Depression: Is it Genetic?

Depression, Health Topics

This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Are you suffering from depression? Then genetics may be partly responsible for it. The chance of you experiencing it may be higher if some of your family members face the same suffering.  However, there is still more to understand. It doesn’t mean that genetics is the cause. You can experience depression, even if no one else in your family has.

 Are you considering bearing a child or already have children? Is depression genetic? If some of your relatives suffer from it, you need to know the signs to look out for. You also need to know the steps you can take to reduce your risk. Continue reading to understand better the effects genetics has on depression.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental illness that has an effect on mood, physical activities, and overall health. Its other known term is “major depressive disorder.” It starts in the late adolescence or initial adulthood of people. However, it may begin to occur at any age. 

The patient needs to take medications or help from experts. If he doesn’t do so, his symptoms may worsen and last for years. The signs of depression may trim down and return after months or years. The affected people may find it hard to cope with daily activities, whether at school or work. They are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse and suicides than the general people.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms may vary and differ from person to person. It also depends upon the severity of the illness. However, some of the most common symptoms of a person with depression are:

They become sad from time to time.
They may feel empty inside and feel like giving up the activities they loved to do.
They may also feel a change in their appetite. Either the patient may eat a lot, or they may eat relatively less.
Their sleeping pattern may also change. It means that the patient may either sleep a lot or have trouble sleeping.
They tend to become physically weak, with no energy.
They may find difficulty in concentrating or focusing on their works.
Even though it is a known mental disorder, you may sometimes experience headaches, muscle pains, and digestive problems.

Say these symptoms keep showing up for about two to three weeks. Then they may be suffering from depression. There are also a few health issues that connect to depression. They are as under:

  • Persistent depressive disorder: It has signs that last for a long time. Its symptoms are similar to depression but are less severe.
  • Perinatal depression: It happens while or after giving birth to a child. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder: This illness occurs when the seasons change.
  • Manic depression: It includes depressive episodes, high energy, and risk-taking behaviors.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression is a widespread and severe sickness of the mind. It is one of the most mysterious illnesses. It is worrying that it is still tough to understand why it happens. Let alone how to cure it. There is no specific physical diagnosing tool or test. Studies show that about 10% of the U.S population will go through it at some point in their lives. Nearly twice the number of men, women tend to experience more depression. The experts gather essential information by investigating depression in families. With that, they can provide some help. 

Depression runs in families. That shows how the type of gene may be responsible for making a person prone to the illness. Most of the time, people with sickness have family problems. Most population research reveals that a person is likely to suffer from depression in an abusive home. When someone with the illness comes from a conflictive surrounding, medical treatments may not affect them.  Research shows that when parents ignore or neglect their children, the children can become very sensitive. As a result, such sensitivity to the environment can trigger the development of depression.

Is depression genetic?

To research the passing down of depression in families, experts examine the patterns of their illness. They took the case of twins and adopted children, and they studied the effects of the gene. For this, they found out that if genes play a role, then the passing down of depression would be 40-50%. The percentage may increase for people with severe depression. It goes to show that a gene may be responsible for 50% of the cause. But the other 50% is the cause of external factors. Such factors as environmental and psychological disturbances may trigger this illness. 

It is still a very complicated illness. And you cannot conclude about the effect that genes have on the sickness. Some people have it even though there is no known family record of the disorder. Some people have family members or relatives suffering from it but never get the condition. Even though it may run in the family, the range of pain and symptoms may vary even among the family members. Hence, experts suggest that genes are mere factors that contribute to the risk of getting depression.

Does depression cause memory loss?

Some studies reveal that there is a direct link between depression and memory loss.
In a 2013 study, the experts found that people with depression gave poor results on a memory test. They faced difficulty in spotting objects on a screen similar to the ones they had seen. Here, they concluded that it could reduce memory power.
A 2014 study researched the mental competence of people with depression in the past. They also took into account the ability of some people who never had the illness. They did it so that they could compare the results. They saw that people with depression could recall well the negative adjectives from a collection of words. In contrast, people with no signs of depression in the past gave a lower result. Hence, they concluded that depression enhances the brain’s focus on the negative aspects of life.
A 2018 study examined previous studies to understand the effects depression has on memory. They observed that many people with the illness complained of memory difficulties.
Many studies show how it can lead to brain damage. It even affects the mental performance of the person. People with the illness find it hard to focus and attend to the surroundings or the matters at hand. Hence, when they can’t concentrate, they find it hard to recall anything from that past.

Common causes of depression

Depression is a common outcome of environmental and genetic factors. We shall now see how they affect the people.

1. Environmental factors:

The environmental factors at fault for adding to the cause of depression are:

Trauma:

Any physical and emotional ill-treatment during the early years of a person can later lead to depression. Childhood with sexual abuse, conflict-filled environments, and a dear one’s loss gives rise to the illness.

Emotional damage:

Bad school experiences like bullying, mistreatment by teachers and friends, etc., can raise the chances of causing the illness.

Substance abuse:

Consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs can ignite depression in young teens and adults. They can cause more harm than just addiction to such substances.

As previously discussed, you need to consider the effect of genetic factors in the cause of depression.

2. Genetic factors:

The factors responsible for adding to the cause of the depression are:

Epigenetic regulation:

Epigenetics affect the working of the genes according to the experiences and the environment. It may be an essential deciding factor on whether a person develops the illness or not. It is not always constant.

Genetic polymorphisms:

The differences in DNA sequence between people make each of us unique. Polymorphism alone is not enough to cause depression. However, it needs to combine with a specific environmental state to trigger the condition.
Researchers suggest doing studies with more people. It will help us to understand and pinpoint the genetic variations between the patients. This step will help to know the causes of the illness and its link with genetics. The genetic variation between individuals may depend on gender too.

Steps you can take to avoid depression:

You may not be at risk right now, but it is always good to learn preventive measures and take precautions. You can also use these measures to help people with depression. Some of the steps you can take are:
Eat healthy and nutritious foods.
Maintain proper sleep routines.
Refrain from drugs and alcohol.
Exercise and meditate whenever possible.
Consider seeking counsel from time to time.
Avoid excess work and exhausting your body.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Conclusion:

So, is depression genetic? You can now understand that it is a result of a blend of genetic and environmental factors. It is difficult to predict or determine that anyone is at risk of the illness. The causes are complex and require specific sequences to trigger the condition. It is also possible that it is not single but multiple sicknesses having similar symptoms and signs. However, though it may be genetic, you may develop the mental fortitude to withstand and avoid depression with proper measures. We hope that this write-up helps you to have a better understanding of depression.

Written by

Brianna Elliott

Chief Editor

Hi I’m Brianna

A few years ago, after dealing with health issues for nearly half a decade, I realized fitness is my ultimate destiny. Hence, I enrolled in various exercise and training programs and coached in mindfulness and wellness routines. I then blended all of these habits into my daily life to get better at what I was doing and become an expert. 

Through this brand, I aim to elevate people’s spirits of wanting to live their best lives, create a system of self-awareness, and accelerate their inner growth.

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