Depression factors and causes

There is not usually a straightforward, single cause for why depression has affected any one person. Quite often it feels as if there is no good reason for it. But this does not mean that it has struck randomly.

Vulnerability factors

Vulnerability to depression is usually the outcome of complex, uniquely interwoven factors specific to each person. The factors can be roughly sorted into three categories:

  • Biological factors, such as genetics, hormones, and changing brain chemistry
  • Psychological factors, such as unique life story and its effect on personal attitudes and thinking habits
  • Social factors, such as financial position, social status and isolation from support networks

These factors combine to form a background of different levels of vulnerability to depression for each person.


What’s your depression story?Sometimes, a specific stressful experience, such as a bereavement or new challenge, then strains a person’s coping resources so much that depression has a way in. In other cases, there is no obvious trigger and depression sneaks in quietly and reinforces itself without the person realising.

You can read about the real experiences of other students on this site. But what’s your story?

Read more about each factor to help you think about what might have given depression a way in to your life. Remember that what initially gave depression a foothold in your life is not your fault and may not even be relevant to your life now. This is because once depression gets a foot in the door it works to reinforce a self-perpetuating depression habit spiral.

You don’t have to know why depression started in order to tackle it. But having a reasonable explanation helps to resist unhelpful, self-blaming explanations. It can also help in deciding what strategies might be most effective for tackling depression and moving forward.

Easier with help

Working out your own depression story in detail is often easier with the help of a trained professional, like a counsellor.

Next: Depression biology

Take Action

Why me worksheet


The depression habit spiral
Understanding your depression
Learning from others