Various experts have pronounced that long-term depression is caused by a genetic disorder and/or a chemical imbalance, dysfunctional behavioral patterns, maladaptive thoughts, self-destructive beliefs, and early life experiences. In our opinion, many of these, such as behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs are symptoms rather than causes of the disorder.
The underlying cause of lasting depression is almost always a failure of relationships, usually between adults and children in early childhood, which is what makes our depression different in kind from that of the hunter-gatherers. These relationship failures are the result of the mismatch between how we live now and how we are genetically programmed as a species to structure our lives.
Virtually every recent study has linked depression to childhood trauma and abuse. That does not mean that every person suffering from depression had a traumatic childhood; just that, given our dysfunctional society, the majority probably did.
When we speak of childhood trauma and abuse, we are not just talking about physical or sexual abuse. Rather, we follow the definition of abuse given in a 1992 report called “The Psychological Maltreatment of Children” from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which defines it as “a repeated pattern of damaging interactions between parent(s) [or, we presume, other significant adults] and child that becomes typical of the relationship.”
Maltreatment, in other words, is that which makes a child feel worthless, unloved, endangered, or as if her only value lies in meeting someone else’s needs. Examples cited in the report include “belittling, degrading, or ridiculing a child; terrorizing a child by committing life-threatening acts or making him or her feel unsafe [including threat of abandonment]; exploiting or corrupting a child; failing to express affection, caring, and love; and neglecting mental health, medical, or educational needs.” Childhood trauma can also include witnessing domestic, community, and televised violence.
(extracted from) Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill