The rates of those diagnosed with depression are steadily increasing in the last decade, similarly raising questions within us as well, “Is depression genetic? Is it environmental?”
We may find ourselves curious about these questions out of concern for our country, for someone we love, or because we recognize that one or both of our parents have long-suffered within the clutches of depression’s grasp. Regardless of the reason for our inquiry, it’s important to take a look at the answers to these questions, to the truth you might find.
What does the research say?
Ranging from minor to incapacitating, symptoms of depression can span a variety of ailments. Increased diagnoses of depression continue to rise as we’ve begun to factor in the onslaught of pandemic-related depression symptom cases now being reported.
Science is still working on pinpointing causes and successful management tools. We remain unsure what percentage of risk is due to heredity or environmental factors. However, research has shown that depression, like some other mental illnesses, is not specifically the result of either genetics or environment alone. Instead, the data shows that it is actually a combination of DNA, circumstance and other variables.
Many nongenetic factors exist that increase the risk of depression. There are now numerous established environmental risk factors for depression, including divorce, poverty and maltreatment. No one combination of ecological or hereditary conditions is reliable in determining the presence of depression or depressive symptoms.
So, what role do genetics play? How does our environment impact us?
As we consider these questions, research published in Current Psychiatry Reports has shown that people with environmental (not necessarily biological) parents or siblings who have depression are up to three times more likely to have the condition.
Depression and Genetics: Is there a link?
Genes do influence many common disorders. In conditions like depression, there seems to be a combination of genetic changes that predispose some people to become ill. It is still unknown how many genes are involved in depression, but it is very doubtful that any singular specific gene causes depression in a significant number of people.
No one simply inherits depression from their parent or parents. Each person does, however, inherit a unique combination of genes from their mother and father. Science has shown certain combinations can predispose to particular illnesses—like depression.
We also know that neither genetic nor hereditary factors can always explain why someone gets depression. For example, a child who watches a depressed parent or sibling in the family easily may learn to copy that behavior under similar conditions.
The causes of depression continue to baffle researchers as much as the doctors and mental health professionals who treat it. In addition to having a depressed mood and diminished interest in activities, people with depression generally experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms. While some identifiable commonalities exist among those who experience depression symptoms, everyone may manifest depressive behaviors uniquely. Depending on the environmental and situational triggers, contributing factors are entirely individualized.
Factors in depression onset and diagnosis:
- Genetic predisposition
- Sexual/physical/emotional abuse
- Trauma and major Life events
- Serious illness
- Substance misuse
What is depression?
Depression is a notably complex disease. Medical professionals define depression as a mood disorder that most predominantly causes persistent feelings of sadness. All too often, symptoms also include a profound loss of interest in things that usually bring pleasure and enjoyment.
Depression remains one of the most prevalent, most costly and disabling mental health conditions in the United States. Still, it can be a difficult concept to grasp—since we refer to it as both the symptom of the diagnosis and the condition itself.
What causes depression?
As we’ve discussed, many factors and circumstances can increase the risk of depression. However, scientifically, there is not a list of definitive causes of depression. Similarly, there is no list of cures for such types of mental illness and mood disorders.
Individuals with certain predispositions have statistically shown an increased risk of a depression diagnosis. However, not all people who experience depressive symptoms are diagnosed with a textbook form of depression. Nearly all adults have experienced a depressive period or depression symptoms during significant times in their life—potentially warranting diagnosis.
Types of depression
- Major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression, is the most common form of diagnosed depression.
- Now known as persistent depressive disorder, dysthymia describes a type of chronic depression present for more days than not present and for at least two years.
- Characterized by periods of abnormally elevated mood known as mania, bipolar disorder also belongs in the category of mood disorders. The large majority of those with bipolar disorder also often have episodes of major clinical depression.
- Classified as depression after childbirth (peripartum onset), postpartum depression symptoms are more severe and long-lasting than just the “baby blues.”
- Seasonal affective disorder, currently called major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern, is believed to be triggered by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body.
- Atypical depression currently describes a depressive disorder with atypical features. This type of depression doesn’t follow the typical presentation of the condition.
Symptoms of Depression:
- Weight loss
- Excessive hunger or loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Lack of concentration
What insights does current research offer on depression and genetics?
Depression is known to run in families both anecdotally and now scientifically. There is now a robust collection of literature implicating the genetic factors in the etiology of depression and other psychiatric disorders. The bulk of the research around genetics and depression disorders focuses on major depressive disorder (MDD).
For example, people with MDD are three times more likely than those without the condition to have a first-degree relative living with depression. Major depressive disorder continues to be a growing public health concern due to its recurrent, deliberate and lethal nature.
However, specific genes or relevant DNA sequence variations in the pathogenesis of depression have not yet been identified. However, several identified variants and DNA predispositions were linked to the increased likelihood of a depressive disorder diagnosis.
Some extensive genome-wide studies have proposed these potential genetic connections to major depressive disorder, but the data isn’t definitive enough to make such conclusions. Scientists are more likely to believe that all the different genes and genetic variants each make a small contribution to a person’s overall risk of experiencing depression or depressive symptoms.
Depression is complex, and the question of its curability is often asked. The answer is complicated, and the reality is, like addiction, it is manageable but never goes away. You can live a fully functioning, high-quality life when you learn to properly manage symptoms of the condition.
There is a long list of ways to manage depression symptoms both naturally and with medical interventions. No matter the causation of one’s depression, management is crucial to having a happy, enjoyable life. Many times, when we feel lost in the thick of the illness, the treatments that seem simple—get out of bed, move your body, feed yourself nutritious food, talk to someone about the demons you face—feel impossible to enact.
Without the warm embrace and structure of a dedicated depression treatment environment, some turn to pharmaceuticals, alcohol or other substances to help manage depression symptoms. Often that is not enough, and they come with undesirable side effects.
In combination with and before choosing medication, it is wise to seek natural alternatives to reign in some, if not all, of the symptoms of depression. Whether you have the genetic predisposition for depression (aka the depression gene), utilizing natural, homeopathic remedies can be the first step to shoring up your defenses.
Ways to manage depression symptoms:
- Healthy lifestyle
- Reduce stress
- Regular sleep schedule
- Improve eating habits
- Maintain a consistent daily schedule
- Monitor time on social media
- Keep a clean environment
Looking into the future…
With research continually growing and expanding, the future continues to brighten for those with a depression diagnosis and symptoms. Science has been advancing its understanding of mental illnesses and mood disorders.
Thankfully, each year there are new studies with promising results. Our ability to manage mood disorders expands consistently and exponentially. While they may never answer how potent the genetic risk for developing depression is, the information and data collected support many in need for the long haul.
The short answer…
Depression is not genetic. While they have located some correlations in hereditary likeness, there is no definitive proof that depression is solely or even partially linked to anyone’s genetic characteristic. Instead, the data is showing some vague connections not to direct causation but only in increased likelihood. Despite the compelling nature of the genetic depression model, to date, no DNA variants synthesis or signaling genes have been consistently linked to the biology of affective disorders.
Although efforts to link the study of MDD have yet to yield any fully confirmed gene candidates, all the studies performed to date represent the effort that may have even further use in correlating data from other genetic studies.
The Ranch Tennessee is a premiere facility prepared to work with you or your loved one, teaching the habits to learn and live a healthy lifestyle with more coping methods. If you would like to seek treatment for either depression or manic depression, contact us at The Ranch Tennessee at 1.844.876.7680 for information about our treatment programs.