Physical Depression

What is physical depression? This article help define physical depression and offers information on the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options for physical depression. Keep reading to see if you are at risk of suffering from physical depression.

While it is known that certain external causes - such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, an accident or injury, a separation or divorce from a spouse or partner, and other such tragic and distressful circumstances - can precipitate depression, some cases of depression have seemed to be absent such a precipitating event. In such cases, medical conditions, the patient’s biochemistry, and the patient’s heredity are assumed to play the primary role in causing the depression.

Some types of depression seem to run in families and be related to a person’s biochemical makeup rather than his or her circumstances. Although research has not yet conclusively identified every genetic factor that may be involved in depression, some progress - such as identifying a gene that limits quantities of the neurotransmitter serotonin reaching the brain - is part of a new surge in research on how genetics may be linked to physical depression. Hormone imbalances or other biochemical imbalances that exist in the person without any identifiable cause may also run in families.

Physical depression is a popular or lay term for some of the instances of what physicians call endogenous depression, meaning “depression that arises from within.” Endogenous depression refers to depression that results from changes and manifestations within the patient’s body, rather than the patient’s context, or events that happen in the patient’s life.

There is not one set definition of physical depression. Physical depression is sometimes used to mean “depression that arises from chemical imbalance in the brain as the result of a chronic illness.”  But notice that by this definition, bipolar disorder is a physical depression, but postpartum depression is not, even if it is clearly causes by hormonal fluctuations, because it is not a chronic illness. In addition, even depression that is obviously caused by an external event has a physical component.

And the fact is that, at least in many cases, physical depression is not completely separate from other types of depression. At least one study has shown that episodes that had been diagnosed as endogenous depression actually had precipitating increases in stress that were equivalent to those in patients diagnosed with non-endogenous (i.e., externally induced) depression. This suggests that even in what seem to be clear-cut cases, the category of physical depression may be somewhat misleading in at least some cases. In addition, the term physical depression is used on some sites that are trying to sell something to visitors who do not have a detailed understanding about depression. For all these reasons, physical depression is not a clear term.

Issues with Diagnosis of Physical Depression

Another important point to consider is that not only is endogenous depression - which covers cases that would be considered physical depression - defined somewhat differently in different diagnostic systems - but also the systems have primarily been validated in western studies and in western settings. In fact, when four primary systems of diagnosis were tested on a primarily Arabic population, there was a substantial diversity of agreement on a diagnosis of endogenous depression.

If you are interested in learning more about depression, it is suggested that you look up depression, neurotransmitters, and/or major depression on websites such as:

• The Mayo Clinic:

• Medline Plus:

• Medical News Today:

• WebMD:

These sites present information that is written and reviewed by health care professionals and presented free as a public service. It is advised that you skip over any information labeled “ad” (WebMD, unfortunately, tops its search result lists with Ads by Yahoo! - skip those listings) and the information there is likely to be presented in a way that is meant to sway you into making a purchase, rather than giving you quality information. Remember as you search, that depression can have a range of causes and the interactions between the factors that cause depression is not yet completely understood. Any site that claims a clear, explicit way to divide the instances of depression into separate categories is likely to be unreliable.


Related Article: Reactive Depression >>