What Causes Depression?

PET SCAN showing depression is a diseaseDepression is a disease that makes people feel their lives aren’t worth living – even when everything is going right. When people have the disease of depression, no amount of will power or positive thinking will help them get better.

The PET scan image shows physical differences in the brains of healthy people compared to people with depression. Blood flow, oxygen use, and blood sugar metabolism in the brain are all significantly lower in people with depression.

We don’t yet know the exact causes of depression. There are many factors that seem to contribute to people becoming depressed, however.

Brain Structure

There are physical differences in the brains of people who are depressed compared to people who are not depressed. For example, imagining studies show that the brains of people with depression respond differently to events than people without depression.

Brain Chemistry

The chemicals in the brain (called “neurotransmitters”) appear to play an important role in depression. People who do not have the right balance of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine often have the symptoms of depression.


People who have biologically related family members who are depressed are more likely to be depressed themselves. Science has found genes that seem related to the chances of a person becoming depressed and responding to depression drugs.

Hormones & Medical Illnesses

Changes in the balance of a person’s hormones can lead to depression. These hormone changes can be caused by conditions such as thyroid disease and menopause. People who have suffered a heart attack often become depressed and depression is associated with stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and other medical problems.

Stress, Grief, and Trauma

Many kinds of life events can trigger depression. Depression can be caused by the stress of financial problems or losing a job. The death of a family member or someone you love frequently leads to depression. Depression can be caused by divorce or the end of an important relationship. People who survive violence or sexual abuse often become depressed. People who have survive childhood traumas can suffer from depression as well.

Regardless of the causes, depression is a real disease that causes real suffering. There are many good treatments for depression. Medications help many people feel better, for example.

People frequently choose TMS Therapy to treat their depression when presciption medications don’t help or the side effects are hard to take.