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Can Depression Be Genetic?

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I know I have depresion but can it be genetic? My dad had it and so did my grampa.
Signed: Can Depression Be Genetic?

Dear Can Depression Be Genetic?,


The exact causes of depression are not yet known, but it believed that genetic factors (along with several other factors) do contribute to depression. The Mayo Clinic cites 6 main factors that can play a role in depression. They include:

·         Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.

·         Neurotransmitters. These naturally occurring brain chemicals linked to mood are thought to play a direct role in depression.

·         Hormones. Changes in the body's balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result from thyroid problems, menopause and a number of other conditions.

·         Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose biological family members also have the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.

·         Life events. Events such as the death or loss of a loved one, financial problems and high stress can trigger depression in some people.

·         Early childhood trauma. Traumatic events during childhood, such as abuse or loss of a parent, may cause permanent changes in the brain that make you more susceptible to depression.


You said you “know” that you have depression. FX is unsure if that means you have been diagnosed by a mental health professional, or you believe you have depression based on certain symptoms you have been experiencing.

Symptoms and signs associated with depression can include:

·         Depressed mood

·         Loss of interest or pleasure

·         Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

·         Thoughts of suicide, as approximately 2/3 of depressed patients contemplate suicide

·         Withdrawal from family, friends, and activities that previously were of interest

·         Reduced energy

·         Difficulty finishing tasks

·         Difficulties at school or work

·         Trouble sleeping

·         Appetite changes; weight gain or loss

·         As many as 90% of depressed patients may also deal with anxiety issues

·         Some depressed people have somatic complaints, such as constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and backaches.

In addition, to the above mentioned symptoms, symptoms of depression in adolescents can often present as:

·         Poor academic performance

·         Substance abuse

·         Antisocial behavior

·         Sexual promiscuity

·         Truancy

·         Running away

If you think you may be depressed and you have not already met with a therapist about it, FX strongly recommends that you meet with a mental health professional trained in working with adolescents and in working with mood disorders so you can be accurately diagnosed and so that you can receive the treatment you need. Genetic factors may make you predisposed to this mental illness, but it does not mean that you cannot benefit from treatment if you have depression – you absolutely can.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX