Explanations for Depression

You are here

Explanations for Depression

Different schools of thought in psychology explain depression in different ways:

School of thought: Explanation for depression:
Psychodynamic Unconscious conflicts to do with loss and grief - leading to regression and anger turned inward on self.
Cognitive Negative thinking or distorted attribution of failure - blaming self if things go wrong.
Behavioural Learned helplessness - person unable to control unpleasant experiences in the past, so new trauma is met with passivity and depression.
Medical / biological Genetic factors, faulty functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain and hormonal changes.
Social Stressful life events and difficult or sparse interpersonal relationships lending little support in crises.

There is no one single, simple explanation for depression - probably each of the above explanations makes important contributions towards explaining depression in different people.

Situations in which one person becomes depressed may not have the same effect on someone else. Individuals differ in their susceptibility - this may be partly genetic or to do with life experiences. Interaction between individuals and environmental stresses is known as the 'diathesis-stress model'.

Depression seems to run in families, so there may be a genetic factor. Close relatives of someone with depression - especially identical twins - have a higher than average risk of developing it themselves.

But, depression also occurs in people with no family history of the disorder, suggesting that other factors are important.

Serious depression is often linked with imbalance in neurotransmitters. This is supported by the effectiveness of drugs that change levels of certain neurotransmitters, for example, serotonin. But, antidepressant drugs do not help in all cases- the link with neurotransmitters is not clear-cut.

Some obvious environmental factors definitely trigger serious depression in some people; for example, seasonal affective disorder - an abnormal response to changes in day-length.

As for social theories, poor interactions with others may be a result of depression or a cause - the person might have provoked negative reactions from others, then been isolated, leading to depression. It is hard to tell what comes first.

It is also clear that some physical illnesses and traumatic life events make people more vulnerable to depression.

Personality: People, who are pessimistic, have low self-esteem, hold negative views of the world and who are easily 'stressed out' are vulnerable to depression. These traits and negative ways of thinking might be inherited, linked with brain chemistry or due to experience.

It appears that genetic, psychological and environmental factors contribute to depression.

S-cool exclusive!!