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Depression

Genetic Factors in Depression

08/22/2007

Question:

Symptoms of depression seem to run in my family, dating back at least to my grandmother. I know some types of mental illness have a strong genetic component. But what about basic depression, the kind that doesn't show up till middle age and is treatable with counseling and medication? Can depression be inherited as well?

Answer:

The more severe types of depression, such as recurrent major depression and bipolar depression, are more strongly influenced by genes. So far, there are no specific genes that are linked to the risk for specific types of depression, but the best estimate of inherited risk comes from a detailed family tree. This is best done with a clinician who is familiar with depression and your family history of physical and mental illnesses.

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Response by:

Lawson  Wulsin, MD Lawson Wulsin, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, Training Director of the Family Medicine Psychiatry Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati