Has anyone ever told you that being depressed is a choice?
If that were true, why would anyone actually want to be depressed?
The reality is that depression isn’t something that you chose to happen to you. In fact, there are many factors that could cause you to become depressed. Factors that are completely outside of your control, ranging from traumatic life events to your brain’s chemical makeup.
Let’s consider some more detailed facts about the factors that play a role in depression.
Traumatic Life Events
One reason why depression is a common phenomenon has to do with experiencing traumatic life events.
Everyone on this planet will, at some point, have some kind of traumatic experience in their lifetimes. Often people consider a traumatic life event to be connected to war, a disaster, an accident, etc. However, traumatic events can also be connected to experiencing a loss in a variety of ways.
- Having a friend or loved one pass away
- Being fired or downsized from your job
- Losing your home or car
When you think about it, everyone will experience some kind of loss at some point in their lives. Even though these situations may be outside of your control, they are still part of your reality.
The Impact of Stress
Another fact about why people become depressed is the prevalence of stress in our society. It doesn’t take much effort to recognize that stress is a very common problem. Everyone at any age can experience stress.
There are a variety of reasons why stress can occur, for instance:
- Family problems
- Issues at work
- Being in debt
- Experiencing a medical problem
Also, the prevalence of social media has become a major source of stress in recent years as well.
There are many ways that you can manage stress to reduce its toxicity in your life. Yet, it’s impossible to eliminate stress entirely. And every time you are feeling stressed, it can be an influential factor for developing depression.
The Connection Between the Brain and Depression
Researchers are learning more about how the makeup of the brain influences whether or not someone develops depression. According to Harvard Medical School, the hippocampus in the brains of depressed people is actually smaller than in the general population.
The hippocampus is an area of your brain that is important for helping you to regulate your mood. It’s obvious that if this area is diminished, regulating your mood will be more difficult.
Moreover, research has shown that people who are depressed have fewer connections between neurons in the brain. In fact, stress (mentioned previously) may play a role in suppressing neuron development. Hence, when it comes to considering as to whether depression is a choice, you can’t just will your brain to grow more neurons!
However, taking medication can help with promoting neuron growth, and thus, treating depression.
Your Genetic History and Depression
Beyond brain chemistry lies your genetic history, which may also play a role in whether you develop depression or not.
Again, according to Harvard Medical School, if you had a first-degree relative who had depression, then you are more likely to suffer from the condition as well. Contrary to many other things in life, you can’t choose your genes. They are the building blocks for who you are.
Of course, just because you had a relative who had depression doesn’t mean you are destined to have it as well. However, research shows that it does increase your odds.
What Can You Do About Depression?
Even though you can’t choose whether or not to have depression, you do have a choice in what to do about it. There are many things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of it occurring.
For example, some steps include:
- Practicing habits that allow you to better manage stress (meditation, exercise, limiting social media use)
- Recognizing when you are experiencing a traumatic event and that it could impact your life
- Consulting with a therapist who specializes in depression treatment
- Taking medication
Depression isn’t a choice! You can’t control developing it. However, just because the factors that influence depression are outside of your control, that doesn’t mean that you are powerless to do something about it.
If you do become depressed, one of the best steps you can take is to seek out professional help and support. Please, don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be delighted to tell you more about my approach to depression treatment.