However, experts have pinpointed a few surprising things that can cause depression – that most people would never suspect.
1. Not Getting Enough Omega-3
Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and vegetable oils, may be associated with a greater risk of depression. A 2004 Finnish study found an association between eating less fish and depression in women, but not in men. These fatty acids regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, which could explain the link. Fish oil supplements may work too; at least one study found they helped depression in people with bipolar disorder.
2. Not Sleeping Enough
It’s no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, but it could also increase the risk of depression.
A 2007 study found that when healthy participants were deprived of sleep, they had greater brain activity after viewing upsetting images than their well-rested counterparts, which is similar to the reaction that depressed patients have, noted one of the study authors.
“If you don’t sleep, you don’t have time to replenish [brain cells], the brain stops functioning well, and one of the many factors that could lead to is depression,” says Matthew Edlund, MD, director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Fla., and author of The Power of Rest.
3. Taking Birth Control Pills
Like any medication, the Pill can have side effects. Oral contraceptives contain a synthetic version of progesterone, which studies suggest can lead to depression in some women. The reason is still unknown, says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, in New York. “It doesn’t happen to everyone, but if women have a history of depression or are prone to depression, they have an increased chance of experiencing depression symptoms while taking birth control pills,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “Some women just can’t take the Pill; that’s when we start looking into alternative contraception, like a diaphragm, which doesn’t contain hormones.”