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Why do people get depressed?

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Quick Answer

Depression can be caused by a combination of psychological, biological and social factors, including loneliness, lack of social support, or stressful events, according to Helpguide.org. It is also associated with a family history of depression, troubled relationships, financial strain, chronic illness, childhood trauma and drug or alcohol abuse.

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Researchers have found biological differences in the brains of depressed people when compared with healthy individuals, according to WebMD. For instance, the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain devoted to the storage of memories, seems to be smaller in the brains of patients with a history of severe depression.

Researchers theorize that a smaller hippocampus could be due to excess production of a stress hormone known as cortisol. A smaller hippocampus has fewer receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to affect mood; social behavior; appetite and digestion; sleep; memory; and sexual desire and function, according to Medical News Today.

Popular medications to treat depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac or Effexor, which regulate serotonin levels. Researchers at the National institute for Mental Health found an increase in memory retention and a reversal in brain shrinkage in patients who took one of these medications for seven months, reports Healthline.

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