A Woman's Voice

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Genetics And Depression ~ March 10, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte

Posted in THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY by doloresayotte on March 10, 2011
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Over thirty six years ago I gave birth to twin daughters. I didn’t even know I was having twins until the day I went into labor. You can well imagine our surprise and delight. Our two-year old daughter was equally delighted with her two new baby sisters.  Soon after I gave birth, many people asked me if twins ran in my family.  I answered, “not to my knowledge”.  Shortly after that I heard from extended family members that there were indeed many sets of twins on both my husband’s and my side of the family.  I only discovered this fact later on in life because now this information had more relevance to my particular situation.

In some of my recent posts, I’ve been discussing the topic of depression. I have briefly touched on the premise that depression can be anger turned inward.  Today, I am going to discuss another opinion I have about depression. I am no medical professional. This is only a personal opinion based on my own experience with depression.

Perhaps, you have already been exposed to the word “predisposition” .  This is the word I am going to use to elaborate on what I refer to as the genetic link to depression. We have already heard, when referring to the medical model, that certain physical illnesses are genetically linked like heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and so on. Due to this genetic link we might be more apt to get or inherit these diseases from our ancestors.  I think that a similar analogy can also be made with other illnesses like depression. When I suffered my severe bout with depression in my early thirties, I had a better look as to why I was suffering from depression when many of my peers were not.  This realization was similar to when I gave birth to twins. I learned that many of my family members had also suffered in a similar way.  When this debilitating illness became more relevant to me, I had a better look. In doing so, I discovered that there seemed to be a genetic link because there was a long list of family members who shared my plight.

I came to the conclusion that one of my genetic weaknesses had to do with depression. I now refer to this as my “genetic predisposition” to this particular condition.  To me, it is no different from any other genes that we might inherit.  In my opinion, having this “predisposition” does not necessarily mean that we will suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness. What it does mean is that we might have the propensity to be depressed if a traumatic event occurs in our lives to “trigger” an episode.  Such traumatic events may include the after effects of combat, the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, financial woes, stress, etc. Some of these events are impossible to control and can have a devastating effect on those with  a “predisposition” to depression. 

According to Nancy Schimelpfening,  “The causes of depression are not entirely understood, but are thought to be multi-factorial. Studies indicate that depression is, at least in part, an inherited condition involving abnormalities in neurotransmitter functioning. Although inheritance is an important factor in major depression, it does not account for all cases of depression, implying that environmental factors may either play an important causal role or exacerbate underlying genetic vulnerabilities.”

In a perfect world where there were no traumatic events, possibly there would be no depression. I don’t know.  I do know however,  that this is not a perfect world.  Although, we have no control over our genetic make-up, in a lot of instances we do have some control over the “triggers” that may cause our possible depression. From my personal frame of reference, this was what I have strived to achieve in overcoming my own depression. What I am basically saying here is this. If you suffer from symptoms of depression, the best course of action is to try to figure out what is causing it.  This is the first step. After that, you may just succeed in figuring out what to do about it.  If the “triggers” are within your power to control or avoid, your depression may also be managed more effectively. What do you think?        


7 Responses to 'THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY ~ Genetics And Depression ~ March 10, 2011 by Dolores Ayotte'

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  1. audrakrell said,

    I love that you see the pre disposition as you would any other gene. Instead of elevating it as an alter to worship, you put it in it’s place; which I believe lends itself to dealing with our situations better. This is a much needed topic and series of posts.

    • Hi Audra,
      Thanks for your comments and your insights. Yes…I truly believe that a predisposition to depression is like any other inherited gene. I also believe this condition should be treated the same as any other physical illness. I agree that topics like these need to be discussed more openly. I am very glad to have had this opportunity on my blog.

  2. Kathy Eberly said,

    Thanks so much for sharing this topic. Depression is such a pertinent part of life and you have approached it well. Thank you again.

    • Kathy…it is so wonderful to hear from you again. I appreciate your insights when it comes to depression. It’s not an easy topic to discuss and it’s even harder to live with, therefore I welcome your usual supportive and encouraging comments.

  3. Charles Betts said,

    Dolores; Here is a poem I did a while ago. It is short but says so much as to my outlook on life. I feel that avoiding or overcoming depression,[ now mind you I have never suffered from it that I know of], has so much to do with our outlook, not only on life, but also our outlook on the events that occur in our life. When we realize we are never alone, either in our circumstances, meaning we are not unique to them, nor are we abandoned in them. If we feel alone or abandoned, then that is just it, we feel that way. God never leaves us and chances are we have more friends than we recognize. In each case if we reach out, either upward or outward, there is help.
    I do recognize as you say here that in some families there appears to be a predisposition to depression. At least in my observations I have seen it so. I am not an expert in sense of the word on this subject, this merely says this has been my observation.


    I am alive today
    I have made a choice
    I’ll be kind in what I say
    I’ll put laughter in my voice

    Yes I’ve lost some things
    Yes I’ve known some pain
    Yet my heart will sing
    Yet I will laugh again

    A poem by Charles Betts
    Jan. 24th 2008

  4. hope_rising said,

    Miss D!

    what an insightful post. I do not have depression, but our family as a propensity towards anxiety. I can see that the insights of this article apply to that condition as well. Anxiety has triggers and conditions that can bring out or exacerbate a situation. Being organized and practical about commitment is one of the biggest ways to battle anxiety.Not letting your life get so committed and overwhelming, staying on top of the mail, the laundry etc… so that things can’t pile up.

    Exercise is also really good for anxiety, something aerobic, to release or channel a bunch of energy.

    In our family, all of us, at one time or another have been overwhelmed by anxiety and have had to come to terms with the power it can have over us, unless we face it head on … understand the cause ..

    on a side note! I have twin sisters, that no one knew was coming, until they were coming! LOL! I do so love them! How cool to know you had twins .. you’re a special lady!

    LLL from HTH !

    • Hi Hope,
      Thanks for sharing some of your family history with anxiety. I agree that anxiety has triggers and conditions that exacerbate the situation. I have found that being organized and practical when it comes to depression also helps alleviate some of the symptoms. I think it has to do with feeling in control of your own life. It helps to know that we have some power over what is going on in our lives so we don’t feel so overwhelmed. Exercise has minimized some of the devastating effects of depression in my case. This is the reason why I have been so committed to my exercise routine of walking for over twenty-five years. I think it is so wonderful that you are training for the triple crown. I can see that you are one determined lady too! Good for you!

      That’s neat that you have twin sisters. We are continually getting to know more and more about each other. Thanks for your inspiration!
      HTH from LLL
      Miss D

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