What Causes Depression and Anxiety?

What causes depression and anxiety? Read on to learn more about depression and anxiety causes and treatment options.

Table of Contents

The Connection Between Depression and Anxiety

Among the most prevalent psychiatric disorders are anxiety and depressive disorders. Anxiety and depression highly co-occur, despite being different mental health conditions. This means a person is more likely to experience the other condition if they have one of the conditions. About 40 to 50 percent of people suffer from both depression and anxiety.

The actual cause of depression is uncertain. Genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors may all play a role in its development. Although every person is unique, risk factors may raise a person’s likelihood of developing depression. It’s not unusual for someone with an anxiety disorder to experience depression or vice versa. Anxiety disorders affect nearly half of people diagnosed with depression.1
what causes depression and anxiety

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What is Depression?

Depression is a common disorder that negatively impacts an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Depression is usually referred to as major depressive disorder. Depression causes prolonged feelings of sadness and emptiness.
An estimated 14.8 million American adults 18 and older experienced at least one major depressive episode with significant impairment in 2020.2 According to statistics, approximately 1 in 6 American adults experience depression.3

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the feeling of uneasiness, fear, and dread. The individual’s heart rate may increase, they might start to sweat, and they may feel tense. It can be a typical stress response. However, it could develop into a medical disorder if a person experiences excessive anxiety regularly. Severe anxiety can have a significant negative impact on daily life.

Is Depression Genetic?

Researchers have not identified a distinct genetic pattern for depression in families. According to research, a person is two to three times more likely to develop depression if a parent or sibling has the disorder. However, some people who experience chronic depression do not have a family history.4

What Are the Main Causes of Depression and Anxiety?

The major causes of depression and anxiety will be detailed below.

Brain Chemistry

Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that occur naturally and play a function in depression. Recent studies suggest that changes in these neurotransmitters’ roles and their interactions with neurocircuits affect depression.


A history of depression in the family may increase a person’s risk. Chronic depression is regarded as a complicated trait, which means that there are likely many distinct genes that each have a minor impact. People with affected blood relatives frequently experience depression.

Life Events

When stressful situations arise, if a person lacks the necessary coping mechanisms to handle the issues on their own, they may experience depression.

Medical Conditions

Depression can occasionally occur with serious medical conditions or be triggered by one. Individuals may be more susceptible to certain diseases and disorders, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic pain.


Beta-blockers, hormonal birth control, and certain corticosteroids, among other medicines, can increase the chance of developing depression.


Individuals who exhibit certain personality attributes, such as poor self-esteem or excessive self-criticism, are likely to become depressed.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety?

Being depressed is different from just being unhappy. There are unique symptoms that distinguish depression from sadness. Not everyone who is depressed or suffers from anxiety disorder will exhibit all these symptoms.
The following are symptoms of anxiety and depression:
  • Feeling very sad, hopeless, or worried.
  • Not enjoying things that used to give you joy.
  • Being easily irritated or frustrated.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Changes in how much you sleep.
  • Having a difficult time concentrating on things.

Diagnosing Depression and Anxiety

Depression and generalized anxiety disorder can be difficult to diagnose, and sometimes the causes of depression and anxiety might be highly similar. Doctors use psychological tests to identify general depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

How is Depression Syndrome Diagnosed?

A healthcare professional will ask a few questions to determine if an individual has depression. The following are questions a doctor may ask a person during the diagnosis of depression:
  • When did the depression symptoms first start?
  • How long the symptoms lasted, and how frequently they happened?
  • Do the symptoms prevent the person from going out or engaging in regular activities?
The doctor may also conduct a physical examination or request blood testing to determine whether the person has an underlying medical problem. Diagnosing depression is often difficult because there are several clinical depression signs.

Can Depression Be Prevented?

Most factors that increase the risk of developing depression, such as genes, brain chemicals, and environment, are out of an individual’s control. People may be unable to safeguard themselves against these potential risk factors.
However, they can alter how they respond to the potential risk factors. If an individual already has a major depressive disorder, improving their coping and self-management abilities can prevent it from worsening. Receiving professional mental health can prove beneficial to those with depressive tendencies.

How Is Anxiety Diagnosed?

If you exhibit anxiety symptoms, the healthcare provider will inquire about your medical history. They might perform tests to rule out other medical issues influencing your symptoms. When diagnosing an individual, a doctor will consider how long they’ve experienced symptoms and how severe they are. The doctor might refer the person to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professionals if they can’t identify a physical cause for their feelings.

Can Anxiety Be Prevented?

It is challenging to prevent or predict who will experience anxiety disorders because the precise causes are unknown. Although you cannot prevent anxiety disorders, you can control or lessen your symptoms by doing the following:
  • Maintain your physical health by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Learn relaxing techniques, including deep diaphragmatic breathing. By practicing relaxation techniques, you can be prepared to handle anxiety. 
  • You may easily manage and eliminate your anxious thought patterns by being aware of them. Understanding how anxiety impacts your emotions and behaviors and the trigger is the first step toward becoming more aware of it.

How Is Genetics Linked to the Risk of Depression?

Family and twin studies have shown that genetic variables play a significant role in the risk of developing depression. However, only a small number of genes have typically been linked to an increased risk of depression.
First-degree relatives of individuals with depression have a two- to three-fold higher risk of developing depression, according to family research. Additional research into the reasons for depression is needed to determine the relevance of genetic variables in developing depression.

Does Depression Often Occur with Grief?

Depression and grief have similar symptoms, such as extreme sadness and disconnection from reality, yet they are two different experiences. Even though they are two separate conditions, grief and major depressive disorder can coexist. A significant depressive episode can occasionally be brought on by grief.

Treatment Options

There are various treatments for depression and sometimes are often combined. The following treatment options can reduce symptoms and shorten anxiety and depression episodes.
major depressive disorder

Therapies for Anxiety

There are several types of anxiety disorders, and the type of therapy a person will receive depends on their diagnosis and how severe the symptoms are. The following are major forms of therapy for anxiety:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): is the most widely used and effective psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. CBT is a short-term therapy that teaches individuals specific techniques to manage their symptoms. CBT effectively manages anxiety symptoms by addressing negative habits and distortions in their perception of the environment and themself.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy:  Individuals will learn to accept their anxiety while proactively trying to modify it during DBT therapy. The four effective skills that DBT treatment teaches are emotion regulation, mindfulness, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Therapies for Depression

Brief psychotherapy combined with medication alone can relieve major depressive disorder symptoms. Therapies for treating severe depressive disorder include:
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: The primary goal of CBT is to change depressive thought patterns and behaviors. Cognitive therapy teaches patients to recognize recurring negative thoughts and behavior patterns and replace them with more positive ones. CBT sessions may involve keeping a journal and practicing relaxation techniques and readings.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Individuals can learn to accept their unpleasant feelings, deal with stress, and control their responses during DBT. This treatment uses mindfulness techniques to support crisis coaching, in which the therapist instructs the individual on facing challenging circumstances.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: This treatment method aims to assist the patient in becoming more conscious of their emotions and to help the patient bear these sensations more effectively and put them into a useful perspective. This approach can also aid in the development of self-awareness and the enhancement of specific emotional capacities.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)combines counseling, behavioral therapies, and prescription medication to treat depression and anxiety. MAT involves using antidepressants to treat severe depressive and anxiety disorders.

Support Groups

Depression can lead to feelings of isolation. A support group is a small gathering of people who regularly meet to discuss their experiences with a particular condition. You can learn new interpersonal and coping skills by joining a support group. You can search for a support group near you or learn how to start a support group on the Anxiety & Depression Association of America website

Get Help for Anxiety and Major Depressive Disorder at Profound Treatment Center

If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms, contact Profound Treatment Center in California for a free comprehensive assessment.

Profound Treatment Center accepts most private insurance plans and develops customized research-backed treatment plans based on your unique needs. Book a consultation session with us and begin your journey to recovery and sustainable wellness.

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