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What Causes Depression?

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Updated September 01, 2011

Question: What Causes Depression?
Answer:

Depression is believed to occur when there are imbalances in the brain of mood-regulating chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help nerve cells communicate with each other, and, when they are in short supply, problems may occur.

Let's take serotonin as an example. Serotonin molecules are released from the end of a nerve cell into the space between it and another nerve cell. These serotonin molecules can then be taken up at receptor sites on the second nerve cell and pass along their chemical message. As long as the cells are communicating properly, then serotonin can do its job of controlling mood.

But, several things could possibly go wrong, leading to a serotonin deficit. A few possibilities:

  • Not enough serotonin is being made,
  • There are not enough receptor sites to receive it,
  • Serotonin is being taken back up too quickly by the original cell before it can reach receptor sites on the new cell,
  • There may not be enough of the molecules that serotonin is manufactured from, or
  • There may not be enough of the molecules that aid in the production of serotonin.

As you can see, if there is a breakdown anywhere along the way, there may not be enough serotonin available to get the job done. And, inadequate supplies of this important neurotransmitter may lead to the symptoms that we know as depression.

Read More About What Causes Depression
  1. About.com
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  4. Causes of Depression
  5. Brain Chemistry Imbalance
  6. What Causes Depression

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