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Where Does Depression Come From?

The exact cause of depression is unknown. What is known is that there are some common factors that may initiate and sustain depression and depressive symptoms. The following five factors may be related to your depression:

1. Physical illness can be associated with depression. Diabetes, thyroid disorders, cancer, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease; chronic, incurable, and painful conditions (e.g., spinal cord injury, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS], etc.), and even a simple virus can contribute to your becoming depressed. Since there are many medical conditions that may contribute to a depression, should you have any physical concerns, arrange to have a complete physical exam.

2. Medications, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs can all have side effects associated with depression. Prescription drugs, including antihypertensive, tranquilizers, steroids, and codeine; alcohol/drug intoxication, and alcohol/drug withdrawal can all cause depression. If you think your depression is caused by medicine you are currently taking, you should not hesitate to call your physician.

3. Family history – Depression is 1.5 to 3 times more common among siblings, parents, or other close relatives. Discuss the importance of this information with your relatives, encouraging them to be candid with you.

4. Environmental stress – Losses associated with death, divorce, a significant relationship, or your job, as well as living conditions that include poverty, danger, or uncertainty, can all provide significant stress and precipitate a depression. Some current research shows how stress–environmental or social–actually changes the shape, size, and number of neurons in the brain. Keep in mind, it’s not just the stress that affects us, it’s how we interpret and handle stress in our lives (Self-Coaching can teach you how).

5. Psychological – Most depressions are triggered by stress and anxiety. Research supports that early childhood experiences set the stage for a sensitivity and susceptibility to depression. Simply stated, this means that insecurity sets the stage for distorted, negative thinking. It’s this habit of insecure thinking that supports your depression. Depression is predominantly a recurrent problem. Eighty percent of those having one episode will eventually have another–unless you change your habit of thinking (see below).

Unless your depression is the result of physical illness, medication or substance abuse, then it’s time to consider a Self-Coaching approach in order to dismantle what I call the “habit” of depression. I recognize that for many, treating depression (or anxiety) as a habit may seem heretical, but rather than thinking of depression as a mental illness, what do you think happens if you consider it a self-generated problem—a habit? Answer: you go from feeling powerless and victimized to feeling empowered by the realization that you’re suffering from a habit. And why is this? Because we all know about habits, you either feed or starve a habit.

You feed a habit of depression (and/or anxiety) with unchecked thoughts of negativity, self-doubt and hopelessness—thoughts that collectively wind up altering and depleting not only your emotions, but your chemical balance as well (which is why antidepressants work). Once you begin to approach your depression as a habit, then you put yourself in the driver’s seat pointing you toward the ultimate solution: What am I doing that sustains and feeds my depression and what can I do to starve and stop it?

Imagine yourself standing next to a large machine with a crank protruding out one side. You begin to turn the crank and as you do, sparks begin to fly in all directions. The sparks represent your depression, which will continue to be generated as long as you keep turning the crank. Starting today, try to remember to stop turning the crank of doubts, fears, and negatives. How? One thought at a time.

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