What is depression?
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. The standard symptoms include lack of interest in hobbies, irritability, significant weight gain/loss, change in sleeping pattern, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, trouble concentrating, hopelessness, indecisiveness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
According to the World Health Organization, somewhere around 300 million people suffer from depression every year across the globe — that’s about 5 percent of the entire population of the world. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, and unfortunately, somewhere around 50 percent of those suffering do not even seek treatment for their disorder.
Despite the wide-reaching impact of depression and consistent research into this mental health disorder, the true causes of depression are still mostly unknown. Is depression completely genetic, passed on through family, or is depression brought on by environmental factors? The truth is depression is likely a complicated combination of a number of both genetic and environmental factors.
The link between genetics and depression
Genetics may not be completely responsible for depression as a disorder, but they definitely play a part. Research even indicates that depression could be as much as 40 percent genetic.
Additional research shows that people with a relative who suffers from depression may be at an increased risk for developing it themselves.
Is there a depression gene?
Unfortunately, current research indicates that the genetic portion of depression is most likely caused by multiple different genes rather than one specific gene. According to a study published in 2011 by the American Journal of Psychiatry, the chromosome 3p25-36 may be most responsible for severe and recurrent depression in families. While some consider this a breakthrough in depression treatment, the gene still has not been shown to predict other varieties of depression, which means there are likely more genes that cause depression yet to be discovered.
Serotonin is a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that has been commonly associated with depression (and other mood disorders such as anxiety or OCD). Particularly, a gene known as the serotonin transporter (SERT) is also potentially linked to depression, especially in regards to how the gene interacts with stress. Some research indicates that the long-arm version of this gene may lower the risk of depression, but those with the short-term version may be more likely to become depressed with each new stress that arises.
How is the environment linked to depression?
Those with a family history of depression are not the only people who suffer from depressive episodes, and even they are not guaranteed to experience depression in their life. Environmental factors contribute up to 60 percent of the risk associated with developing depression.
Factors such as severe stress, chronic pain, abuse, maladaptive coping, intense trauma, loss of a loved one, social isolation, serious illness, or other major life events.
Are genetics and the environment linked?
Unfortunately, genetics and environment both play a complicated role in terms of depression; research indicates that the environment can impact genes themselves. In practicality, it is impossible to talk about just environmental or genetics factors because these factors are inseparable in reality.
Research is still ongoing into a field known as epigenetics, which is in simple terms the study of how environmental factors can turn genes off and on without actually changing the genetic structure of a person’s DNA. For instance, new research has shown that not only do parents influence their children’s mental health, but depression can also be passed from children to parents as well.
What does this mean for depression treatment?
The consensus within the medical community is that to better understand depression and depression treatment, more research into the genetic and environmental factors together must be conducted.
Ketamine for Depression and Anxiety
An innovative new treatment option, Ketamine is an FDA-approved anesthetic that has been found to provide rapid relief from depression and anxiety when infused at a low dose. The FDA has recently approved Esketamine, a nasal spray comprised of a compound based on Ketamine, for depression treatment in Scottsdale. Research indicates that Ketamine stimulates the regrowth of synapses within the brain, essentially rewiring the parts of the brain that may be causing distress. Ketamine is also available as an infusion. Some researchers maintain a 75% success rate when treating those suffering from depression or anxiety with Ketamine Infusions.