood and behavior as well as various physical functions, such as appetite and sleep.
MDD is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Data suggests that more than 7.8 percent of U.S. adults experienced a major depressive episode in 2019.
Some people with MDD never seek treatment. However, most people with the disorder can learn to cope and function with treatment. Medications, psychotherapy, and other methods can effectively treat people with MDD and help them manage their symptoms.
Can Certain Drugs Cause Depression
In certain people, drugs may lead to depression. For example, medications such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and the acne drug isotretinoin have sometimes been linked with depression, especially in older people. Likewise, medications such as corticosteroids, opioids , and anticholinergics taken to relieve stomach cramping can sometimes cause changes and fluctuations in mood. Even blood pressure medications called beta-blockers have been linked to depression.
Don’t Miss: How Can I Treat My Depression
More Causes Of Depression
Now you know more about what happens in your brain when depressed, but why does it happen? Why do connections between brain cells become damaged?
Well, there is no simple answer to this question. Sorry. As it turns out, the human brain is a frustratingly complex thing, and usually, more than one factor is involved in depression. However, there are several known risk factors for developing depression and the following sections include some of the most important ones.
1. Genes as a cause of depression. Depression is, to some extent, hereditary. This means that if you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has experienced depression, you are at higher risk of developing the disorder yourself. However, not all cases of depression include a genetic component and youre not destined to develop depression only because your relatives have it. Usually, genes and environment interact in a way that triggers depression. Even though depression runs in the family, it may be triggered by stressful life events.
- An experience of loss of control at work, for example not being able to change or influence your job situation.
- Feelings of loneliness and being cut off from your family and friends.
- Financial difficulties.
- Big changes in life can sometimes trigger depression, even events that we generally think of as positive, such as moving to a new city, getting married or starting a family.
These are signs of alcohol use disorder :
What’s The Link Between Depression And Chronic Illness
In some people, a chronic illness causes depression. A chronic illness is an illness that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely. However, chronic illnesses can often be controlled through diet, exercise, lifestyle habits, and certain medications. Some examples of chronic illnesses that may cause depression are diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and multiple sclerosis . Hypothyroidism may also lead to depressed feelings.
Researchers believe that treating the depression may also help the co-existing illness improve.
Read Also: Mental Health Services For Depression
The Biology Of Depression
Depression makes deep inroads on biology to bring about the many symptoms of depression, from sleep disruption and inability to experience pleasure to lack of motivation and feelings of guilt. Because of its complexityand because the disorder contributes so much to human sufferingthe biology of depression is a major subject of ongoing research.
Overexcitability of the stress response system, shifts in activity of various neurochemicals in the brain, diminished efficiency of nerve circuitry and nerve generation, disturbances in energy use in nerve cells, the intrusion of inflammatory substances in the brain, upsets in the brains 24-hour clockall play a role in depression onset or progression and influence the kind and severity of symptoms.
For more see The Biology of Depression
Not Just A Chemical Imbalance
Treat depression at home
Neuroscientists still dont fully understand what happens in the brain when we become depressed or exactly what causes depression. Perhaps youve already suspected that depression is more complex than most disorders and that many different risk factors interact to create the low mood, the lack of interest in activities and other ingredients that make life meaningful? This article aims to give you as much information as possible about the causes of depression, so that you can better understand this mysterious disorder and hopefully use your knowledge to prevent it.
Treat depression at home
Well begin by diving deep into the brain in the hope of finding the latest theories about what happens in our heads when depressed. If youre more interested in why depression happens the behavioural and environmental factors skip ahead to the section called 11 more causes of depression.
Don’t Miss: What Medication Can Help Depression