5 Habits That Cause Depression

Are you worried about a loved one who seems to be down lately? Or are you perhaps concerned about yourself? You may be wondering about how people become depressed, and what things lead to it.

Depression is more complicated than many people believe it to be. Causes or symptoms can vary from case to case, and people can experience it differently.

The exact causes of depression as a disorder are not yet 100% certain. However, research has shown that multiple factors interact as risk factors for depression, such as: biological, genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors (American Psychiatric Association, 2020; Bains & Abdijadid, 2020).

While not all of these factors are within your control, there are also certain habits that put people at greater risk for depression. On the other hand, this means that there are habits you can avoid to help prevent or help manage depression.

This article is for educational purposes, and is not intended to diagnose or self-treat. Please reach out to a qualified healthcare provider or mental health professional if you are struggling.

With that being said, here are 5 habits that cause depression. 

1. Neglecting physical health

One of the factors that can help to either cause or prevent depression is physical health. Studies have shown that certain illnesses (ex. liver disease, chronic illness, heart disease) can cause depressive symptoms. Research has also revealed that depression tends to be prevalent among those with other illnesses (ex. chronic pain, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more). In these cases, the stress of the illness can trigger a depressive episode. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or vitamin deficiency, can also mimic depressive symptoms. Some medications, such as high blood pressure medications and sleeping pills, may do this as well (American Psychiatric Association, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2018; Schimelpfening, 2020).

Women may also experience depressive symptoms when their hormones fluctuate. Other health-related factors that may put a person at risk for depression include: poor nutrition, too much sugar, and substance (drugs or alcohol) abuse. (Schimelpfening, 2020; Bains & Abdijadid, 2020).

All of these indicate that neglecting your physical health may put you at greater risk for depression. It is important to get proper nutrition, and be responsible about intake, including prescribed medications. Ignoring changes in your body (including menstrual cycles for women) can become detrimental to your mental health. Remember to consult your doctor accordingly. 

2. Allowing stress to accumulate

Numerous studies have shown that depression is linked with the number of stressors in a person’s life: the more stresses that accumulate over time, the more likely they are to become depressed (Psychology Today, n.d.). Examples of these stressors are exposure to violence, neglect, or abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 2020).

This means that neglecting stress levels, not dealing with them and allowing them to accumulate can put you at great risk for depression. It is important to manage your stress regularly, instead of bottling it and letting it build up inside.

It is good to learn how to properly deal with stressful events, and be attentive to your mental health. Additionally, if certain stressors can be removed from your life​​—for instance, toxic friends, or unfulfilling jobs or activities that you can afford to let go of (American Psychiatric Association, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2018; Psychology Today, n.d.)

3. Suppressing grief

Loss can also lead to depression. This can be either the passing away of a loved one, the end of a relationship, lost jobs or opportunities, or any other major losses in life (Mayo Clinic, 2018; Psychology Today, n.d.).

People who are grieving may experience depressive symptoms such as problems sleeping and eating, or decreased pleasure in once-enjoyed activities— all normal responses to grief. However, grief that isn’t processed and dealt with properly can be prolonged, and can become disordered and/or develop into depression (Schimelpfening, 2020). If you are mourning a loss, allow yourself to grieve, as suppressing feelings may tend to prolong grief and worsen symptoms in the end.

4. Keeping a negative mindset

Low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical, and pessimistic can lead to depression (American Psychiatric Association, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2018). While people can be predisposed to these as personality traits, reinforcing this mindset could put you at greater risk. You may believe that unfortunate outcomes in life, love, and work or school are caused by your own shortcomings, or things beyond your control. 

It is alright to process and accept negative feelings, but dwelling on self-critical and pessimistic thoughts can be harmful. Acknowledging pain is an important part of life, but it is good to then also make a habit out of looking for positive thoughts to challenge your negative ones. Examples of these include your good qualities, and things that you are grateful for (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

In addition to this, an unhealthy mindset about stress may make a person more likely to develop depression. It would be ultimately harmful to think of stress solely as a bad thing that might swallow you whole. Instead, you may want to acknowledge that stress has its uses, too. Research has shown positive outcomes from viewing stress as a challenge that can help you accomplish great things and grow as a person (American Psychiatric Association, 2020; Psychology Today, n.d.). 

5. Constantly withdrawing from others

Much research has also revealed that depression is more common among those without close interpersonal relationships. Loneliness is a stressor that many people go through.

Making and keeping friends can be hard, and setting your own boundaries is still important. However, it may endanger your wellbeing in the long run if you make a habit of shutting people out, or shying away from forming meaningful relationships.

Although doing so may be difficult, you can try to put yourself out there one step at a time—either with people who you may be interested in befriending, or those who already care about you. You can also join organizations catering to your interests to find like-minded people and supportive environments. After all, no man is an island (Bains & Abdijadid, 2020; Psychology Today, n.d.).

Concluding Remarks

According to the DSM (DSM-5, 2013), to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in your social life, work or school, or other important aspects of life. Symptoms can vary in severity and frequency, depending on the individual. Additionally, as mentioned above, causes of depression may not be straightforward and may differ for each person.

For these reasons, it is important to reach out to a professional for a complete diagnosis. If you or anyone you know could be struggling with depression, please do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified mental health care provider.


Bains, N., & Abdijadid, S. (2020). Major Depressive Disorder.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, February 3). Depression (major depressive disorder). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007. 

Schimelpfening, N. (2020, March 21). Factors that could increase your risk of depression. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/common-causes-of-depression-1066772. 

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Causes of depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/depression/causes-depression. 

What is depression? American Psychiatric Association. (2020, October). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression. 

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