Mood changes and fluctuations are completely normal. Everyone will experience, to some extent, sadness, anger, frustration, as well as excitement, joy, and happiness. Usually, these feelings happen depending upon what may be happening in their environment, and that event’s impact on their thinking. Genuine depression, however, is a mental illness that lasts longer and is more significant than a normal shift or fluctuation of your mood. Feeling depressed for no reason can happen, and here are some reasons why it may seem that way.
There are many potential reasons for depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It is far more complicated than previous beliefs that it is solely a chemical imbalance. According to Harvard University, “chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life.” Since the development of depression is far more complicated than too much or too little of a specific neurotransmitter, it is not unusual to see how we may not be able to initially identify any reasons as to why we are feeling depressed.
Can you be depressed without having a reason? Yes. There are numerous chemicals involved in the manifestation of depression. And, there may be such subtle environmental or emotional triggers that it could be incredibly difficult to identify them as causes for a depressive episode. These minute details can slowly build over time, leading to a depressive episode. For example, these small occurrences could look like being late for work, having an argument with a friend or loved one, added stress in any area of your life, or not being able to engage in some of your favorite activities. Any one of these things may not drastically change your mood long term, but potentially all of them could lead to a depressive episode in a shorter period of time if you have a history of, or are predisposed to depression. Oftentimes more minor events such as these may seem or feel “unworthy” of causing depression; which leaves us questioning, am I overreacting, or am I depressed? Depressive thoughts in nature tend to minimize self-worth and amplify negative beliefs about ourselves. It’s not surprising, then, that what we think should and shouldn’t lead to depressive episodes, may be judged more harshly as well.
Another reminder is that depression is more than just sadness. While we may feel like we have no reason to be sad, depression can also impact more than just mood. It can also look like a decrease in motivation or pleasure of things you once enjoyed, difficulty getting out of bed, feeling like you are moving through life more slowly, irritability, sleeping too much or sleeping too little, or difficulty concentrating. These can also be indications that we are depressed, but may not be things we initially think of as being depressed. In fact, many people may think, “I didn’t know I was depressed” if their symptoms present more like the list above rather than emotionally. It may take an evaluation with a professional to determine if these symptoms are a sign of depression.
So, what to do when you’re feeling depressed for no reason? Take some time to explore the smaller things going on in your life. It would make sense to us and for others that significant or traumatic events are more obvious depression triggers. But, smaller things can also lead to the development of depression, or things that are subconscious. Also, allow yourself to consider that depression doesn’t need to have a trigger all the time to exist. It is a mental illness that, for some, is strictly biologically driven and doesn’t need a reason other than genetics to exist. Seek help from a medical professional who will know what treatment to recommend, be it psychotherapy, CBT, medication or TMS. Don’t be scared to reach out, as there are plenty of options to choose from that will help you get back to your best life.
This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 24). What causes depression? Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
Mayo Clinic. (2018, February 3). Depression (major depressive disorder) – Symptoms and causes. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007