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Where Depression Comes From

There’s much controversy about the origins of depression and there’s no simple answer to this question.

The experts tell us that depression stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain. These are chemicals responsible for controlling the brain's functions and the main ones are noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.

If these become imbalanced, so say the experts, we may develop several mental health disorders including depression and bipolar. The treatment option is to take Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) antidepressants in order to ‘re-balance’ the brain chemicals.

The problem with this theory is that there is no evidence to support it.

There are many, many studies showing a lowering of mood when people become depressed.

It’s not evident, however, if the depression caused the lowering of the brain chemicals or that the brain chemicals lowered and then the person becomes depressed.

Of course there are many biochemical changes within our bodies when we experienced depression, stress, fatigue or anxiety. But, no research has ever proved that changes in brain chemicals causes depression.

Yes, the body reacts to life events


I know that if I experienced some loss or shock, my body feels different. I might feel spaced out, dizzy, tired, wired or perhaps sad. My body is normally reacting to an adverse event and there are bound to be biochemical changes, which go hand in hand with my emotional state.

But do we need drugs to help us deal with life events?

Here in the West we’re at the stage where the medics mass prescribe antidepressants for what is described as 'a disease of the brain'.

By indicating that there is something wrong with the brain and only drugs can make it better, we are creating a bigger problem because they don’t allow people to find solutions to the complexity of modern life and its associated problems.

So, Where DOES Depression Come From?

The very word ‘de-pressed’ suggests that something is being pushed down.

We're depressed because we have pushed down emotions that we can’t allow to come to the surface. We constantly experience a range of emotions; how we handle them determines the level of our mental health.

If we feel angry but don’t express that anger in a healthy way, we will either act it out in ways that are detrimental to us (yell, hit someone, drink alcohol etc.) or we will ignore it and push it down.

If we feel sad but don’t let it out, we hold back the tears until we feel numb.

We learned to 'hold back' in childhood

We all face adversity in our lives, yet how we react is a direct response to the way we have been taught as children.

Many life coping mechanisms can be traced back to our past. Research has shown that our personalities are molded in the first six years of our lives and it is the quality of the care we received in our early years that makes us what we are today.

The way we were cared for as children can also influence our choice of friends and lovers, interests, careers and influence changes our brain patterns and body chemistry.

In cases of neglected children, there have been links to mental illness, including depression and/or criminal behavior later on in life.

When life is wonderful, we don’t question the way we tick. But when we hit a bad patch, if we don’t have a compassionate, in-built method of dealing with trauma we can easily fall into a depressive state.

Many scenarios can push us into despair when we don’t have tools for counseling ourselves.

Can You Give Some Illustrations Of Where Depression Comes From? Of Course, Here's Some Common Examples

We have lost someone close to us

We can become depressed if someone we love has died. We can also become depressed if a close relationship has finished. In both cases the process we go through is similar (although highly personal).

We feel we have no control

We can become depressed if we are trying to control other people. Attempting to change another person only leads to frustration and disappointment, because we can never really have that power.

This can occur in our intimate relationships, at work, with our children, in dealing with our parents or with friends. This is the unexpressed frustration and disappointment at others not behaving as we want them to.


Depression can set in if our body has let us down, through illness or incapacity.

Many people who find themselves physically disabled become depressed because they cannot function like everyone else.

This is also prevalent in elderly people whose physical bodies cannot move them around as they used to.

Feeling physically helpless can be a major trigger of depression and hopelessness.

We are in a dead-end relationship

We may be in a relationship that we simply can’t see a way out of. We feel trapped by circumstances and have fallen into the belief that we cannot move away from this dead-end place because we have no money, we have children to think of, or we simply would not be able to cope on our own.

We feel that the relationship is the root cause of all our misery, yet we are stuck.

We feel powerless

We find ourselves depressed when we feel powerless or a victim of circumstance. We are allowing someone else to dictate to us as if we were children. We may feel bullied and violated by another and feel that we are in a hopeless situation.

We are broke

There is nothing like struggling financially to feed our depression through feelings of anger and frustration, especially if we are powerless over our circumstances.

If we have no way out we turn the feelings inwards and blame ourselves until we are full of shame and end up treating ourselves, and those around us, badly.

Post-natal depression

If someone is prone to depression, giving birth can trigger off a chronic bout. There is a lot of conjecture about why women become depressed after having given birth. Reams of medical papers are devoted to the theorizing of post-natal depression and the role that hormonal change plays.

However, there are some very simple explanations for it: being physically shattered, the overwhelming responsibility of caring for the baby, a feeling of isolation at home with our partner having returned to work, and maybe giving up our own job with all its support system.

When we are depressed the last thing we want is to have to take care of a new baby, regardless of how much we adore it, but we feel we have no choice.

Retirement or we stop working

Just sitting still with ourselves can be a traumatic experience if we’ve spent years being busy. Whatever we have been running from catches up with us when we stop.

We are not experienced in sitting still and taking time to do what we want.

We also give up the power and the glory of being needed and fulfilled in our previous role.

Once we are retired, or for other reasons we can’t work, it can seem like our raison d’être has gone.

We are competing with everyone

The very nature of the ‘civilized’ world lends itself to many people feeling like a failure. In our better/best world, it is not hard to feel that we will never be good enough. We are constantly bombarded with ideals, images and stories about how we should live our lives.

Icons are held up as examples of what we should achieve. Tales of others’ perfect lives come at us every way we turn and it takes a strong character not to buy into these fantasies of what we need to buy/earn/sell in order to achieve happiness.

We have lost our childhood

For some of us, none of the above had to happen for us to feel depressed. We have always felt depressed and we don’t really know what it’s like not to feel that way. This is because we didn’t have the childhood we were entitled to.

The childhood we are entitled to is one that is full of fun and happiness; where we feel safe and warm knowing that, however naughty we are, we are still cherished. We should be fed and washed, be able to sleep soundly, and be nurtured and guided through life’s lessons. If we are disciplined, it should be in a way that feels firm but fair.

Those of us who didn’t experience this may have grown up feeling isolated and uneasy with others, especially authority figures. Maybe constantly seeking approval and have lost our identities in the process.

  • We may get guilty feelings for standing up for ourselves.

  • We often put others’ needs before our own.

  • We fear criticism.

  • We feel threatened when people criticize us.

  • We often feel victimized.

  • We judge ourselves harshly.

  • We have very low self-esteem.

  • We have become dependent on others to approve of us.

  • We might be terrified of abandonment.

  • We do what it takes to hold onto to a relationship.

In short, depression comes from ‘stuffing’ feelings. Release them and recovery begins.

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