Depression is estimated to be the most prevalent mental disorder worldwide. It is a mood disorder, which prevents individuals from leading normal lives. There are many schools of thoughts regarding the roots of depression, and many of the theories are interrelated. Some forms of depression are likely to be biologically based and may require medication and a psychiatrist’s support. Whereas other forms are related to personality development and situational factors.

One psychological theory that I find particularly helpful conceptually and clinically is the humanist theory. Humanists believe that human beings are happiest when they are able to achieve their potential and that when that potential is not met, it is difficult to have a meaningful life. When events or people get in the way of individuals reaching their potential (or “self-actualising”) and finding meaning in their lives, depression may result.

According to the humanist approach, examples of what might have influenced the development of depression include:

  • Parents’ or caregivers’ inability to show unconditional love (i.e., “I don’t accept you for who you are, but if you were more this way or that way, I would love and accept you.”). Therefore, a child could do poorly in certain subjects at school that a parent values, develop a poor self-image, and feel depressed for not living up to his or her parents’ standards.
  • Some children may try to avoid this phenomenon by pretending to be what their parents want them to be and in turn denying their true self. The splitting off of the true self from the facade causes self hatred.
  • As adults, fulfilling one’s potential is undermined by unhappy relationships and jobs. An alienating job does not allow a person to be creative and show themselves through their work. An empty relationship does not allow one to give and take love.
  • Traumatic experiences such as sexual, physical, or psychological abuse often prevent individuals from finding meaning, accepting themselves, and self-actualising.

Childhood Experiences

If you experienced a traumatic event in childhood, did not have an attuned caretaker, were bullied, abused physically or emotionally, or were not helped to learn good coping skills as you grew up, this can leave you less able to cope with difficulties as an adult and more prone to depression.