Is Depression Genetic? Can it Skip a Generation?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 280 million people face depression worldwide. A number as staggering as this may raise a few questions. Is Depression Hereditary? If, So, Can it Skip a Generation? Where does depression come from and how does it happen? In many cases, depression can be passed on genetically. Other times, it develops due to environmental or situational factors.

To understand the complexities of depression and its origins, it is important to first know its recognized types.

How Many Types of Depression Are There?

There are multiple forms of depression. All forms result in constant feelings of sadness, detachment, or fatigue. However, each variant has distinctive qualities that set it apart.

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): A depressive disorder characterized by persistent symptoms of depression for the majority of each day, lasting at least two weeks at a time. Symptoms usually interrupt the individual’s daily life. In addition, the ability to work, sleep, eat, or interact with others may be affected.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): This disorder presents less severe symptoms of depression compared to major depression. However, symptoms last significantly longer, often at least two years.
  • Perinatal/postpartum depression: Perinatal depression occurs during pregnancy. Postpartum depression occurs after delivery. A 2022 study shows approximately one in seven women develop postpartum depression.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Depression that comes and goes with the changing of the seasons. Symptoms typically start during late fall or early winter, then recede at the beginning of spring or summer.
  • Depression with symptoms of psychosis: Considered a severe form of depression in which a person experiences psychosis along with depression. Symptoms include delusions and hallucinations.

While there are many distinctive variations of depression, it is essential to seek a proper diagnosis. With the correct information, individuals can receive appropriate care for their unique needs.


How Can We Help?

Providing a Compassionate and Safe Environment for Healing.

What Role Does Genetics Play in Depression?

Of the many forms of depression, MDD is known to be the most common of the disorders. One study reflects that roughly 1 in 5 people will develop MDD at some point in their lives. As such a widespread mental health condition, where does depression come from? A 2021 study performed by the Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) mapped out 178 variations of genes that are linked to depression.

While the evidence is clear that depression can be inherited through specific gene combinations, it is not a guarantee. The role that genetic makeup has on people with depression or their risk of developing it is still understudied to date. However, individuals with an immediate family member facing depression are potentially at 2-3 times higher risk for developing it than those who don’t. Additionally, there are many cases where someone develops depression without a family history of it, while plenty who do have a family history of the disorder never develop it.


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Are There Other Causes of Depression?

While depression can certainly run in families, there are plenty of other reasons an individual may develop depression. In many cases, chronic illnesses such as cancer, chronic pain, or cardiovascular diseases are associated with depressive disorders. Some other possible causes of depression include:

  • Stressful life events such as divorce, death of a loved one, financial crisis, or termination of employment
  • Loneliness or feeling separated from family and friends
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Personality traits like low self-esteem or being overly-self-critical
  • Regular or excessive alcohol use
  • Drug use
  • Other mental health concerns such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or psychosis
  • Certain medications may recognize depression as a known side effect

How Is Depression Treated?

Prior to treatment, one must first receive a professional diagnosis. Once the specific depressive condition has been identified, an individual can begin the process of building a personalized treatment plan with their mental health specialist. Therapy and medication are the most common forms of treatment for depression. A combination of the two is often the best option, although in some cases one or the other has been found to be effective.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely used therapy option in the treatment of depression. The primary focus of CBT is on the thought patterns and expectations that accompany depression. Through this process, an individual gradually learns to retrain their brain to adopt a new perspective and create more realistic ways of thinking. Another beneficial form of therapy is interpersonal therapy in which the main focus is on the individual’s relationships with loved ones.

Medication for depression is also widely used. There is a vast variety of prescription drugs available. Through an appropriate trial and error process with a qualified medical professional, an individual can identify the proper medication and dosage for their individual needs. Taking an antidepressant is not always necessary and is prescribed on a case-by-case basis.

The most important takeaway is that depression is treatable in our residential mental health treatment centers in Irvine, Mission Viejo and other cities in California. Happiness is obtainable through the right guidance and care.


How Can We Help?

Providing a Compassionate and Safe Environment for Healing.


Depression is a formidable opponent on the battlefield of life. It can make you feel worthless and as if all hope is lost. There is more to life than the depression that you face. Your world can be a beautiful place full of life, laughter, and vibrant colors. You don’t have to bear this alone. At Alter Behavioral Health, we can help you shoulder the weight of your depression until it lifts. With proper treatment, guidance, and care, you can enjoy a much brighter, happier, and healthier life. Our treatment options can help you see past the fog of your depression, whether it was inherited genetically or not. Call us today at (866) 691-4386 to get started.