The Correlation Between Major Depression and Environment
How the Environment Influences Rates of Depression
In the United States, major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions among people aged 15 to 44. Depression is also one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and one out of five people with depression will attempt suicide. Depression is a treatable condition, but it’s not always easy to recognize and address. There are more than fifty symptoms of depression, and everyone will manifest these symptoms differently. Furthermore, these symptoms can sometimes contradict themselves. For example, some individuals with depression will have trouble sleeping, while others will sleep too much. Depression can also cause one person to gain weight rapidly, and the next to lose it. The complex nature of depression symptoms also extends to the disorder’s causes and triggers.
There is indeed a genetic component to depression. But there is no single gene that can predict whether or not someone will get the disorder.
Also, genetics that influences depression are seen in clusters, where a person who is at risk will possess a combination of genes known to affect the appearance of depression symptoms. But the risk factors for depression don’t start and stop with genetics. A range of temperamental traits and environmental factors can influence the manifestation of depression symptoms. Environmental problems can trigger depression in someone with a genetic predisposition for the disorder. But even those who don’t have genetic risk factors for depression can develop symptoms due to environmental factors.
What is depression?
It is defined as a loss of vitality, and it causes a massive decrease in a person’s ability to enjoy life.
Depression is a common and severe illness that impacts the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves. It is defined as a loss of vitality, and it causes a massive decrease in a person’s ability to enjoy life. People with depression will exhibit symptoms of low self-worth, guilt, and pervasive sadness. For some people with depression, sadness can manifest as anger and irritability.
It’s a misconception that depression begins and ends with a person’s feelings. The symptoms of depression can extend to the way a person physically feels.
One sign of depression is unexplained aches and pains with no discernible cause. People with depression also have a higher risk of experiencing other serious physical health issues, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Some studies on depressed patients have even uncovered that depression causes issues with a person’s immune response to vaccines. Unfortunately, depression is a pervasive, all-encompassing chronic condition that can impact all facets of a person’s life and ability to function.
In general, depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemistry. Important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin may not be produced in enough abundance in the human brain. Depression can be treated on a pharmacological level, where medications are introduced, and these drugs can help restore the correct levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Also, people with depression will have pervasive, negative thoughts that can either trigger symptoms or worsen the symptoms of depression. Talk therapy aims to address these negative and harmful thinking patterns in patients. Overall, a combination of medications and therapies is the first line of treatment for the disorder, but it is possible to prevent depression in at-risk individuals.
Who is most at-risk for depression?
Depression is a disease that doesn’t discriminate, and anyone can manifest the symptoms of the disorder at any time. However, certain groups are at higher risk of depression than others. For example, women are typically diagnosed with the disorder at higher numbers than men, and there are several reasons for why this is. For one thing, certain subtypes of clinical depression are unique to women, such as postpartum and perinatal depression. PMDD is a depression disorder that can only impact women and has its roots in the complex array of hormonal fluctuations women must go through during their reproductive years. Some environmental stressors that typically affect women more frequently than men can also explain the higher rates of the disorder among females.
People with genetic risk factors for depression also have a higher risk of experiencing the disorder than the general population. Having a sibling or a parent with the disease increases the risk of someone becoming depressed.
People with genetic risk factors for depression also have a higher risk of experiencing the disorder than the general population. Having a sibling or a parent with the disease increases the risk of someone becoming depressed. Also, the type of depression a close relative has dealt with can increase risk factors in families, too. For example, a parent who had depression as a teen or young adult, or who have experienced recurrent episodes of depression increases the risk for their children.
Experiencing childhood trauma or abuse and assault as an adult can increase someone’s risk of getting depression. Other mental health conditions that are triggered by trauma, such as PTSD, C-PTSD, and anxiety can often trigger a depression episode. Prolonged stress and grief are also risk factors for depression.
People with neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, chronic pain, and diabetes are at higher risk of becoming depressed than the general population.
While depression is known to increase someone’s risk of developing a chronic physical health issue, people with chronic physical ailments are at higher risk of becoming depressed, too. People with neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, chronic pain, and diabetes are at higher risk of becoming depressed than the general population. Lifestyle factors can influence depression rates as well, such as a lack of exercise and proper nutrition, workaholism, poor sleep habits, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Also, certain inherent personality traits are associated with an increased risk of the disorder. Stress can make anyone upset, but people who are prone to catastrophizing and becoming extremely upset when they are under stress are at higher risk of becoming depressed.
Also, certain inherent personality traits are associated with an increased risk of the disorder. Stress can make anyone upset, but people who are prone to catastrophizing and becoming extremely upset when they are under stress are at higher risk of becoming depressed. People who are prone to perfectionism, self-criticism, and negativity are more likely to develop depression than others. One of the symptoms of depression is pervasive, uncontrollable thoughts of low-self worth, guilt, and a sense of hopelessness. People who are naturally inclined to view themselves critically or have trouble with optimism can risk becoming depressed.
What causes depression?
Scientists still aren’t sure what exactly causes depression. But currently, the medical and scientific communities believe that a combination of genetics, environmental stress, brain chemistry, and temperament can influence depression symptoms.
What role does the environment play in the disorder?
It’s not entirely clear how different factors, such as genetics, temperament, and the environment, influence the risk profile for depression. However, environmental causes are thought to have some influence on whether or not someone will contract the disease. Non-chemical environmental risk factors, such as stress, and also environmental pollutants can harm the human body and brain and cause someone to get sick.
In a post-industrial era, people are now exposed daily to an array of synthetic chemicals in the air, water, and in their food. Chemical pollutants, natural disasters, and non-chemical environmental stress all raise someone’s risk profile for depression. Childhood trauma, long-term stress, relationship strife, and significant loss can all trigger depression symptoms. The DSM currently recognizes the influence of environmental pollutants on depression rates. It is common knowledge that pollutants can cause congenital disabilities and physical health problems like asthma and cancer. And medical scientists are starting to look at how chemical pollutants can harm people’s mental health.
Smaller research studies have found a link between electrical pollution and chronic mood disorders like depression. In the modern world, people are surrounded by low-intensity electromagnetic fields thanks to the electrical appliances and other equipment that is part and parcel to living in contemporary society. Researchers have uncovered that specific radio wavelengths can increase depression and anger in some individuals.
Natural disasters, along with human-made catastrophes like terrorist attacks and wars, can also impact people who are already sensitive to becoming depressed. However, people who aren’t naturally vulnerable to depression can develop symptoms after a traumatic event. Significant loss can lead to grief, but in some cases, grief can become more pronounced and prolonged, leading to depression. The loss of a loved one or home in a natural disaster can make even the most resilient individual, depressed.
Trauma, both physical and emotional, can significantly influence depression rates. Both one-off traumatic events and ongoing trauma can increase someone’s risk of becoming depressed. It also doesn’t matter if someone experienced the trauma first-hand or was a witness to trauma. Both instances are known to trigger depression. Even learning about traumatic events in the news can impact someone’s risk of getting depressed. Traumatic events that are experienced either first-hand or witnessed can lead to changes in the way a person processes their emotions. Differences in emotional responses that can lead to depression may include the following:
- Feeling numb
- Feeling guilty
- Extreme sadness and crying
- Negativity and gloom
- Disinterest and difficulty concentrating
- Having bad dreams or recurring memories of the events
- Social withdrawal
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as fatigue and back pain
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
Mostly, these feelings and behavioral changes are a natural response to trauma. But if they last for more than a few weeks and begin to impact a person’s ability to function severely, this could be an indicator of depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
What environmental factors are most likely to influence depression symptoms?
Environmental stress in childhood is one of the most significant risk factors for adolescent and adult-onset depression episodes. Studies have uncovered that children with inadequate parental relationships, poor academic functioning, and who had experienced mistreatment before age eleven had a high-risk profile for depression. Childhood mistreatment, along with inherent personality traits such as negativity were significant risk factors for recurrent episodes of depression in adolescence and adulthood.
While it is tragic that a child can’t prevent these things from happening to them, participating in therapy with a counselor who is experienced with addressing and treating childhood trauma can help patients heal and find relief.
Are there particular regions that have higher depression rates in the populace than others?
It is difficult to determine which areas have higher rates of depression than others. The fact that some regions do not have adequate access to clinicians for a diagnosis and the fact that some cultures do not talk about mental health issues can lead to problems with reporting accuracy. For example, Asia has the lowest concentration of psychiatrists for its population size, while Europe has the highest. Have more access to clinicians can make it seem like the population has higher rates of depression than in places where the average person does not have easy access to treatment. As such, depression rates are highest in wealthier countries with more robust medical access.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that wealth causes depression. On the contrary, the stress that accompanies poverty and financial worry can make depression worse or trigger the disorder. In theory, it stands to reason that war-torn, impoverished nations would have higher rates of depression.
What precautions can someone take in these environments to protect themselves?
Attending talk therapy and support groups can be an effective way to prevent depression triggers. Avoiding stressful situations and strengthening positive relationships is also an effective inoculant from depression symptoms.
Attending talk therapy and support groups can be an effective way to prevent depression triggers. Avoiding stressful situations and strengthening positive relationships is also an effective inoculant from depression symptoms. Protecting a person’s physical health is also critical to preventing depression from taking hold. Avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition are all effective ways to combat environmental pollutants and lifestyle risk factors for the disorder.
The level of someone’s exposure to both chemical and non-chemical environmental risk factors is partially within someone’s control. It’s possible for the average person to change their lifestyle habits and avoid exposure to adverse situations. For people who are prone to depression, avoiding traumatic, negative forms of media can prevent an otherwise vulnerable person from becoming prone to gloom and negativity.
Getting therapy to help process trauma can also be an effective way to avoid symptoms of depression from manifesting.
Depression is a chronic illness, and as such, it requires ongoing care and maintenance to help prevent recurrences. While continuing talk therapy, taking medication, or undergoing deep brain stimulation techniques can give someone relief from symptoms, prevention is also essential. For many, keeping up with their talk therapy sessions, and attending support groups is critical for lowering their risk of becoming depressed again. Therapists and peer groups experienced with depression issues can also give patients tools and advice on how to avoid the most common environmental triggers for depression.