Causes & Effects of Depression

No one experiences depression the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of depression is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Depression

Learn about depression

While feeling sad is a normal human emotion, the pervasive feelings of sadness associated with depression can hinder a person’s normal functioning across several areas of an individual’s life. Also marked by feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, depression is a mental health condition that can affect people of any age. Prolonged depression can render a number of effects for a person if treatment is not sought as this mental illness can severely impact not only mental well-being, but a person’s physical health as well. A decline in sleep quantity and quality, rapid weight gain or loss, poor hygiene, and a compromised immune system are possible health risks that come with depression. The key to avoiding these effects is by seeking appropriate treatment that can alleviate and prevent depression from destroying a person’s life. Fortunately, such treatment exists and can drastically improve the lives of those suffering from depression.


Depression statistics

Studies have concluded that nearly 7% of the general population meets criteria for a depressive disorder diagnosis. With more women experiencing depression than men, the average age of onset of depression symptoms is thirty-two. However, adults are not the only ones who suffer from depression. Research has found that an estimated 1 in 33 children and 1 in 8 adolescents suffer from depression. Lastly, with regards to adults of advanced age, it has been reported that 15 of every 100 adults over the age of 65 experience depression.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for depression

Mental health professionals agree that a combination of factors can lead to the development of depression. Below are common concepts that are widely agreed upon by experts on depression: Genetic: Those with a family history of depressive disorders make up 40% of those who meet criteria for a depression diagnosis. Because of this link, researchers has concluded that depression is a heritable condition. Physical: Through the use of neuroimaging, studies have shown that those with depression have a different brain structure than those without depression. This finding, coupled with the imbalance of neurochemicals that regulate a person’s mood, are major contributors to the development of depression. Environmental: Exposure to trauma, abuse, neglect and other stressful live events or happenings can lead to the development of depression. It has been found that when an individual endures these kinds of life circumstances, a change in brain chemistry can occur due to brain’s startle response that, in turn, causes chemical imbalances. This change can also adversely affect a person’s ability to eat and sleep normally and bring about symptoms of depression. Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Family history of depressive disorders or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Lack of employment
  • Financial problems or poverty
  • Elevated levels of stress
  • History of trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Experiencing major life changes
  • History of substance use

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of depression

The severity, type, and number of depression symptoms present can vary person to person depending on the individual’s age and the depressive disorder diagnosis that is given. The following are examples of symptoms associated with depression: Behavioral symptoms:

  • Emotional outbursts
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Decreased interest in things or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Inability to fulfill roles / responsibilities
  • Frequent absences from school or work
  • Self-harm

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Joint or muscle aches or pain
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Appetite changes
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor decision-making
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Slowed thinking
  • Memory impairment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Pervasive feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and/or helplessness
  • Over-criticism of self
  • Increased irritability
  • Feelings of guilt


Effects of depression

Engaging in psychotherapy and, when it is applicable, implementing medication to curb the adverse symptoms of depression have been successful in treating this condition and restoring normal functioning. However, those who do not seek treatment are at risk of experiencing damaging effects due to the negative impact depression can have on a person’s life. Some of these effects can include:

  • Impaired occupational or academic functioning
  • Elevated levels of anxiety
  • Increased conflict within interpersonal relationships
  • Obesity
  • Compromised immune system
  • Social isolation
  • Poor impulse control
  • Substance use and/or abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression and co-occurring disorders

When a person is suffering from depression, it is common for another mental health condition to be present. Examples of disorders that can coexist alongside depression are:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Dementia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Schizophrenia
what past clients say

I absolutely loved the staff here, and definitely would recommend this place to others going through depression and other mental illnesses.

– A former client
Marks of Quality Care
  • Mental Health America Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health 2023 - Gold Recipient
  • MPRO Governor's Award of Excellence 2017-2019
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
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