Why did I become depressed?
Following on from the description of what depression is (read this here),
on this page I explain how depression usually develops.
Why depression develops
Often this is something we can become focused on. This is understandable, because it is good to work out why we are struggling. Why things have changed for us.
Sometimes it is easier to be confident about what led to depression developing, at other times it’s not so easy.
Sometimes it can be that there is a negative life event, that caused a negative change for us. Along these lines, it could be that an important relationship ended – one that meant a lot of us, that we didn’t want to end, didn’t expect to end and left us in a more difficult situation.
Alternatively, if work is important to us and our identity, perhaps with us spending a lot of our time there, then if our work comes to an end, then this could be the event that sends us into a spin.
People say it’s understandable that I am depressed, because I had a tough childhood. Is this right?
This is an interesting question. Research shows that experiencing a tough childhood can increase the chances of becoming depressed. But let’s unpick this a bit more.
What do we mean by this?
Examples of experiencing adversity in childhood ranges from spending significant amounts of time in hospital, time away from parents, significant illnesses or accidents, moving from stable home to unstable settings, living in unstable situations, growing-up around domestic violence/abuse, or being the victim of abuse (neglect, physical, sexual, emotional, psychological…), bullying….
Experiencing one or more of these things in childhood, is linked with a greater chance of developing depression – but not everyone does, most do not.
So, what else matters?
To a large extent, what can help to counterbalance the difficult experiences in childhood is the presence of positive factors. These include having good supportive, encouraging and nurturing relationships with parents, caregivers, family members and friends.
And then there are other factors, such as genetic factors, that we are only starting to understand.
Adverse experiences during childhood does not, thankfully, guarantee that depression will develop.
Also, not having significant adverse experiences during childhood does not stop you from developing depression.
“What’s going because I keep experiencing depression?”
The research shows that the more episodes of depression we experience, then the less it seems to take to send us down again into another period of depression. Once we get to our 3rd or 4th episode, then it becomes next to impossible for most of us to pinpoint a big-enough event that we can say led to our latest episode of depression. It seems like each depression period reinforces a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that becomes more worn-in, like a rut, that takes less for us to fall back into.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that we can do to reduce the chance of us falling into the depression rut, or to get us out of it sooner. For more on this, read my section on the best treatment for depression.