What Causes Depression?

An estimated 6% of Australians suffer from depression at any given time[1]. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, lethargy, anxiousness, worthlessness, guilt and sleeplessness that last for weeks, months or years. Some sufferers may have trouble getting out of bed or finding joy in activities that they once took pride in. Depression is not only taxing on the body, it impacts our workplace performance and costs the medical system billions every year[2]. Depressed people are less productive at work and take more sick days; and depression can impact on other ailments such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

Treatment of depression becomes challenging when we can’t pinpoint the exact cause of it. This forces us to examine the old “nature/nurture” debate. In all likelihood, depression is caused by a combination of several factors – including genetic predisposition and learned behaviour. However, other factors may be relevant as well. A typical treatment of depression often combines medication and some form of talk therapy.

Demographics may also play a role in depression. According to a recent study published by Forbes, the USA and the Ukraine have the highest depression rates in the world (9.6 and 9.1%, respectively). This is astounding when compared to the .8% rate of depression in Nigeria[3]. Whether it is the availability of mental health treatment, the cohesiveness of its citizens or some other factor – where you live is definitely a factor in whether you suffer from depression or not. Age also factors in – with rates of depression dropping off significantly after the age of 60. It is interesting to note that high poverty rates do not correlate with high rates of depression.

Biology has been recognized as a major factor in depression for ages. The brains of the depressed have imbalances of certain neurotransmitters. At a very basic level, low levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are correlated with depression and anxiety. Anti-depressant medication can be very effective in rebalancing these levels of neurotransmitters.

Hormones may also play a role in depression. Women are far more likely to suffer from depression and postnatal depression occurs in 10-15% of new mothers[4]. Women experience sadness when hormones are most elevated – such as during menstruation and childbirth.

Genetics may also play a role in certain cases of depression. If you have a biological relative (parent or sibling) with major depressive disorder, your chances of having depression are somewhat higher. Certain personality traits, which increase the chances of developing depression, may be genetically inherited. For example; if resiliency is inherited, you may be less likely to suffer from depression because you are better equipped to cope with difficult life changes.

Social factors – including both your social network and your social upbringing – play a huge role in depression. If you grew up in a home where you felt isolated and watched your parent suffer through mental health issues, you will be far more likely to suffer through the same. Similarly, if you have a weak social network and few trusted friends, you are more likely to succumb to sadness. It is therefore possible, according to some, to overcome a genetic and biological predisposition to depression with strong social support and an upbringing that encourages positive thinking and open communication.

In reality, all of these factors contribute to depression. While genetics alone may not lead to a depressive state, when those genetics are combined with biology, your particular demographic group and your social skills, you have a veritable “perfect storm” for depression. Treatment that addresses the multi-faceted nature of depression will have the best long-term outcome and result.


[1] Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 1997
[2] Source: Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-leahy-phd/the-cost-of-depression_b_770805.html
[3] Source: Forbes.com http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/15/depression-world-rate-forbeslife-cx_avd_0216depressed.html
[4] Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5714a1.htm


[Error loading the WebPart '']
The file '/WEB_AC/WebParts/MegaMenu.ascx' does not exist.

Want Us to Call You?


online counselling

Online Counselling

Skype Internet Counselling
Australia - Now Available
Tel: (02) 8205 0566

Double Bay

Double Bay Map

Unit 6, 442 New South Head Road
Double Bay NSW 2028
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Sydney CBD

Sydney CBD Map

185 Elizabeth St
Sydney CBD NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 8205 0566

Bondi Junction

Bondi Junction Map

802/9-13 Bronte Rd
Bondi Junction NSW 2022
Tel: (02) 8094 1792

Surry Hills

Surry Hills Map

302/88 Foveaux St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 8094 1790

Potts Point

Potts Point Map

2/27 Challis Ave
Potts Point NSW 2011
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Campbelltown

Campbelltown Map

12-14 Warby St
Campbelltown NSW 2560
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Rose Bay

Rose Bay Map

Onslow St
Rose Bay NSW 2029
Tel: (02) 8090 4174

Glebe

Glebe Map

5/198 St Johns Rd
Glebe NSW 2038
Tel: (02) 8094 1796

Leichhardt

Leichhardt Map

James St
Leichhardt 2040
Tel: (02)8006 5225

Lilyfield

Lilyfield Map

1/358 Catherine St
Lilyfield NSW 2040
Tel: (02) 8007 7337

Blacktown

Blacktown Map

18 Callabona Ave
Woodcroft NSW 2767
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Castle Hill

Castle Hill Map

46 Old Castle Hill Rd
Castle Hill NSW 2154
Tel: (02) 8090 0817

Baulkham Hills

Baulkham Hills Map

21/35 Old Northern Road
Baulkham Hills NSW 2153
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Bella Vista

Bella Vista Map

211/5 Celebration Dr
Bella Vista NSW 2153
Tel: (02) 8820 0717

Pennant Hills

Pennant Hills Map

10 Fisher Ave
Pennant Hills NSW 2120
Tel: (02) 8090 1440

Enmore

Enmore Map

216 Enmore Rd
Enmore NSW 2042
Tel: (02) 8897 0809

Parramatta

Parramatta Map

38b/70-74 Phillip St
Parramatta NSW 2150
Tel: (02) 8897 0803

North Shore Sydney

North Shore Sydney Map

343 Sailors Bay Rd
Northbridge NSW 2063
Tel: (02) 8094 1793

North Sydney

North Sydney Map

Hazelbank Rd
Wollstonecraft 2065
Tel: (02) 8090 1019

Cremorne

Cremorne Map

4/350 Military Rd
Cremorne NSW 2090
Tel: (02) 8897 0810

Hurstville

Hurstville Map

262a, Bldg.2, 7-11 The Avenue
Hurstville NSW 2220
Tel: (02) 8897 0807

Chatswood

Chatswood Map

54/47 Neridah St
Chatswood 2067
Tel: (02) 8005 4151

Blaxland

Blaxland Map

Unit 5, 146 Great Western Hwy
NSW 2774
Tel: (02) 8004 9960

Killara

Killara Map

Koola Ave
Killara NSW 2071
Tel: (02) 8897 0811

Wahroonga

Wahroonga Map

6/2 Redleaf Ave
Wahroonga NSW 2076
Tel: (02) 8090 1440

Lane Cove

Lane Cove Map

221 Longueville Rd
Lane Cove NSW 266
Tel: (02) 8002 1201

Dee Why

Dee Why Map

5 Selby Ave
Dee Why NSW 2099
Tel: (02) 8404 0622

Mosman

Mosman Map

Melrose St
Mosman NSW 2088
Tel: (02) 8094 1965

Gordon

Gordon Map

Suite 5, Level 1, 741 Pacific Hwy
Gordon NSW 2072
Tel: (02) 8007 6921

Forestville

Forestville Map

Suite 3A, 47-49 The Centre
Forestville NSW 2087
Tel: (02) 8007 7241

Sutherland Shire

Sutherland Shire Map

4/26 President Ave
Caringbah NSW 2229
Tel: (02) 8094 1799

Kogarah

Kogarah Map

13a/13 Montgomery St
Kogarah NSW 2217
Tel: (02) 8897 0806

Sutherland

Sutherland Map

Suite 1, 57-59 Eton St
Sutherland NSW 2232
Tel: (02) 8897 0807

Central Coast - Gosford

Central Coast - Gosford Map

3 Hills Street
Gosford NSW 2250
Tel: 8094 1785

Central Coast - Erina

Central Coast - Erina Map

17C/8 Karalta Rd
Erina NSW 2250
Tel: (02) 8004 5170

Central Coast - Wyong

Central Coast - Wyong Map

2a / 100 Pacific Highway
Wyong NSW 2259
Tel: (02) 8004 8510

Wollongong

Wollongong Map

Harkness Ave
Keiraville NSW 2500
Tel: (02) 4210 6170

ShareThis
associated counsellors CMS logo