When Depression Runs in the Family: Here’s What You Need to Know, and What You Can Do to Optimize Your Mental Health
Perhaps you inherited your mother’s hair colour, your father’s freckles, or your grandfather’s distinctive dimples. You may be glad to have taken after your parents’ artistic streak or athleticism or some other trait that is unique to your family tree. But what if several members – or even generations – of your family suffer from depression? Is it genetic? Are you destined to have your own struggle with depression as well?
Depression is Hereditary: Fact or Fiction?
Like mother, like daughter: Not necessarily the case when it comes to depression.
Depression is surprisingly common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode [in 2017]. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.” With so many people suffering from depression, researchers have long sought to determine the cause. Is depression genetic? Or are other factors at play?
The answer, it turns out, is somewhat complicated. “Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors,” explains NIMH. Research conducted at Stanford shows that “if someone has a parent or sibling with major depression, that person probably has a 2 or 3 times greater risk of developing depression compared with the average person.
Even though there is a greater risk for people whose immediate family members have depression, the answer is still not quite black-and-white. Studies on identical twins have found that in about 30% of cases, one twin develops depression but the other one does not. “There is not a gene for depression,” according to Michael D. Yapko, a clinical psychologist who specializes in depression. “There is a genetic vulnerability toward depression, but not a gene.”
So, while a family history can certainly increase your risk for depression, it does not guarantee that you will have it. Similarly, just because nobody in your family has ever had depression doesn’t mean that you will never get it, either. A family history of depression is just one piece of a complicated puzzle.
What Are the Risk Factors for Depression When There is a Family History?
As mentioned previously, depression is caused by genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. A family history of depression is just one risk factor to consider. Major life changes, trauma, and stress can also play a role. Some examples of these events include losing or changing your job; moving; or the loss or illness of a loved one.
Whatever the cause or the symptoms of your depression, it is important to seek treatment.
Physical illnesses and medications can also cause depression. Chronic pain and insomnia are both linked to depression, as are diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. On top of that, many common prescription medications (including beta blockers, some types of birth control, corticosteroids, and statins, to name a few) list depression as one of their side effects. Your body and mind are closely linked; if your body is unwell, depression may follow.
Everyone experiences depression in a unique way, and everyone’s risk factors are individual as well. Understanding your background can be useful, but the most important thing is to recognize when you are struggling, regardless of whether you can pinpoint a reason or cause. Knowing that your family has a history of depression is useful information, but there are more elements to consider.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
So how do you know when it’s time to seek treatment? What’s the difference between being stressed or sad and having depression? WebMD outlines the symptoms of major depression:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
- Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms – or if you are concerned about depression for any reason at all – it’s time to talk to your doctor about treatment. Although it can be difficult to broach the subject for the first time, it is an essential step to take in order to get relief.
Your doctor may recommend talk therapy or modifications to your diet and exercise to help with your depression symptoms. He or she may also prescribe antidepressant medications for you. But these drugs can cause nasty side effects, lead to dependency, and may not even be effective. When you’re depressed, you just want to feel better. Fortunately, there is a better way to get relief.
Alpha-Stim is easy to use, and treatments are conducted in the comfort of your own home.
Alpha-Stim® is an FDA cleared medical device that is clinically proven to safely and effectively treat depression. It works by sending a tiny current of electricity to your brain through two electrodes that clip onto your earlobes. This modality, called cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), restores balance to your brainwaves, making you feel better. Alpha-Stim’s patented waveform is backed by more than 100 clinical research studies and has been improving lives since the 1980s.
Treatments are easy painless and are done in the comfort of your own home. Unlike medications, Alpha-Stim bears no risk of addiction or lasting side effects. Its results are cumulative over time – in other words, the more you use it, the better you’ll feel, and the less often you’ll need it. At the same time, there is no risk of overuse with Alpha-Stim; you can use it as often as needed. Alpha-Stim is effective as a standalone treatment and is also safe to use in conjunction with other treatment modalities.
Yet another benefit of Alpha-Stim that sets it apart from medications is that it also treats anxiety and insomnia, which often accompany depression. Many antidepressants can cause sleep disturbances, which exacerbate depression symptoms. Alpha-Stim, on the other hand, helps you get better, longer sleep, so you feel your best.
Whether or not depression runs in your family, it’s important to recognize the symptoms in yourself. If you are suffering from depression, you have options for how to treat it. You don’t have to resort to pharmaceuticals and all their scary side effects.
Don’t wait another day. Get started with Alpha-Stim, and let nothing stop you.
Alpha-Stim® is an FDA cleared, handheld medical device that has been proven time and again to effectively treat acute, post traumatic, and chronic pain, as well as anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Alpha-Stim uses cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), delivered through a patented waveform via two earclip electrodes, to treat anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Microcurrent electrical therapy (MET) delivers pain relief directly to the source of discomfort via two handheld Smart Probes.
The safety and effectiveness of Alpha-Stim is backed by over 100 independent clinical research studies. Unlike with medications, there is no risk of addiction or lasting side effects.
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