The Role of Risk Factors
Some common risk factors include:
- Parenting style. There is good evidence to suggest that parenting styles and the relationships you have with your parents can influence depression. Overly strict, critical or lenient parents can trigger low self-esteem and worthlessness.
- Exposure to violence, death and trauma. Experiencing the death of a loved one, being in dangerous situations, and having your own life threatened are all risk factors that lead towards depression.
- Mental, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. Abuse is actively harming someone, while neglect is passively harming someone. Neglect might seem less damaging, but it can establish the expectation that the person being neglected has no value.
- Alcohol and other drug use. Alcohol and drug use can begin as a form of self-medication for established mental illnesses, but over time, it can change the structures in the brain and the way the brain functions, which leads to more depression.
- Medical health issues. Many long-term medical issues are related to increased mental health concerns like depression.
- Chronic stress. People with high levels of chronic stress may experience more frequent stressors due to their lifestyle, or they may lack the skills needed to resolve these in a desirable fashion. Either way, the greater the stress, the greater the risk of depression.
The Role of Protective Factors
The final part of the equation is protective factors. Protective factors are the opposite of risk factors; they subtract risk from the situation and pull you away from depression. Some common protective factors include:
- The opposites. Take a second look at each risk factor; by producing the opposite end of the spectrum, you will have a protective factor. Safety, stability, consistent parenting, desirable physical health, and using substances in moderation will all present as protective factors.
- High self-worth. If your self-esteem is poor, you will constantly find ways to blame yourself for the problems you experience.
- Support from family and friends. People with strong support will have opportunity to be connected to and learn from people with similar experiences.
- Strong communication. Having the ability to accurately, honestly and respectfully communicate your needs and wants to people in your life will aid in your ability to get what you want.
- A sense of purpose. People need a direction they are aiming towards. Otherwise, life does not change from one day to the next and stagnation develops.
- Leisure activities. Some of your activities should be just for fun. Having fun with yourself or with a combination of friends can do a lot to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
Finding the Solution
With the confusion and frustration depression and the causes of depression can trigger, the solution is surprisingly simple. To prevent and reduce depression, you must work to increase protective factors, decrease risk factors, and understand that the level of genetic predisposition is out of your hands and begin building acceptance of this fact.
Though simple, these tasks can prove overwhelming for someone to accomplish singlehandedly. If this is the case, be sure to explore options for mental health treatment. A therapist can provide more detailed, individualized information specific for your situation while expanding on your protective factors to yield the highest benefit.
In the end, there is no simple way to know what causes depression. For some it will be an overwhelming predisposition that triggers the condition. For others, it will be insurmountable risk factors or nonexistent protective factors that spark the initial depressive episode.
Some aspects of depression can be managed while others cannot. Even if you know the causes, you may not be able to stop the progression of depression into your life, but with proper treatment and a dose of optimism, you have a good chance to lessen it impact.