“Depression runs in the Family” or “It’s in your genes” are commonly given as causes of depression. If you are suffering from depression, being told you are “bound to get it”, can be a very unhelpful statement to have tossed at you. After having looked at the information let’s try to answer the question,” Is Depression Hereditary?”

There is evidence that some forms of depression have a genetic basis, in particular manic depression, or bipolar disorder. However, with those two exceptions most depression is learned, not genetic. Because depression has to do with styles of thinking, behavior and interpersonal relationships, depressive styles can be passed down in families. So if you had a parent or close family member who suffered from depression you will have learned the basic behavior models from them.

Depression can occur, or be triggered by an existing medical condition as well. The physical effects of depression are real and often very debilitating, but only around 10-18% of depressions are set off by another medical condition. And as depressing as some diseases are, they don’t automatically cause depression. Pain, for example, can cause an inability to enjoy daily activities, disturb sleep patterns, make life less pleasant, and cause general feelings of hopelessness. Some food allergies, when undiagnosed cause low energy levels, interrupted sleep, and increased worry as the person tries to figure out what is wrong with them. But they do not cause depression.

To fully understand the link between physical causes of depression, and depression itself, a close examination of the thinking styles associated with depressive behavior must be made. It’s similar to the age old question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” In this case It’s, “What came first the depression or the pain?” Are you depressed because you are in pain, or are you in pain because you are depressed? A person with a family history of depression may answer that question totally differently then a person with no depression history.

So, to answer the question, “Is Depression Hereditary?” the answer is no. Someone may be predisposed towards depression if members of their family suffered with it, but this however does not guarantee they too will become depressed. Learned behavior does play a role, but learned behavior is a choice we as adults can alter.