The Science behind Depression explained

Depression is much twisted and something we all as a society should acknowledge

Although we’re all sad, moody, and low from time to time, certain people feel these feelings deeply, for long stretches (weeks, months, even years). It’s a more serious illness that affects your physical and emotional health, rather than having a bad mood.

In recent times because of the coronavirus lockdown, we all have been staying at home for an elongated period, and generally speaking, these long periods away from our social ties and work have resulted in serious mental health issues. 

We as a society are not willing to address these issues and often fail to understand the diversified mental needs of our family members. Today, we want to decode the science behind depression and try to answer the most complex questions.

What is the difference between sadness and depression?

Sadness is a normal human emotion that every individual experience in stressful or gloomy times and the person comes out of it in hours or in a few days. On the other hand, depression alters the mental health of the person and is sustained for a long period usually a few weeks to even years. 

Is depression common?

Yes, depression is more common than you think. You would be amazed to know more than 264 million people worldwide of all ages suffer from depression at a given point in time. In some cases, if it goes undetected or uncared for can lead to suicide and other mental disorders. Depression is a leading contributor to the overall global burden of disease. It has also been found that women are more susceptible to depression than men.

What causes depression?

Depression is often told to be caused by a chemical imbalance, but it does not show how complex the illness is. Research shows that depression does not simply result from the fact that certain brain chemicals are too much or too little. Instead, there are numerous possible causes of depression, including poor brain mood regulation, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, drugs, and medical problems. Some of these factors are believed to combine and induce depression.

Are genes responsible for depression in some people?

Every part of your body is genetically programmed, including your brain. Proteins involving the biological processes are made from genes. Various genes are switched on and off all lifelong, so that — best of all — the right proteins are created at the right time. So if the hormones go wrong, it will change your genetics and make your mood dysfunctional. Any stress (a major loss in business, betrayal from loved ones or any other such event) can push this system off balance in a person genetically vulnerable to depression.

What are the common symptoms of depression? 

Depression influences thinking, feeling, and how a person acts. Depression makes managing everyday tasks more difficult and interferes with studies, work, and relationships. If you feel sad, down, or miserable for more than two weeks or lost interest or pleasure in most of the usual activities, then a person may be suffering from depression and have experienced several signs and symptoms in at least three of the following categories. It must be noted that some of these symptoms occur from time to time and may not mean that a person is depressed. Likewise, not all individuals with depression will have all these symptoms.

Feelings caused by depression

A person with depression may feel:

  • Sad 
  • Dejected
  • Hopeless
  • Short-tempered
  • Overwhelmed
  • Remorseful
  • Frustrated
  • Lacking in confidence
  • Unsure
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Disappointed

Common thoughts caused by depression to a person

A person with depression may have the following thoughts:

  • ‘I’m a disappointment.’
  • ‘It’s my mistake.’
  • ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
  • ‘I’m useless.’
  • ‘There is nothing good in my life.’
  • ‘Things will never change.’
  • ‘Life’s not worth living.’
  • ‘People would be better off without me.’

Common behavioral symptoms of depression

A person who is suffering from depression he or she may do the following:

  • Cut of contact with close family and friends
  • Won’t step out of the house
  • Stop indulging in activities that make them happy 
  • Unable to dispense work 
  • Try to avoid sadness by indulging in alcoholism & drugs

Common physical symptoms of depression

A person with depression may experience:

  • Experiencing tiredness all the time
  • Usually feeling sick and ‘run down’
  • Repeated headaches, stomach or muscle pains
  • A churning gut
  • Sleep disorder
  • A loss or change of appetite
  • Substantial weight loss or gain.

What are the universally accepted causes of depression?

While the exact cause of depression isn’t known, several things can be associated with its development. Generally, depression does not result from a single event, but a combination of biological, psychological, social, and lifestyle factors.

Individual factors that can lead to depression

These are some of the factors that can lead to a risk of depression:

Family history – Depression may occur in families and there is a growing inherited risk for certain individuals. But this doesn’t mean that if a parent or close relative has the condition, a person will automatically experience depression.

Persona – Some people might become more vulnerable due to their personality, especially if they’re worried a great deal, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, and are too self-critical or are pessimists.

Serious medical conditions – Depression can be triggered in two ways. Serious diseases may lead to depression, directly or through the stress and worry involved, particularly when a condition or chronic pain is long-term leads to dysfunction or imbalance.

Excessive drug and alcohol use – Both could lead to depression and result from it. There are also drug and alcohol issues among many people with depression.

Life events and depression – Research suggests that ongoing problems such as long-term unemployment, physical abuse, or grossly negligent relationship, long-term loneliness, or long-term workplace stress exposure may increase the risk for depression.

Depression may also be caused by major adverse events in life, such as loss of work, separation or divorce, or a diagnosis of a serious disease, especially among people who are already at risk because of their genetic makeup, developmental or other individual factors that make them more vulnerable.

What are the types of depression?

The forms of depression are distinct. Any of the symptoms can range from relatively minor to extreme.

Major depression

The technical name used by medical practitioners and scientists to describe the most common type of depression is Major depression or Major depressive disorder. Occasionally such words include unipolar or psychiatric depression.

It can be described as mild, moderate, and severe depression.


Melancholia is an earlier term for depression that is still often used to describe a more extreme type of depression with a clear biological indicator, which displays especially all of the physical signs of depression. One of the main common examples is that the person can be seen moving slowly or having drastic changes in sleep patterns and loss or gain of appetite.

An individual with melancholia often has a deep depression marked by a total lack of joy in some or virtually every activity.


Symptoms such as dysthymia are similar to those of major depression, but are more severe and persistent (sometimes referred to as Persistent Depressive Disorder). A person is diagnosed with this type of depression if they have been experiencing milder forms of depression for a period of 2 years. 

Psychotic depression

Persons who are depressed will often lose contact with reality. This can include hallucinations and delusions (seeing or listening to something that is not there), such as believing they are evil or bad, or being watched or followed, or believing that everyone is against them. These views are not shared generally by people around those who are suffering from such depressions and they often end up alone and more vulnerable to mental degradation. 

Antenatal and postnatal depression

Women have an elevated risk of depression during conception (the prenatal or antenatal period) and the following year (the postnatal period). This may also be called the Perinatal time (time that includes the duration of birth and the first year after the infant is born).

The explanation of the causes of depression are complicated and are mostly the product of a combination of reasons. Most mothers develop ‘baby blues’ shortly after birth, which is a chronic disorder due to hormone shifts that affect 80% of the people who give birth.

The depression arising during or after the pregnancy may lead to negative effects on the baby’s health, relationship with the spouse, or family members. 

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder was called ‘manic depression’ because a person suffers from periods of depression and mania over periods of normal mood. Mania symptoms are opposite to and can vary in intensity with depression symptoms. The feeling one experiences can be as follows: 

  • feeling great without any reason
  • a sudden burst of energy
  • pulsating thoughts
  • little need for sleep
  • speaking fast
  • having trouble focusing on tasks
  • feeling unsatisfied and ill-tempered. 

This type of depression an experience that is difficult to bypass. Sometimes the individual loses touch with reality and has hallucinations or delusions, especially regarding their thoughts, talents, or significance. A bipolar disorder in family history can increase the risk of bipolar disorder.

Because bipolar disorder includes periods of depression, a person with bipolar disease is not unconscionable until a manic or hypomanic episode is presented with major depression. Many disorders in mental health such as schizophrenia can often be confused by bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder treatment is also differentiated from major depression treatment. Therefore, when a person is tested for depression, it is important to test for this disorder.

Is depression treatable?

Depression is often not recognized; if left untreated, it may last months and even years. The sooner the person seeks help, the better he or she will heal, it is important to look for assistance as soon as possible.

Untreated depression may have many adverse effects on a person ‘s life, including severe family issues and relationships, challenges in finding and sustaining jobs, and issues with drugs and alcohol.

No proven way has been ever found to able to help a person in depression recover from it. Nevertheless, there are a variety of effective therapies and health professionals that can enable people to recover.

There is also a lot that depressed people can do for themselves to help them recover and stay well. It is important to find the correct treatment and the right healthcare professional to meet their specific needs.

You might be thinking that this article proves that everyone can get depressed, but there have been so many examples where a person has come out of it or hasn’t ever experienced depression. For starters try to seclude yourself from negative people and poisonous environment. One can never be sure what life event may trigger a chemical imbalance inside them, thus it is a safe bet to be more cautious of allowing only positive people and thoughts to enter your life. 

Easier said than done but it is a harsh reality that we all must have or would be going to experience depression some or the other time. 

If you or someone you know needs help for mental health issues, call any of these helplines in India: NIMHANS toll-free number 0804611000, Mpower and BMC joint helpline 1800-120-820050, Vandrevala Foundation 1860-2662-345 or Aasra 9820466726

In America: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat

If you are in the United Kingdom:

Mental Health Foundation provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.


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