Genetic Causes of Depression

Genetic Causes of Depression

Depression most often results from a combination of internal and external factors, or a blend of nature and nurture. Genetic predisposition does contribute to depression, and a history of depression in the family is a good indicator of an increased risk of suffering from depression. However, even people with a genetic predisposition to depression usually require external stimuli to trigger the depression. In the absence of an external trigger for depression, a person with a genetic predisposition may never experience manifest depression.

Conversely, genetic predisposition is not required to develop depression; a person with no genetic predisposition may nonetheless develop depression given adequate external stimuli.

Of course, it is also true that some cases of clinical depression are caused almost purely from a chemical imbalance in the brain that is not related to external factors. This is why depression may develop in one family member but not in others who have been raised in identical surroundings.

Depression and Brains Changes

Brain scan technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has shown that the brains of depressed people actually display a different appearance in the regions associated with moods, thoughts, behavior, appetite and sleep than those of people without depression. However, exactly why this happens and what is occurring in the brains of depressed people is not yet understood. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), genetic research suggests that several different genes may act together in combination with external factors to trigger depression in some people.

Gender Differences and Depression

According to NIMH, women are more prone to depression than are men, most likely due to the more pronounced hormonal fluctuations that women experience. Hormones affect the regions of the brain that are responsible for moods and emotions, and women are more prone to greater fluctuations in these hormones in relation to menarche, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, birth and menopause.

Some women also suffer from an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that occurs around the time of ovulation before menstruation begins. This condition is closely associated with depression, as implied by its name dysphoria, which is the opposite of euphoria.

In modern times, women have also begun to carry a heavier social load in terms of combining work and a career with the more traditional role as caregiver to children. This extra work can be simply overwhelming in some cases, especially if the woman has a genetic predisposition to depression.

Women tend to manifest depression in feelings of sadness, guilt and worthlessness and are more likely than men to attempt suicide.

By contrast, men tend to become tired, irritable, frustrated, discouraged, angry, aggressive or even abusive in response to depression. They are more likely to suffer from insomnia and to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief. They may withdraw from family and friends and become preoccupied with work. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide when depressed, depressed men who attempt suicide are more likely than women to be successful in their attempt.

Treatment for Depression

Depression is a serious and potentially dangerous condition that requires treatment. When left untreated, depression can result in negative and even catastrophic consequences, including drug addiction and suicide. With treatment, however, depressed individuals can regain their optimism and love of life.

If you would like help finding treatment for depression, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline today.