It’s possible to experience depression and feel there’s seemingly no reason. In all cases, help is available and treatment is effective.
You might find yourself experiencing a persistently low mood. Maybe you feel irritable or can’t sleep well. Is it depression? And if so, what caused it?
Even if you feel there’s no reason for it, depression has a few contributing factors. Some of them can be recent, and others may come from early experiences.
Although sadness isn’t always a symptom of depression, it’s also possible to feel deeply sad or cry suddenly without knowing why.
It’s natural to feel confused when this happens. Understanding more about depression can help when you feel there’s no reason to feel this way.
Some of the reasons why you may develop symptoms of depression include:
- genetics and brain structure
- family history of depression or other mental health conditions
- personal history of mental health conditions
- environmental factors like abuse, poverty, or discrimination
- early experiences in life, from neglect to chronic stress
- history of chronic stress and trauma
Various medical conditions, from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to cancer, can also increase your chances of developing depression.
However, there may be other causes of depression that experts aren’t yet sure about. So even if you don’t identify with any of the mentioned factors, it’s possible something else may cause your symptoms.
A mental health professional can work with you in exploring possible reasons for your symptoms. They can also guide you toward ways to address them and get the support you may need.
A mental health professional may be the best resource for an accurate diagnosis.
In general, sadness can be a symptom of depression, but it isn’t the only one. Depression symptoms also last for longer than 2 weeks.
Some of the formal symptoms that might help you recognize what depression feels like can include:
- not finding joy in things you used to be interested in
- having a hard time focusing or remembering things
- crying episodes, with or without a cause
- changes in how you sleep and in your appetite
- fatigue and low motivation
- body aches
- thoughts of suicide
There’s also a difference between sadness, depression, and grieving.
It’s natural to experience intense emotions, including sadness, when you face a significant loss. But the emotions and thoughts related to mourning typically decrease with time and may not require professional support to do so.
On the other hand, depression requires treatment for symptoms to decrease or not intensify.
You’re not alone
Help is available. Consider these options for finding support:
- Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- Call or text the Postpartum Support International Help Line at 800-944-4773 (#1 Español, #2 English).
- Contact the Trevor Project if you’re LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old. Call 866-488-7386, text START to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Contact the Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Use the Befrienders Worldwide database to find a helpline in your country.
- Contact the DeafLEAD Crisis Line. Call 321-800-DEAF (3323) or text HAND to 839863.
Depression can be treated. You may feel there’s no reason for how you feel, but a trained mental health professional may be able to explore this with you and help you research possible causes.
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for longer than 2 weeks, seeking professional support can be a highly advisable next step.
There are other things you can do in addition to talking with a mental health professional:
Ruling out other possibilities
It’s possible that some physiological changes may affect your mood. If this is the reason for your symptoms, addressing these changes may also help you in feeling better.
You may want to consult with a healthcare professional who may perform a comprehensive physical exam and perhaps recommend some laboratory tests.
Sometimes, it’s possible that you’re not aware of all the things that affect you. Taking time to explore your emotions, relationships, and past and current events may provide insight into how you feel and why you’re feeling that way.
You might consider writing down some of the most significant events in your life and some of the recent experiences you’ve had. Trying to identify how each of these situations make you feel might be helpful on your path of exploration for a deeper understanding.
For example, you might find out that a recent relocation meant leaving some routines and relationships behind, which could have affected your mood.
You could take the information you’ve gathered to a mental health professional and together, you might be able to find some reasons why your mood has been affected. They may also help you come up with other possible reasons that you might have identified during your journaling exercise.
Assessing negative thought patterns
Negative thinking may be a reason and a consequence of your mood.
Consider learning more about cognitive distortions. Once you do, you may want to identify those you may be using more often and that may be affecting your mood the most.
Taking this list to a therapist and discuss it with them can be helpful. They can provide actionable tips to improve these negative thinking patterns.
Whether you have clinical depression or just feel very low, certain self-care strategies might help improve your mood.
The way you care for yourself can vary day to day, depending on your needs and energy levels.
Self-care can include:
- ensuring that your basic needs are met (sleeping, eating, hygiene) as much as possible
- staying active
- connecting with others, whether that includes spending more time with loved ones or joining a support group
- taking in more sunshine, especially if you think your depression symptoms may be associated with lack of sunlight
- practicing relaxation techniques
- reconnecting with old hobbies
- limiting your alcohol consumption if you consume alcoholic beveratives, particularly when you’re feeling your lowest
When you live with depression, self-care may feel challenging, even impossible. You might feel fatigued or not motivated enough.
Feeling this way can be natural and common. However, some of these behaviors can help you take forward steps to reconnect with a sense of happiness and joy.
Trying to take things one day at a time can be a positive step. If you’re not able to follow this list on a given day, it’s OK. Self-compassion starts with not putting yourself down if you need to alter plans.
How is depression treated?
Even if you feel you’re experiencing depression for no reason, support is available and effective.
It’s possible that you may experience depression and not know why. Even when you feel there’s no reason to feel this way, it’s probable that a combination of factors may have affected your mood.
Feeling sad isn’t the same as having depression, though.
A mental health professional can help you determine if it’s depression or something else. They can also help in exploring possible reasons for your experience and recommendations for next steps you can take.
Depression can be managed. It often requires the support of a mental health professional. Regardless of whether you recognize the cause of your symptoms, support is available, and treatment is effective.