While factors such as family history, age and number of times we have had depression in the past are known to affect our likelihood of experiencing major depression,  ‘environmental’ (eg a life altering or stressful event) and/or physical factors can trigger or ignite depression.

The following are some of the more common depression ignitors however it is important to remember that many people will experience depression (mild through to major) without experiencing any apparent environmental or physical factors.

  • Drugs and / or medications
  • Physical Illnesses / conditions
  • Hormonal changes or disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Lifestyle

It is important to speak with your doctor about any symptoms of depression as the earlier depression is detected, the easier it is to treat,  There  may also be other influencing factors for you, and it may not actually be depression that is causing the symptoms.

A correct diagnosis is very important.

Drugs and/or Medications

Some people experience symptoms of depression when they start taking a new medication or when stopping a medication. Taking Illegal drugs is also a common cause of depressive symptoms.

As it can take a while for the symptoms to be identified as possible depression rather than just ‘life’ or a ‘down day’, medication changes or illicit drug taking are often overlooked when considering factors that may be contributing. It is very important to discuss any medication or drugs you are taking when discussing symptoms of depression with a healthcare professional so you can work together to reduce the symptoms as quickly and safely as possible.

Physical Illness / Conditions

There are a range of infections and other illnesses that may be more likely to ‘ignite’ depression such as AIDS, Rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, influenza, viral pneumonia, neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, stroke, vitamin deficiencies (particularly deficiencies in some of the ‘B’ group vitamins) as well as many others.

If an illness or condition is life threatening, disabling or significantly affects our lifestyle in a negative way, it is obviously more likely to cause us to experience symptoms of depression. While some depressive symptoms may be considered a ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ response, it is always worth letting your doctor know how you are feeling as a depressive illness may have been triggered and need treating.

There are also physical conditions that have symptoms which are similar to the symptoms of depression such as thyroid problems or Ross River fever.

Hormonal Changes or Disorders

The hormonal changes that occur naturally throughout life are a common ignitor of depression. The hormonal changes at puberty, during pregnancy and childbirth and menopause may cause symptoms of depression and it is worth being aware so that treatment can be sought early.

Illnesses that affect hormones such as Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease can also trigger depression.

Grief & Loss

The natural grief we feel at the death of a family member or someone we love or the breakdown of a marriage or other relationship, is a healthy reaction to a stressful life event. However if the grief is severe and continues beyond a ‘reasonable’ time it is a good idea to discuss your feelings with a doctor or counsellor as the loss of someone close or important to us is a common igniter of depression.


Many of the same things that contribute to other illnesses such as heart disease, also can ignite depression.

An unhealthy lifestyle such as high levels of stress combined with poor eating and sleeping habits, no exercise etc. for prolonged periods can trigger depression.

Importantly, ensuring that we get plenty of sleep, eat well, get regular exercise and have time out – whatever that means for us – to reduce our stress levels, all help to improve mental, as well as physical, health & well-being and prevent the likelihood of getting depression or of a relapse!

Counselling can help improve clarity, confidence and wellbeing – Call Counselling In Melbourne on 1300 967 734 for an appointment

About the editor, Amelia Cambrell

My name is Amelia and I'm a Senior Psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne. I have over 18-years of experience in the mental health space. I am very driven to get the best outcomes for my clients which can be long lasting by using a range of modalities such as CBT. There is nothing more satisfying than helping adolescents, adults and couples who are feeling confused, frustrated, stuck or overwhelmed, to find more clarity, confidence and happiness in their lives.

Find out more about Amelia Cambrell

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