November 19, 2015 By Dr. Mercola
It’s estimated that 1 in 10 U.S. adults struggle with depression1 and another 40 million have anxiety. It’s quite common, too, for someone with depression to also have anxiety. In fact, close to half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety.2
There’s no doubt that both of these mental health conditions are at epidemic proportions, but the unanswered question remains why? Oftentimes you hear about depression or anxiety running in families, which leads to an assumption that your genetics may be to blame.
Another popular theory is that depression is due to some sort of ‘chemical imbalance’ in your brain (more on this later). But the truth is, in most cases no one really knows why some people are depressed or anxious while others are not, and most likely there are multiple factors at play.
Among them, and perhaps most important, could in fact be your life experiences, and particularly your experience of traumatic events.
Traumatic Life Events at the Root of Many Cases of Anxiety and Depression
A new study set out to determine what role familial risk, social circumstances and life events have on mental health, using surveys completed by nearly 33,000 people as their key form of data.3
They revealed that the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression was traumatic life events, followed by to a lesser extent, family history of mental illness, income and education levels, relationship status and other social factors. According to the study’s lead author:4
“Whilst we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression.
However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel.
Whilst we can’t change a person’s family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels.”
This is key, as it means that you are not powerless against depression and anxiety. Rather, it’s possible to modify the way you think about traumatic life events in order to minimize their impact on your mental health. Antidepressant drugs, of course, will do nothing to help in this regard.