Is Depression Genetic? Family History And Other Causes Of Depression

By: Stephanie Kirby

Updated March 05, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

If you have a family history of depression, it can leave you wondering is depression genetic? It can be a difficult thing to deal with and understanding what the causes are can help you know if you are at risk of it. However, even if you find that you have risk factors for depression, it's important to know that it doesn't necessarily mean you will struggle with it. And, if you do, depression is a very treatable mental health challenge.


What Is Depression?

A lot of people think of sadness when they think of depression. If they're told to picture someone who is depressed, they think of someone who is not happy and seems sad. But depression is so much more than that.

The exact symptoms that a person experiences can vary widely. Depression is common and also very serious. If left untreated, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and even attempted suicide. This is why it's so important to understand how to recognize depression and also what type of treatment options exist.

There are many different kinds of depressive disorders. Some of them are brought on by specific situations such as depression connected with post-traumatic stress disorder or postpartum depression after having a baby.

Then, there are other forms of depression that seemed to appear for no reason.

Symptoms Of Depression

As mentioned above, the symptoms of depression can vary widely. Some people may experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness, while other people may experience anger and irritability. Emotions can run all over the place when dealing with depression.

There are also physical symptoms that come along with depression. These include things such as:

  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Lack of self-care and poor personal hygiene
  • Digestive issues
  • Physical aches and pain

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression, it's important to talk with a doctor or mental health professional about what you're feeling. They can help diagnose if you are experiencing depression and then get you on the right path to treatment. It's also important if you're dealing with struggling with your emotions that you include all symptoms that you're experiencing when talking to medical professionals. Even if you don't think that something could be related, depression can affect your body in a lot of different ways. So it's best to include everything.

Is Depression Genetic?

Evidence does seem to support that depression can run in families. It appears that if you have a family history of depression that you have a higher risk of developing a depressive disorder as well. However, studies are still relatively new on this topic. Scientists and medical professionals are not able to give clear answers to what causes this link between genetics and depression.

There are a lot of questions that remain about how strong this connection is and who it impacts the most. But it is believed that there are genes that are associated with the neurotransmitters that relay signals in your brain. The thought is that these genes are what would be that link between depression and genetics.

However, with limited information and proof on exactly how it works, it's important to remember that if you're experiencing symptoms of depression, whether you have a family history of it or not, you should get help.


What Are The Causes Of Depression?

There are also other life factors that come into play with depression.


Because there have been so many people from the military in recent years going to war and fighting overseas, many people are familiar with the term PTSD. However, PTSD applies to people that have gone through other traumatic experiences as well. While there is more to PTSD than only depression, it is a part of the disorder.

Trauma can include things like:

  • Being abused
  • Surviving a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake
  • Losing a family member to a traumatic accident or murder
  • Surviving a mass shooting

Any time you feel that your life or that of someone close to you is threatened, it can be traumatic. This trauma can be difficult to overcome and can lead to you dealing with symptoms of depression.

Medical Conditions

Another common cause of depression has a chronic illness. If you're living with an illness or disease that is impacting your daily life functions, you're at higher risk of developing depression as well.

Living with a disability or frequent pain can impact your mood and the way that your brain is processing. It's believed that illness is responsible for between 10 and 15% of depression. As you struggle with the symptoms of your illness, it can be difficult to handle.

It is also common for terminally ill patients to struggle with depression. As they face something that they have no control over, there's a lot of grief and emotion working within them. This depression can steal the ability to enjoy the end of their life as well as create good lasting memories with family and friends.

Death Of A Loved One

Losing someone close to you can be very difficult. As you struggle with coming to grips with what life looks like without that person around, you may find yourself falling into depression. There are a lot of emotions that are difficult to handle, and it can feel like things in life don't matter as much as they used to. As you experience this grief, you can have an increased risk of developing depression as well. This is one reason why it's important to be able to get help for grief after the loss of a loved one.


Major Life Changes

If you're going through big changes in your life, it can put you at a higher risk for developing depression. This can be the case even if the changes that you're experiencing are positive ones.

Major life changes like going away to college, moving out of state, or even retiring while good, can also feel overwhelming. There may be a lot of anxiety that you deal with during this time, and all of these emotions can make you more likely to develop depression.

There are also major life changes that aren't positive such as divorce or the loss of a job, and these can put you at a higher risk of depression as well.

Substance Abuse

It's not uncommon for people that are dealing with symptoms of depression to turn to drugs or alcohol to mask what they're experiencing. However, the use of substances often worsens the symptoms of depression.

The two things linked together can take you in a downward spiral that is hard to get out of. This is why treatment is important.

Other Causes

These are just some of the most common causes of depression. There are other things that can cause depression, and there are some people who experience symptoms of depression without really knowing or understanding what's causing it. Regardless of if you know the cause of your depression or not, you must get the treatment that you need to overcome it. While you might not be able to control that you are depressed, you don't have to let it overcome you.

How To Treat Depression

Depression is treatable, and there are many different types of options that you can choose from. The most common form of treatment that people know about includes medication and therapy.


There are antidepressants that can help you overcome your feelings of depression. These medications need to be prescribed by a doctor or a psychiatrist. They can help you to experience a leveling off of your emotions. However, medication is best to use when combined with other forms of treatment. You don't want to rely on medication to treat your mental challenges long-term. But, they can be very effective at helping you gain control and start to overcome your depression why you use other strategies as well.


There are many different forms of therapy available to treat depression, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Talking to a therapist can help you determine where the cause of your depression is coming from or what coping strategies that you can use to overcome your symptoms.

Alternative Treatments

There are also plenty of alternative treatments available depending on what you're willing to try. Some people have found relief from depression symptoms with things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, support animals, journaling, exercise, and self-care.


If you are concerned about a family history that you have with depression or if you're experiencing symptoms and would like to talk to a therapist, you can do so by completing the form with ReGain to get started today with online therapy. Or, if you prefer to be with someone in person, find a local therapist in your area that specializes in depression.

Depression is not something that you need to let control your life, and it is something that you're able to overcome with the right treatment. So, get started today to find relief.

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