9 Hidden Causes Of Depressed Mood: Hormones To Lifestyle

Hidden Causes Of Depressed Mood: Hormones To Lifestyle

If you’re struggling with depression, you will want to know these hidden causes of a depressed mood – everything from hormones to lifestyle factors are at play.

Have you ever wondered what might be lurking behind your depression? Sometimes, it’s an unfortunate life circumstance. But more often than not, it’s a problem with the body’s internal chemistry or the environment. 

The purpose of this post is to explore some of the hidden causes of depression, the world’s most prolific mental illness. We will explore some topics that you won’t hear about on the news or read about on social media. However, they play an outsized role in depression and can be a significant determinant of symptoms. 

I’m writing this article because I’m a knowledgeable expert on depression – with a few different bestselling books about happiness – and about 2 million books sold globally.

Plus I founded the therapist recommended self-paced online course called The Anxiety Cure.

I love to help people to live calmer, happier lives. So I put together this article about the hidden causes of a depressed mood.

9 Hidden Causes of a Depressed Mood

Currently, the causes of depression are not well understood. Researchers believe multiple factors cause the condition to develop, including the following.

1. Genetics

If your family has a history of depression, then you may be more likely to develop the condition. That’s because common genotypes are believed to put people at a higher risk, and those are more likely to be transmitted from parents to offspring. 

Most researchers don’t believe genetics is the leading factor. That’s because many people with high genetic risk can go through life without developing depression at all. However, those with a genetic propensity for the condition may be at higher risk if other factors come into play, such as lifestyle issues. 

2. Brain Chemistry

Brain chemistry refers to imbalances in certain brain chemicals that may increase the risk of depression in some people, preventing receptors from receiving adequate supplies of serotonin and norepinephrine. The theory recently came under blistering attack, but it remains medical mainstream because alternative theories remain less compelling. 

Traditionally, researchers believed depression resulted from a lack of some neurotransmitters and an overabundance of others. They developed drugs to correct that, believing they could solve the problem that way. By contrast, newer theories see depression as a form of altered consciousness. People with the condition see the world from a different perspective and that could explain why symptoms develop. 

Either way, these theories suggest that problems to do with the brain itself are to blame, either psychological, chemical, or consciousness-related. As such, depression may be amenable to treatment along these lines, or a combination of therapies might be appropriate. 

3. Lifestyle factors

hidden causes depressed moodStress, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, and alcohol and substance use can also increase the risk of depression. Negative behaviors like these increase brain inflammation, which some researchers believe can cause depression.

The modern diet is partly to blame for this phenomenon. Most people subsist on a diet high in refined oils and sugars, and low in inflammation-reducing foods, such as fruits and vegetables. This imbalance leads the immune system to send factors to the brain that cause tenderness and swelling which, in turn, affect mood. 

Drugs and alcohol are also significant risk factors. These can change the arrangements of neurons, making them less susceptible to natural feel-good factors, particularly during withdrawal. Fortunately, the effects are usually temporary, and you can return to normal life once you stop using them. 

Lack of sleep is a significant lifestyle factor that can increase the likelihood of experiencing depression. Getting enough sleep reduces the risk of depression occurring, particularly long-term. (You may find that lack of sleep reduces symptoms in the short term). 

Finally, stress can take its toll on your mental health and increase the risk of depression. Feeling unable to escape a situation or stuck in an impossible one can lead you to throw your hands up in the air and give up. 

4. Medical conditions 

Medical conditions are another hidden cause of depression. Some common causes are:-

  • Chronic pain. Feeling uncomfortable all the time can cause stress and disrupt sleep. These changes can, in turn, make it more difficult to cope with the pain, leading to ongoing depression. 
  • Cancer. Cancer can also lead to depression because of the uncertainty and stress associated with diagnosis. Changing body image or fears of social isolation can all escalate symptoms.
  • Thyroid issues. When the thyroid doesn’t work properly, it can lead to various symptoms, including weight gain, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. An underactive thyroid may make people feel depressed because they don’t have the energy to pursue their regular activities. 
  • Autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders where the body attacks its own cells can also cause fatigue, pain, and inflammation. People with these conditions may find it harder to live a normal life, increasing their risk of depression long-term, particularly if treatment fails. 

5. Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can also trigger depressive episodes. For instance, women are more likely to have depression during episodes of hormonal disruption, such as pregnancy and menopause. Men with low testosterone are also at elevated risk because the hormone is so essential for regulating mood. 

Correcting hormonal imbalances through lifestyle change is challenging and doesn’t always work. However, improving them medically can help some people. Older men and women often find their mood improves significantly once they start treatment, letting them get back to their old lives and enjoy their favorite activities again. 

6. Gut Health

depression hidden causesAnother hidden cause of depression is poor gut health. Researchers and scientists believe there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain since they have a similar chemical basis.

Both use neurotransmitters, like serotonin, to direct their activities, and they share a common nervous system that constantly communicates between them. 

When gut health is poor, it may trigger inflammation or neurochemical changes in the brain. Various fatty acids produced by stomach bacteria may also play a role in determining the level of inflammation. 

Ideally, you want healthy bacteria in your gut producing compounds that support the body’s health, such as short-chain fatty acids. Eat more whole, plant-based foods, such as greens and beans, and consume fewer portions of meat, dairy products, and refined foods. This dietary pattern will shift your gut bacteria in a healthier direction, making you feel better over time. 

7. Chronic Inflammation

We’ve already mentioned inflammation several times, but body-wide chronic inflammation can also drive depression. Various conditions, such as autoimmune disease, can worsen symptoms. 

Why does inflammation cause depression? There are a few leading theories. 

  1. Inflammation damages the brain, leading to changes in brain chemistry, such as a reduction in serotonin, an important compound in mood regulation. 
  2. Inflammation disrupts the communication between the brain and the immune system, leading to difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and pain. People with this problem may find it harder to cope with the stresses and strains of life. 
  3. Inflammation can lead to changes in the gut microbiome, as discussed in the previous section. 

The relationship between inflammation and depression may work both ways. Inflammation can cause problems in the brain, and psychological disturbances in the brain may lead to inflammation in the body. 

8. Nutrient Deficiencies

In rarer cases, certain nutrient deficiencies can cause people to feel depressed. A lack of these makes it impossible for the brain to produce the chemicals it needs to remain in a balanced state.

Several essential nutrients are critical for preventing depression.

Vitamin D is at the top of the list.

Most people don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin,” particularly in the winter because of a lack of sun exposure in our modern lives. Instead of spending most of the day outdoors, the majority of people are outside for less than an hour a day. 

Vitamin B12 is another one to watch out for.

It is essential for the production of dopamine and norepinephrine. Lack of this nutrient may cause depression. 

The best way to get B12 is via a supplement. Obtaining sufficient quantities through diet is challenging for most people, and impossible for those living strictly plant-based.

Lack of iron is another possible cause of depressed mood.

The mineral is essential for neurotransmitter production, with low levels being linked to depression. 

Many women don’t get enough iron, which is why some professionals recommend taking a small amount as part of a multivitamin supplement. You can also get iron from green vegetables, though you may need to get your levels checked to see if you have enough in your bloodstream. 

Lack of omega-3 fatty acids also causes depression.

Correcting omega-3 intake is easy. Consume a tablespoon of flax every day, or add more vegetables and legumes into your diet while reducing other fat sources. 

9. Sleep Apnea

hidden causes depressed moodFinally, sleep apnea can cause depression in some people. The condition prevents breathing at night, disrupting the sleep cycle, and causing people to get less rest.

Many wake up feeling tired and groggy, even if they’ve been in bed for more than 7 hours. 

Sleep apnea and depression can have a vicious cycle effect on each other. Sleep apnea can cause or worsen depression, and depression can make it harder to treat sleep apnea.

For example, depressed people may have less motivation to use their CPAP machine, exercise, or lose weight, which are all effective ways to manage sleep apnea.

Therefore, it’s essential to treat the conditions together. Solving sleep apnea and depression at the same time should improve both and enhance your quality of life.

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