Depression, also known as a major depressive disorder, is a common and serious heterogeneous disease which negatively affects the way one thinks feels and acts (Hegadoren et al., 2009, p. 155). As a result, the occurrence of the disease is characterized by loss of pleasure and interest in normally enjoyable activities, low mood and anxiety and loss of energy (Marvel and Paradiso, 2004, p. 19). Some clinical symptoms such as neurogenerative, somatic and neurocognitive impairments are common among the victims (Baxter et al., 2014, p. 506). With such broad symptomology, the origins of depression are contested: depending on the perspective, depression is presented as having a social, a biological or a psychological etiology (Kangas, 2001, p. 78). The statement assumes the fact that certain social, biological or psychological factors are linked to depression. Nonetheless, depression has over the years become a common health issue with a global prevalence of 4.4% (Waugh and Koster, 2015, p. 49). It has also been projected that by 2020, depression will have been listed as one of the diseases that adversely impact the human life expectancy. With all these realities, depression has undoubtedly become one of life threatening disease whose etiology should be clearly understood so as to treat effectively. However, surprisingly, for the decades of research into its etiology, it is still unclear as to what is the exact cause of depression. Almost every study suggests that several mechanisms have been implicated in the pathogenesis of depression ranging from social to biological or physiological. This is because of the fact that although depression is a mental illness, a clinical examination shows physical symptoms in addition to mental ones. Perhaps, a complex interaction of several factors contributes to the development and progression of the disease among individuals so that the mental illness causes the physical effects. Depression develops from social, biological and psychological factors linked to individuals moods and pleasure.
From research, a broad body of literature has linked depression to social reasons. A majority of the people with major depressive disorder account that a social stressful event led to their first or second depressive episode (Cacioppo and Cacioppo, 2014, p. 59). Most common social stressful events cited include the death of a loved one, divorce or marital problems, financial problems, loss of a job, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, abusive relationships, failed friendships, abuse, neglect, rape, and social isolation (Cacioppo and Cacioppo, 2014, p. 60). These stressful events affect the way one feels and the mood leading to the first episode of depression. If these symptoms are not treated, their impact may intensify and lead to a second depressive episode and eventually a full blown depression.
Similarly, social strain and lack of social support are other sociological factors that account for the etiology of depression. A study conducted by Bi et al. (2015) investigated the longitudinal impact of social network characteristics on depression. In particular, the study aimed at establishing whether social isolation and quality of social relationships predict development of depression. A sample of 4, 642 American adults was adopted within the age bracket of 25 and 75 years. The participants completed a survey baseline within a year and a ten-year follow-up. Social isolation was determined through the presence of a partner and frequency of social contact whereas the quality of relationships was assessed through non-overlapping scales of social strain and support (Bi et al., 2015, p. 240). The study found that an increased risk of depression occurred among participants with baseline social strain, followed by those who lacked social support, while social isolation did not have an impact on depression (Bi et al., 2015, p. 240). Those with the lowest quality of social relationships stood a double risk of depression. From this study, social relationships emerge as a major risk factor for depression among individuals and confirm the social etiology of the disease.
Further exploration of the social cause of depression points to interpersonal instances such as the family environment, socialization, and the culture-based discriminations being responsible for development of the disease among the victims. The family is where one spends most of the lifetime and is perhaps a social set up that can diminish or amplify stress and depression. Concerning spouses, well-being of one will affect the welfare of the other marriage partner (Biaggi et al., 2016, p. 62). For instance, in about 30% of the marital problems, it has emerged that one of the spouses will end up with clinical symptoms of depression (Biaggi et al., 2016, p. 62). The marital friction, lack of affection and hostility leads to unipolar mood disorder, a risk factor for depression (Biaggi et al., 2016, p. 64). Consequently, the victim suffers from depression.
Also, pregnancy may lead to marital distress which later evolves into depression. When a woman is pregnant, there is a possibility of experiencing a whole range of emotions as a result of changing the interpersonal relationship with the husband and the anxiousness to develop a new relationship with the unborn child (Whitt, 2015, p. 67). The building of the new relationship with the newborn, for instance, may be very tasking such that it triggers stress that may eventually lead to the development of mood disorder (Whitt, 2015, p. 67). A mood disorder is an initial symptom for depression which when not addressed and mitigated leads to a full-blown depression.
Still, within the family interpersonal relationships, depressed parents may spill their effects onto the children through poor social interactions. For example, it has been found that there is a relationship between depressed mothers and depressed adolescences in such a way that depressed children belonging to depressed mothers emerge with negative interpersonal behaviors during adolescence as compared to children of non-depressed mothers (Palosaari, 2016, p. 845). In fact, 23.6% of daughters and 13% of sons belonging to depressed mothers developed depression at adolescence as compared to only 15.9% of daughters and 3.9% of sons who developed depression at adolescence and belonged to non-depressed mothers (Palosaari, 2016, p. 845). Depressed parents are less warm and caring, often hostile, as compared to non-depressed parents. This results in a negative interpersonal relationship with their children whose impact is a negative view of the family by the child (Palosaari, 2016, p. 845). The negative view of the family among the children leads to lack of control which exposes them to conflicts, rejection and even low-self-esteem (Palosaari, 2016, p. 845). The overall result of such poor interpersonal relationships is depression. Zahn-Waxler (2016) summarized that change within the family environment as a result of parental depression encourages the development of mood disorder, a precedent for depression, among children.
Likewise, socialization is a crucial part of life that helps in maintaining healthy relationships that make one feel deserved so that a lack of it leads to distress and depression. One area that contributes significantly to the development of mood disorders within a social setting is how well one handles stressful events (Bishop-Fitzpatrick et al., 2017, p 8). This is what is commonly referred to as coping strategies. Coping strategies allows an individual to manage his or her troubles without being overwhelmed (Bishop-Fitzpatrick et al., 2017, p 8). Failure to deal with life dramas as a result of low socialization and lack of coping strategies could lead to depression because an individual fail to maintain healthy relationships with other members of the society thus feeling undeserved.
Also, there exist interpersonal relationships around gender, especially when it comes to areas of high discrimination such as in girl child education that spark depression. Societies usually set standards in which the females are expected to conform to and pursue feminine occupations and activities (Salk, Hyde, and Abramson, 2017, p. 783). Consequently, parents who ascribe to such societal standards have low expectations for their girls and tend to push the boy child for higher profile job when the girl is asked to go for a lesser one such as nursing or teaching (Salk, Hyde, and Abramson, 2017, p. 783). However, a girl that breaks such a social norm ends up with depression (Slavich and Irwin, 2014, p. 774). This is because a girl that works hard to beat the boy child is punished by the society which does not support such a position. For example, a girl may pass well in high school examinations and is denied the chance to join a college and a course of choice; instead asked to take nursing. This would lead to stress and eventually depression.
Looking at the contribution of social factors including the interpersonal relationships relating to family, socialization and cultural, gender-based discriminations, one may or may not admit that they lead to depression. However, to make such a decision, one has to revisit the symptoms of depression. One of the prominent clinical symptoms is low mood. The social causes of depression discussed above have all shown the impact on poor mood development among the victims. This hints about the relationship between social factors and development of depressive disorder.
Nonetheless, depression is heterogeneous meaning it has multiple clinical symptoms apart from mood disorder and hence may have other factors such as biological reasons leading to its development. Some people are more vulnerable to depression than others. This hints into differences in biological factors that affect an individual such as genetic, biochemical, physical illness, aging and gender. Strong body of evidence has emerged linking predisposition to depression with genetic factors (Yim et al., 2015, p.11). For example, bipolar, melancholic and psychotic depression types have been strongly linked to inheritance. However, there is no single gene that has been identified as being responsible for transfer of depression to the next generation (Newman and Newman, 2017, p. 12). The genetic risk of developing clinical depression is as high as 40% if born to a biological parent who has been diagnosed with the disease (Weissman et al., 2016, p. 1024). The remaining 60% chance of the child developing the disease is attributed to other factors which include social, environmental and psychological. This means that although depression may be a result of genetic inheritance, it may not develop unless social factors such as stressful events have to be involved to stimulate the development of the disease. Genetic factors, alone, do not automatically lead to depression but exposes an individual to the risk of developing the disease.
Similarly, biochemical factors have been linked to depression. Research hints that with most instances of clinical depression, there is usually an interruption of the brain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for transmission of signals from one area of the brain to another (Sousa, 2016, p. 89). While there are many neurotransmitters serving different functions within the brain, a few have been associated with affecting an individual's moods. They include serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine (Seeman, 2015, p. 54).
Depression develops when catecholmines are interfered with. According to Sperner-Underweger, Khol and Fuchs (2014), depression may develop following a disruption of the metabolism of the catecholamines, which are part of the neurotransmitters. Neurotra...
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