I have noticed that some people have lives that appear perfectly fine, yet they feel depressed. In my specific case the feeling typically lasts for a few days and then magically disappears, only to reappear a couple of weeks later.

  • In the absence of a real problem (e.g., loss of a close friend, physical sickness, etc), what causes these periods of negative affect?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I assume you are not talking about Major Depression, correct? Major Depression is rare without external stresses, but "normal depression" is common in all individuals without extreme stressors $\endgroup$
    – Zelda
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BenBrocka: Indeed, not Major Depressions. In fact, not anything that would be labeled as a depression, because (in my case) it only lasts for a couple of days at most. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 14:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You should take a look at this question about endogenous versus exogenous reasoning in depression diagnosis. Your question might in-fact be a duplicate of that, but I haven't thought too closely about it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Poor diet and lack of exercise. Or maybe you are getting just smart enough to grasp the pointlessness of your present form of existence. Good news - all of those are easily addressable by making life changes. $\endgroup$
    – dtech
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Related: Why does a person feel sad without knowing the reason? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 18:27

3 Answers 3


"Their lives are perfectly fine" is a hard to test thing. Hard to compare. How people feel and respond is deeply contextual.

However there are several potential reasons:

  • They may be 'wired' to feel stress or respond emotionally (i.e. Due to the way their brain has developed).
  • A feeling of not being in control (This is often hard to perceive from outside and removed from concrete factors). The causes and triggers of this are varied and complex.
  • A physical response. e.g. Things like a sensitivity to Gluten can cause incredible changes to our emotions and physiology. Often this manifests in good and bad periods.
  • Negativity can be a reflection of the context or surroundings. Those same people may appear positive in a different context.
  • Mental illness can manifest in uneven patterns. This spans from mild (common) to severe symptoms.

I would also like to point out that there is a clear difference between a psychological depression and an existential one. I would like to point out the definitions of James Park of the University of Minnesota; please have a look at the table at the bottom of this page.

So then, people with perfectly fine lives might well end up with a "clinical existential" depression.

  • $\begingroup$ I really like this, your introduction of existential vs psychological depression. I would have said endogenous vs reactive, but this is another perspective and I really like it +1 $\endgroup$
    – user10932
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Skippy. Always nice to know one´s comments are appreciated :-) $\endgroup$
    – user3578
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ of course! I always try to welcome people.. and you've really struck an interesting cord for me.. there are a lot of unanswered questions here, feel free to potter and answer at your leisure :) hint hint lol $\endgroup$
    – user10932
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Hehe - fair enough and very welcoming of you. I take it slow, as I find some posts here a little heavy on the over-psychologising. Trying to be helpful and positive. $\endgroup$
    – user3578
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ have a look at this cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/5016/… $\endgroup$
    – user10932
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 22:43

Some people with "without a problem" have fallen under Gut Health/Gut Microbiota.

See study:

"A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood."

"Conclusion: These results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood. Probiotics supplementation warrants further research as a potential preventive strategy for depression."

Also see: Depression, The Microbiome & Leaky Gut



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