Unveiling the Shadows: Exploring Depression Risk Factors for a Proactive Approach

Unveiling the Shadows: Exploring Depression Risk Factors for a Proactive Approach

Featured Painting Title: Self Portrait
By Delia Crabbe

"This work is of myself when I was very unwell. I am curled up inside myself, exhausted and couldn't respond to people."



Depression has no single cause and often involves the interaction of many diverse biological, psychological and social factors.

The following factors increase a person's risk of developing depression:
• A history of depression in close family members
• Being female
• Being a more sensitive, emotional and anxious person
• Adverse experiences in childhood, such as lack of care or abuse
• Poverty, poor education and social disadvantage
• Adverse events in the person's life recent, such as being a victim of crime, death or serious illness in the family, having an accident, bullying or victimization
• Separation or divorce
• Lack of a close confiding relationship
• Long-term or serious physical illness
• Having another mental illness such as anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder or substance use disorders
• Having a baby (read more on Perinatal depression below)
• Premenstrual changes in hormone levels
• Caring full-time for a person with a long. term disability.

Depression can also result from:
• The direct effects of medical conditions, e.g. Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke, Vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, systemic lupus erythematosus, hepatitis, glandular fever, HIV, some cancers!
• The side effects of certain medications or drugs
• Intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs
• Lack of exposure to bright light in the winter months.


Perinatal depression

Perinatal depression refers to depression that occurs in a woman at a time around childbirth. The depression can either occur before birth (antenatal depression) or after birth (postnatal or postpartum depression). Feeling sad or having the "baby blues" after giving birth is common, but when these feelings last for more than two weeks, this may be a sign of a depressive disorder.

The symptoms do not differ from depression at other times. However, depression at this time has an impact not only on the mother, but also on the mother-infant relationship and on the child's cognitive and emotional development. For this reason, it is particularly important to get good treatment for postpartum depression. Treatment not only helps the mother's depressive symptoms, but can also improve the mother-child relationship and the child's cognitive development.

A national survey of Australian women 6-8 weeks after childbirth found that 7.5% of them had a major depressive disorder. Factors that may contribute to this are hormonal and physical changes and the responsibilities of caring for the baby. Having had a previous episode of depression increases risk for postpartum depression and symptoms are often already present during pregnancy.



The symptoms of depression are thought to be due to changes in natural brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals send messages from one nerve cell to another in the brain. When a person becomes depressed, the brain can have less of certain of these chemical messengers. One of these chemicals is serotonin, a mood-regulating brain chemical. Many antidepressant medications work by changing the activity of serotonin in the brain.

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