The answer to the question "Why am I depressed" may not be obvious. You may have a physical condition affecting your mental health. You may have suffered an emotional trauma.
In some cases, you see no obvious reason. All you know is that you are concerned that your suffering is deepening and going on too long. You want to feel better and get your life back. Discovering why you feel depressed is a positive step in that direction.
Experts traditionally suggest two explanations of what causes depression.
One common explanation is a stress induced imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain.
Another accepted cluster of reasons center around heredity factors, hormonal imbalance after pregnancy, and not enough sunlight in winter months.
As researchers gain a better understanding of how the brain responds and encodes information, other explanations are emerging.
For example, experts now know there is no overlap between stress genes and depressive genes. This is most important because popular drug treatments are often aimed at the wrong target. This explains why people being medically treated for depression seldom get relief. Antidepressants generally address the stress connection, which may be unrelated to what is causing your depression. It may even have side effects that make you feel worse.
Some studies even show that the control group receiving sugar pills fared better than the group taking medication. It appears that 75% of the positive effects of taking drugs have been duplicated by those taking a placebo.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen, both anxiety and depression are symptoms, and not a diagnosis. His work with SPECT brain imaging showed that a traumatic injury to the brain is a common underlying cause of depression.
He also found that too much, or too little activity in the frontal lobes can make you feel down. With too little activity, your negative feelings are hard to control. When it is hyperactive, you have trouble controlling your bad thoughts.
Exposure to toxins and poor lifestyle behaviors may lead to, or exacerbate, depression. Vitamin D deficiency, chronic inflammation, and/or unbalanced gut flora are other contributing factors. Several large studies show that people who sit too much or too long, even if they are busy, have higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Dr. Carolyn Dean explains that the the answer to the "why am I depressed" question may lie with sleep deprivation, lack of nutrients and/or underlying inflammation or infection including candida yeast overgrowth and how magnesium may be a missing ingredient in your recovery.
American psychiatrist David Viscott explains the downward emotional spiral like this:
Dr. Deepak Chopra offers a mind body perspective to the "Why am I depressed" He explains what causes depression in three steps:
First, an earlier outside cause - repeated, unpredictable negative events stress you out, especially when you feel powerless. For example, rats exposed to unavoidable random shocks give up, act lethargic and helpless, and eventually die.
Next, how you respond to that first cause determines how your brain processes it.
When you paint everything as dark, and accept your first reaction of sadness or hopelessness as 'your final answer', it reinforces that you feel down. Feeling depressed fuels more depressed feelings.
This kind of self-talk, with its accompanying emotions, causes your brain to create neural pathways that accommodate this type of response. Not only does your brain deepen and strengthen the pathway associated with feeling depressed every time you use it, but it takes the building blocks from other areas that aren't being used much. This process can happen quite quickly.
Finally, your depressive responses become a habit, much like an addiction, once the neural pathways are fixed. An outside cause, or trigger, is no longer needed to elicit the "I feel depressed" response. You may even feel down at happy events. When you ask yourself, "Why am I depressed?", you may have no obvious explanation. Feeling depressed fuels more depressed feelings.
Answering the "Why am I depressed?" question may take some detective work. Knowing whether your cause is physical or because of negative mindset patterns that created undesirable changes in your brain may not be easy to discern. Other times, you can trace back to an injury or toxic exposure of some kind.
Truth is, just about everyone has emotional dips at times. Feeling down for an extended period of time after a serious upset or loss is normal and to be expected. It does not always mean you have a medical problem. When this emotional response short-circuits and goes on 'too long', it may be time to find a way out of the black hole and seek help.
When you feel down for more than a week or two, check for the following signals: trouble sleeping, no interest in things, low energy, guilt, trouble concentrating, no appetite. Your physical motor skills and balance may be 'off'. You may even feel suicidal.
If you experience four or more of those indicators, you may want to discover your best options for overcoming depression and take steps to break the cycle. Consult a health professional immediately if your symptoms are severe and/or you are considering suicide.