As a psychiatrist, many people come to me with their questions about anxiety and depression. A question I get frequently is how anxiety and depressive disorders occur. A friend of mine came up to me with his questions about his son, as he was recently diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. His question was how did this anxiety and depression start for his son?
My friend was very distraught that somehow he and his wife was to blame for his son’s mental condition. I did reassure him that there are multiple factors that contribute to the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. The factors include biology, the way you think, and the way you behave.
With regards to biology, if someone in your family, especially a first-degree relative, has anxiety or depression, then you are at increased risk of developing anxiety and depression as well. Another biological factor that may contribute to the development of anxiety and depression includes the use of drugs such as cannabis, which can trigger anxiety and depression.
Another important factor in the development of anxiety and depression is how you think about a stressful situation or event. If you think maladaptive thoughts, then this can lead to feeling anxious or depressed. This anxiety and depression can be so uncomfortable, that you behave in ways that try to make you feel better, so you avoid stressful or feared situations altogether. But what this does is to reinforce that belief that you can’t handle the stress, or that all is hopeless, so this avoidant behaviors then continue the negative cycle of anxiety and depression.
So it is the confluence of biology, maladaptive thinking, and avoidant behaviors which leads to the development of an anxiety disorder and/or depression.