Is Depression in My Genes?

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Where does depression come from? Like we talked about before, there are many theories (ideas for why something happens that scientists put together from facts and based on how the world seems to work).

There is some evidence or proof that part of why someone has depression comes from their genes—or basically the code your parents gave you that is an instruction manual for your body and mind.

On average in our population, about 38 percent of the way depression is inherited may be from genetics—and more so for girls than boys. Remember that statistic is talking about a whole population—we don’t know what it means for an individual person. For one person, genetics could be 70 percent of the reason they have depression—for someone else it might only be 10 percent.

About 10 percent of all people will experience depression. If someone has a parent or sibling with depression that risk goes up to about 20 to 30%.

Scientists haven’t found a “depression gene” yet. Its more likely there are a bunch of genes that contribute risk.

All of this means you don’t just get depression from your mom or dad—genes are part of the story but definitely not all of it. So don’t ever take that to mean you are programmed to be one way and there is nothing you can do about it.

You know how you open up a new phone and it has default settings? Think about those as your genes. Many phones are customizable–and you can decide how to set it up. Just because you get certain genes doesn’t mean you can’t work with what you got! (Read our post on epigenetics to find out more about how to work with what you inherit.)

Maybe you drop your phone and the screen cracks a little—then you get a new shiny case for it and now it looks awesome and you can’t tell there’s a crack. That’s kind of how the environment works—what’s around you and the experiences you have also effect who you become.

You are a collection of where you came from (your genes), what you grew up with (your environment), who you choose to become (your motivation and goals), and who helps you get there (your support system—including clinical professionals such as your therapist and doctor who provide you with tools you need to get you where you want to go).

Has anything made you feel as if your depression or anxiety are inevitable? Where did you get those messages? Share with us in the comments.

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Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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