Depression Causes & Effects

Everyone deals with sadness at some point in life. However, when an individual experiences profound sadness, coupled with pervasive feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, he or she may be clinically depressed. Depression, a mental health disorder that can adversely affect several areas of a person’s life, can impair a person’s ability to sleep, cause fluctuations in weight, and make even the most basic of tasks seem impossible to complete. If symptoms of this disorder continue without intervention, someone suffering from depression may isolate him or herself from others, be unable to maintain responsibilities, or develop thoughts of suicide. Additionally, individuals who suffer from a depressive disorder may begin to self-injure or attempt suicide.

Sadly, many individuals who suffer from depression are also simultaneously battling symptoms of an eating disorder. Whether it be binge-eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or a related condition, the overwhelming feelings of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness that plague these individuals can cause a monumental amount of strife to arise in their everyday lives. Additionally, these individuals are at risk for experiencing any number of adverse health consequences if they remain unable to control their disordered eating behaviors.

Luckily, depression is a very treatable disorder, and there are treatment options available that are specifically designed to help address the compounded concern of co-occurring depression and eating disorders. Such treatment options may include medications used to alleviate symptoms of depression, education on how to identify symptoms of eating disorders and depression, and therapeutic interventions that teach healthy coping strategies for managing symptoms of both conditions. Participating in these types of interventions can greatly improve the lives of those suffering from these devastating mental health conditions. By seeking out such services, sufferers of depression and co-occurring eating disorders can restore healthy functioning and resume life free from the constraints of their debilitating symptoms.

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Statistics

Depression, a mental health condition that affects children, adolescents, and adults alike, is one of the most common mental illnesses diagnosed. In fact, it has been concluded that 1 in 33 children, 1 in 8 adolescents, and 7% of all adults meet diagnostic criteria for depression. Furthermore, it has been found that 15% of adults will develop depression later in life if symptoms are not experienced sooner.

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

Genes, environmental influences, and other risk factors are commonly believed to contribute to the development of depression. The following explanations for the causes of depression are widely accepted by experts in the field of mental health:

Genetic: Because depression can be found among members of the same family, it can be concluded that depression is a heritable disorder. Especially for those with a biological parent who suffers from depression, there is an increased risk for symptoms of this disorder to manifest at some point. Additionally, studies estimate that 40% of people with a diagnosis of depression have a family history of this mental health condition.

Environmental: There are a number of environmental influences that can trigger the onset or exacerbate symptoms of depression. Exposure to chronic stress, trauma, violence, abuse, or neglect can bring about depression symptoms, especially if exposure to these circumstances is ongoing. Additionally, abrupt life changes can trigger the onset of depression. Examples of such abrupt changes may include experiencing the loss of a loved one or suddenly becoming unemployed.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Family history of depression or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of a preexisting mental health condition
  • Family or personal history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Lack of academic achievement
  • Unstable work history
  • Exposure to chronic stress, violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Experiencing abrupt of unexpected life changes
  • Low socioeconomic status

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

The signs and symptoms of depression can vary depending on the age of the person suffering from this disorder, as well as the severity of the symptoms present. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from this mental health condition, it is important to take note of the presence of any of the following symptoms and seek depression treatment so as to avoid the negative effects that can occur if symptoms worsen:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent absences from school
  • Missing work
  • Unwarranted outbursts of emotions
  • Decreased participation in things or activities that were once enjoyed
  • Inability to fulfill roles or adhere to responsibilities
  • Self-harm
  • Crying spells

Physical symptoms:

  • Not sleeping
  • Sleeping for a majority of the day
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Aches and/or pains

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory difficulties
  • Slowed thinking
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired decision-making

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Over criticism of self
  • Feeling guilty
  • Decreased interest in pleasurable activities
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Depression

Untreated depression can make a person vulnerable to a number of negative effects if proper care for this disorder is not sought and implemented. Symptoms of this disorder can worsen over time and result in the following:

  • Decline in quantity and quality of interpersonal relationships
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Obesity
  • Decline in overall physical health
  • Development of another mental health condition or substance abuse problem
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Other mental health disorders are known to accompany a diagnosis of depression. Sometimes the symptoms of depression occur in response to another disorder or can trigger the onset of symptoms of another mental health condition. As was previously mentioned, people suffering from eating disorders frequently battle co-occurring symptoms of depression. In addition to anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder, other types of disorders that have been cited as co-occurring alongside depression include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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