Are You at Risk for Depression?
At certain points in life, everyone faces tough times. So why isn’t everyone depressed? While we are all at risk for developing depression, certain people are more likely to suffer from this mental illness than others.
Every person has different triggers for depression, but some “risk factors” include:
A family history of depression or bipolar disorder may suggest a genetic predisposition to developing the disease, particularly if other risk factors are present.
Early Childhood Experiences
Early life experiences can have a long-lasting impact. Children who lose a parent early in life; are physically, emotionally or sexually abused; or experience some other form of trauma are at increased risk of developing depression later in life. Once an individual experiences one episode of depression, they are at higher risk of suffering a depressive episode again in the future.
Physical or Mental Illness
The presence of other mental or physical illness makes it more likely that an individual will suffer from depression. When a person is physically or mentally ill, they may have difficulty managing their daily responsibilities and may be overwhelmed by feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Some illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, affect the brain directly, while others, such as immune disorders, cancer and infections, increase stress and reduce quality of life, thereby increasing the risk of depression.
For example, a recent study found that depression is almost twice as common in people with epilepsy compared to the general population. Research has also shown that the risk for major depression more than doubles during and following menopause, most likely because of hormonal changes and stress.
Many types of drugs change the way the brain functions, altering hormone levels and causing mood swings and irritability. When drugs are used, particularly in excess, or when an individual tries to quit using a drug they have become dependent on, depression often results. Experts believe depression may be caused by the effects of the drug itself, the destructive behaviors associated with drug addiction or because depression leads the person to self-medicate with drugs.
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed and treated for depression. Experts believe women are at greater risk because of hormonal factors, they are under more stress than men, or simply because they are more likely than men to acknowledge their symptoms and seek depression treatment.
One of the most important risk factors for depression is how people approach life. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? How do you cope with stress? A person’s problem-solving style and temperament can make them more vulnerable to depression.
Relationship problems, divorce, chronic stress, a job loss, the death of a loved one and other difficult life events often increase stress and feelings of hopelessness, and lead to depression.
These risk factors merely increase the likelihood that an individual will develop depression at some point in life. Knowing the potential triggers can help you be alert to the symptoms of depression and get help before major depression strikes.
Where Can I Find Treatment for Depression?
Everyone needs help at one time or another to deal with the curveballs life throws. For those with depression, treatment often includes a combination of medication and therapy.
Depending on your particular needs, therapy may focus on changing negative thought patterns (cognitive behavioral therapy), improving relationships (interpersonal therapy) or identifying new ways to cope with stress (dialectical behavior therapy). Some depression treatment centers also incorporate holistic therapies like massage therapy, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, yoga and Zero Balancing.
Human beings are extremely resilient. With effective treatment, those suffering from depression can heal and go on to live the rest of their lives with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.