April 22, 2024

Does Depression Run in Families?

You always hear of people checking their family history to see if they are genetically predisposed to any medical condition. And most people are able to report whether or not they have a history of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. However, if you asked those same people if depression ran in their family, they may not be so quick to answer.

Below we will discuss how family genetics and the family environment can both potentially play a part in the onset of depression.

Family Genetics

There could be an inherited chemical imbalance in a person’s brain that ultimately leads to a diagnosis of depression. The first place to check for this imbalance would in the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. One of the main functions of serotonin is to regulate mood, thoughts and behavior; if a person is genetically predisposed to having lower than normal levels of serotonin, it can lead to depression in many instances. In fact, many of the antidepressants on the market work to directly on increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

Typically a genetic link is found with those individuals suffering from a more serious case of depression. For example, a person who is diagnosed as having manic depression is more likely to have a family history of the disease, but this would not necessarily be the case for the person diagnosed with a mild case of depression.

Family Environment

The family environment a person grows up in can definitely lead to depression. There are certain learned behaviors that are a result of what people see in their childhood and that can affect them as they grow into adults.

How did you see conflicts resolved as a child? Did your parent abuse any substances? If they did, how did this affect their mood? Did they ever show signs of depression? The answers to these questions for people who are depressed often sheds light on why the disease has shown up in their own lives. If a person was, say, abused as a child or had a parent who was an addict prone to depression, that person would be at a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression than a person who had a more traditional upbringing.

So, yes, depression can run in families. The depression can be due to a genetic predisposition, but it could also be related to those learned behaviors from childhood.


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