Can Depression Be Genetic? I’m feeling depressed. I mean, I’m really feeling terrible. What’s wrong with me. I sit in this constant despair wondering what my life is going to amount to. Listening to music doesn’t help. They keep telling me to open up to people. Well, I have and it doesn’t work… How many times have thoughts like that gone through your head? Guess what, your not alone. Nearly 350 million people around the world have been diagnosed with some sort of depressive disorder. That’s nearly the entire population of the United States. 15% of U.S. adults will be diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. While that may seem small to some, it’s just around 31 million people.
The nature of depression and where it comes from is a widely debated topic among the medical community. But many of us with a history of depression in your family often wonder… Is depression genetic? Before we begin, want to know a quick way to boost your happiness? Subscribe to healthii .Support our website by reading until the very end. Picture two doctors having a boxing match? Both highly-educated, intellectual titans countering every swing they send at each other with an accurate punch. This could be a metaphor for the debate among the psychology community as to the origins of mental illness. “If my dad’s grandfather’s distant cousin suffered from depression, am I at risk of having it?” While experts have come up with conclusions, many contradict each other. The first involves a bit of math. Everybody loves math right? Experts in the field of mental health, particularly clinical depression, state that if an immediate relative of yours suffers from a mental illness, the chances of you being diagnosed are around 50%.
Other studies conclude that you are 40% more likely. Either way, the link between depression and genetics is almost undeniable. “So it is genetic! Video over! Case closed. I’m clicking on this thumbnail with the cat playing the ukulele.” I know, it all seems pretty straight forward from here. The only problem is that it’s not… So bare with us. The cat will still be playing ukulele when we’re through. The topic of depression gets really tricky, especially upon realizing there are so many different types! When talking about the most common forms, there are six alone! These are major depressive, persistent depressive, seasonal, postpartum, bipolar and psychotic. With postpartum, between 10 and 15 percent of new mothers in the U.S. will experience symptoms within three months of childbirth. With psychotic depression, a patient is usually suffering from some form of delusion of paranoia. Of those admitted to a hospital for depression, over 25% are diagnosed with the psychotic form.
Can Depression Be Genetic?
While most studies conclude that almost half of depression cases are hereditary, between 50 – 60% are brought on by other variables. Along with the changing of the seasons, feelings of depression can be the product of loneliness and past trauma. Depression can also come from other illnesses. For example, 25% of cancer patients experience depression. If you’ve survived a heart attack, you have a 1 in 3 chance of experiencing some form of clinical depression.
It is the same odds for a person with HIV. While you can argue that these illnesses are the direct cause of the depression, they apply primarily to adults. What about children? As of 2018, an estimated million people between the ages of 3 and 17 will be diagnosed with depression. What’s the cause of their cases? As it turns out, the answer is as complex as you’d expect. While family history does play a role in the mental illnesses of children, it is estimated that most cases are environmental. A child who has gone through a divorce, suffered abuse or lost a family member is more likely to develop depression over time. There is also a link between childhood depression and poverty. The brain’s hippocampus, which assists learning — and amygdala, which helps emotion — are key in a child’s development. These two organs are connected differently in the brain’s of impoverished children than children of higher income families.
Kids who were poor during their preschool years are likely to show signs of depression around age 9. Another factor that needs to be taken into account is that children are like sponges. Anything they hear or see they will soak up. Have you ever said a curse word around a child? It doesn’t end well. Unfortunately, the same goes for clinical depression. For instance, if a child has a parent suffering with the illness, they will almost certainly witness them going through the motions. This may lead the child to perceive depression not as a mental illness, but a normal way of behaving. So in a way, genetics are not the only way a child can inherit depression from a parent. While we’re on the topic of demographics, what about gender? Roughly 42% of women are vulnerable to hereditary depression. As for men, about 29%. Why such a difference? Studies conclude that the definitive factor is hormones in women that cause them to become depressed, especially during childbirth. When it comes to hormones in men, it’s important to mention something known as Andropause. Ever heard of it? Described as the lowering of testosterone, this phase happens in a man’s 40’s and 50’s.
During the process, decreasing levels of hormones will cause a man to experience depression symptoms. This includes lack of energy, inability to concentrate and indifference to that which surrounds you. The discussion about brain chemicals leads into yet another factor worth mentioning, serotonin. Man, we’ve been throwing a lot of big words at you. Serotonin is often described as the “feel good” chemical that exists in your brain. Your mind’s neurotransmitter — another hefty word — serotonin acts has a communication device that send signals from one part of your brain to the next. The biggest issue presented by serotonin is that one must have a healthy amount in order to feel decent. Picture serotonin as water, and your brain as a pool. When the pool is full, you are going to feel refreshed and fulfilled. But when the water level begins to decrease, you’re going to feel increasingly more empty. Serotonin works a lot like that.
Lower levels can cause your mood to decline due to certain areas of your brain not receiving communication. This will eventually affect your appetite, sleeping habits, sexual desire and social behaviour. But what lowers serotonin? Actually quite a few things. Increasing levels of stress can greatly affect your serotonin. If you are dealing with life’s problems head on, you are going to feel mentally drained. From here the problems can pile on. A poor diet can disrupt production of neurotransmitters, which are made directly from proteins you ingest. An unhealthy diet deprives you of crucial vitamins and minerals one needs to function. Scarfing down fast food is often a quick way to relieve stress. The next time you’re standing in line ordering a burger and fries, think about how it’s going to make you feel.
If you’re on a steady diet of sugary food, and not balancing it out with anything nutritious, you’re mental health can come into question. Another element that can affect serotonin is drug use. This of course covers a wide variety of drugs. Not just the hard stuff. Nicotine, alcohol and caffeine might stimulate you, but in the eyes of your neurotransmitters, they’re practically super villains. These three substances stop neurotransmitters from producing almost immediately after digestion. Antidepressants and other medications also damage cells. So before taking a prescription, make sure your using it correctly. But what about genetics? Can they be responsible for lowering your serotonin. As it turns out, there is actually something known as the serotonin transporter gene, which allows protein to produce in your brain.
Remember the amygdala, one of your favourite words? Well those born with a shorter form of the serotonin gene may have their amygdala affected.. causing depression. How many people in your family suffer from depression? Do you agree with the evidence presented? Sound off in the comment section and keep watching healthii.org.