What causes depression?

Changes in the body’s chemistry influence mood and thought processes -- biological factors contribute to some cases of depression. In addition, chronic and serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer may be accompanied by depression. For many individuals, however, depression signals first and foremost that certain emotional aspects of life are out of balance.

Significant changes and major life stressors such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job can help bring about depression. Feelings of a loss of identity or self-esteem may also contribute. The causes of depression are not always immediately apparent, so the disorder requires careful evaluation and diagnosis by a trained mental health care professional.

Sometimes the circumstances involved in depression are ones over which an individual has little or no control. At other times, however, depression occurs when people are unable to see that they actually have choices and can bring about change in their lives.

Can depression be treated successfully?

Yes. Depression is highly treatable.

There is still some stigma, or shame, associated with seeking help for emotional problems, including depression. Unfortunately, feelings of depression often are viewed as a sign of weakness rather than a signal that something is out of balance. The fact is that people with depression cannot simply “snap out of it” and feel better spontaneously.

People with depression who do not seek help suffer needlessly. Unexpressed feelings and concerns accompanied by a sense of isolation can worsen a depression.

How does psychotherapy help people recover from depression?

There are several approaches to psychotherapy – including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic and other kinds of “talk therapy”. These include:

  • Pinpointing the life problems that contribute to their depression, and helping them understand which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve. A psychologist can help depressed patients identify options for the future and set realistic goals that enable these individuals to enhance their mental and emotional well-being.
  • Identifying negative or distorted thinking patterns that contribute to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany depression. For example, depressed individuals may tend to overgeneralize, that is, to think of circumstances in terms of “always” or “never”. They may also take events personally. A therapist can help nurture a more positive outlook on life.
  • Exploring other learned thoughts and behaviors that create problems and contribute to depression. For example, therapists can help depressed individuals understand and improve patterns of interacting with other people that contribute to their depression.
  • Helping people regain a sense of control and pleasure in life. Psychotherapy helps people see choices as well as gradually incorporate enjoyable, fulfilling activities back into their lives.

Having one episode of depression greatly increases the risk of having another episode. There is some evidence that ongoing psychotherapy may lessen the chance of future episodes or reduce their intensity. Through therapy, people can learn skills to avoid unnecessary suffering from later bouts of depression.

In what other ways do therapists help depressed individuals and their loved ones?

The support and involvement of family and friends can play a crucial role in helping someone who is depressed. Individuals in the “support system” can help by encouraging a depressed loved one to stick with treatment and to practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills he or she is learning through psychotherapy.

Living with a depressed person can be very difficult and stressful for family members and friends. The pain of watching a loved one suffer from depression can bring about feelings of helplessness and loss. Family or marital therapy may be beneficial in bringing together all the individuals affected by depression and helping them learn effective ways to cope together.

American Psychological Association


  • Major depression affects approximately 15 million American adults or about 8% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
  • Women experience depression about twice as often as men.
  • Over their lifetime about 12% of women will have clinical depression.
  • Approximately 80% of people experiencing depression are not currently receiving any treatment.
  • More than 90% of persons who die by suicide have a clinical mental illness, commonly a depressive disorder.
  • Approximately 4% of adolescents develop serious depression each year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24.
  • Depression is also known to weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to other medical illnesses.
  • By the year 2020, depression will be the 2nd most common health problem in the world.
  • Depression is one of the most treatable illnesses: 80-90% find relief.

Child and Adult Therapy
Lynn Goya, M.Ed., Psy.D., Psychologist

                       Email Dr. Goya at lkgoya@yahoo.com                          
For an appointment or free phone consultation.

Mililani Tech Park    100 Kahelu Ave.  Suite 109   Mililani, HI  96789