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What Causes Depression?

Depression is a condition that millions of Americans struggle with each year. Outside of the U.S., many more people experience chronic depression or depressive episodes triggered by specific events, seasons, and other factors. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, learning more about the cause and treatment of depression can help.

Depression affects people all around us. People we work with, in our own family, or friends feel depressed at various times. Often, what is so damaging about depression is that it sends us down a hole of hopelessness where we feel like there is no one or nothing that can help.

Clinical depression is a diagnosis that denotes a serious, more complex condition than a fleeting depressive episode. It often requires medical intervention and other treatments. It’s typically quite difficult to pinpoint a specific cause of depression, though we know chronic depression can be due to genetics, health conditions, overall lifestyle, and other factors. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of depression and potential treatments.

Seasonal Depression

The change in seasons is usually accompanied by a spike in reports of depression. When days grow shorter and the weather becomes colder, more people experience feelings of sadness. We know that exposure to the sun and living an active lifestyle are great ways to combat depression, so when there is less opportunity to get outside and enjoy good weather, it makes sense that more people feel depressed. People in darker, colder climates report depression regularly, and even in some Norwegian countries, people use lamps to simulate the sun’s light when days are very short.

If you find yourself feeling depressed during the winter, first of all, know that it’s normal. Many people are in the same situation as you are. If the depression persists, you can seek medical treatments. Do your best to find ways to get exercise, and enjoy the sun whenever you can while it’s out.

Major Life Events

Stressful life events are also known to cause depression. Things like finding a new job, getting married, moving, children moving out of the house, divorce, retirement, and other life milestones often trigger depression. It’s easy to understand why. There is typically a feeling or sense of loss when life changes in a significant way. We become nostalgic for the way things were, and there can be a feeling of life passing us by. It’s normal to feel increased levels of stress during these times. When we feel more pressure, we start to question whether we’re built to handle whatever we are going through. People turn in on themselves, become introspective, and depression can seep in.


Conflict is another apparent cause of depression. Most people don’t enjoy conflict. In fact, many of us do our best to stay away from any sort of interpersonal conflict, sometimes to our detriment. Yet, at times, it’s vital to engage in conflict to protect our families or self-interest. Not standing up for yourself can also lead to depression because you feel like you’re constantly being taken advantage of. Still, the conflict between family members, friends, or just someone on the street can feel very shocking to the system. It’s enough to trigger a depressive episode.


Family history of depression is a major indicator of whether a person will struggle with depression in their life. There are likely many genes that combine in certain conditions to affect brain and body chemical balances that lead to depression. Genetic research into things like chronic depression is ongoing, and there is still much to learn. There is, however, good evidence to suggest that family history and genetics play a big part in whether someone is more inclined to feel depressed regularly.

Semax & Depression

Research in mice has proven that increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, helps regulate the brain in the setting of depression. The most prominent medical treatment for depression is the administration of SSRIs, which tend to affect serotonin signaling in the brain. However, test patients and animal models typically require weeks of treatment before significant effect. In animal models, the peptide Semax and other BDNF-stimulating proteins showed that they worked faster and with good effect. Semax is still being researched for future medical possibilities.

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