Is Depression Hereditary?

As we know, clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental disorder leading to various disabilities.

Even though, about the five percent of the world’s population struggles with depression, its origins are not known yet, and are questionable. 

In this article, we will try to answer the question “Is depression hereditary,” discussing the link between depression and genetics.

Depression and Genes

It is seen that depression develops in families, which supposes that genetic factors increase the risk of disorder development.

However, more researches are needed to know more about the connection between depression and genetics.

According to the Stanford School of medicine, ten percent of Americans experience a major depressive disorder at some point in their lives.

A person whose first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) suffers from depression is more likely to develop depression than other people.

There are some researches aimed to reveal the link between genes and depression.

Some studies demonstrated that genetics plays a role in the risk of developing depression and other mental disorders.

However, some people suffer from depression even though they do not have a family history. 

Chromosome 3

A group of British researchers found a chromosome 3p25-26 in more than 800 families struggling with recurrent depression.

According to the researchers, 40 percent of people with depression can trace it to a genetic link, while the other 60 percent is made up of the environment and other factors.

Depression and Other Factors

Besides genetics, some other factors can influence depression development. Below are presented some of them:

Behavior modeling

Since childhood, people learn some skills through behavior modeling to socialize in society.

Children copy their parents’ behavior to learn what to do or how to react to different situations.

In that way, they can also learn parents’ depressive behaviors.

Psychological trauma

Psychological traumas can affect depression development too.

If in a family, one of the parents or both of them demonstrates abuse or neglect, it can affect family members and the possibility that the latter may develop depressive disorder, or other mental health problems, increases. 

Serotonin imbalance

Research connects serotonin imbalance to mental health disorders, involving depression.

Problems with the serotonin transporter gene have also been considered as a source for depression. 

The environment

“The 40 percent estimate (of heritability) is best thought of as the combined effects of genetics and the environment that interacts with those genetics.

Our genome is an underlying risk.

In order for that risk to become active, you need some environmental triggers,” says Breen. 


Dr. Michael J. Meaney describes epigenetics like this: “the study of how external or environmental factors can switch genes on and off without actually changing the structure of the genes in a given DNA sequence.”

The colleagues of Dr. Meaney have discovered that not only parents can influence on children’s mental health, but can also be the vice versa.

“At least some of the time, it appears that if a child has anxiety or depression that the parents then develop anxiety or depression because of that,” Breen says. “In a cross-section review, if you look at that family at one point at a time, you might think depression is genetic or environmental — it has been passed from the parents to the children. However, based on an analysis using a type of twin design. The transmission goes in both ways, from the kids back to the parents as well.”

The symptoms of depression

Below are the main symptoms of depression: 

  • Feeling worthless or guilty,
  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood,
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed,
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions,
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue,
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting,
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much,
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity or slowed movements and speech, 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide. 
  • Symptoms must last at least two weeks to diagnose depression.

Confessions “Is Depression Hereditary?” 

scared mum

I have suffered clinical depression for the past 19 years. It has been rough but has been very lucky to have great support from my husband. Our 14-year-old son has suffered anxiety on and off growing up. This year he started not eating because he felt anxious he felt too ill to eat. He ended up in hospital after being diagnosed with Anorexia.

Four months later, after now being on an antidepressant, his eating has improved, but now he is severely depressed. He has fortnightly counseling. Meds are still being reviewed and increased. When he does go to school, he comes home and goes straight to bed. All weekend and school holidays he is in bed. He no longer wants to do anything he previously enjoyed, like surfing. He does not want to socialize. His grades have slipped dramatically.


As I know, my relatives from my mum’s line: big grandmother, grandmother, and mother, suffered from depression all their lives. In my case, it started since I was 15 years old. I went to doctors and used some prescribed pills, but they did not help; I still suffer from depression.

“I saw what the depression was doing to my students. Often they could get no jobs or jobs which were wholly inadequate. Moreover, through them, I began to understand how deeply political and economic events could affect men’s lives. I began to feel the need to participate more fully in the life of the community.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer

How to treat depression?

You can use some presented tips to treat depression:

  • Psychotherapy – More ordinary methods of psychotherapy are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy.

Attend to an individual or group therapy. In individual therapy, you build a strong relationship with the therapist and may feel more comfortable to share some private, sensitive information with one person than with a group.

Another advantage of individual therapy is that you get individualized attention.

What about group therapy, the advantage is that you have a chance to listen to others experiences about going through the same struggles which can validate your experiences.

You can get tips from people who overcame depression and people who are still struggling to find a solution.

  • Medication – Antidepressants can help to get rid of some of the symptoms of depression, but they do not cure depression fully and are usually not a long-term solution.
  • Lifestyle changes – Make sure you get enough sleep, do regular exercises, eat well, change your life to reduce stress.
  1. Dirty Genes: A Breakthrough Program to Treat the Root Cause of Illness and Optimize Your Health
  2. HFNE “Bipolar”
  3. HFNE “Clinical Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)”
  4. HFNE “Is Depression a Disability?”
  5. Mood Genes: Hunting for Origins of Mania and Depression 
  6. Silent Inheritance: Are You Predisposed to Depression? 

FAQs about the topic “Is depression hereditary?”

How do genetics play a role in depression?

According to some studies, genetics plays a role in risk to develop depression; a person whose first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) suffers from depression is more likely to develop depression than other people.

Besides that, a group of British researchers found a chromosome 3p25-26 in more than 800 families struggling with recurrent depression. 

Is mental illness hereditary?

Mental illness can be hereditary. Research showed that people who have a family member with a mental illness might be more likely to develop it too. 

Is anxiety hereditary or learned behavior?

Anxiety can be learned behavior, according to theory; at an early age children copy their parent’s behavior, and they learn how to respond to different situations; therefore, if a family member displays anxious behavior, it is more likely for the kid to learn that behavior and use in adulthood too.

Hereditary risk for anxiety, in general, is less likely to be an on/off switch than a complicated mix of genes, which can increase the risk of developing anxiety.

Do mood disorders run in families?

Mood disorders run in families, and most people with depression or other mood disorders have at least one relative who struggles with it too.

However, if a mood disorder runs in the family, it does not mean that your children will have it for sure.

How long does depression last?

An episode of major depression, on average, lasts 4-8 months.

However, the duration of depression can be shortened by treatment.

Many people recover within 3-6 months by treatment, although it can take longer than it.

Is bipolar inherited from the mother or father?

Bipolar disorder can be inherited from both parents: mother or father.

Genetic factors account for about 60-80 percent of the cause of the bipolar disorder. 


It is seen that depression develops in families, which supposes that genetic factors increase the risk of disorder development.

However, some people suffer from depression even though they do not have a family history.

Thus, we cannot say for sure that depression is heredity because more researches are needed to reveal the connection between depression and genetics and discover more causes of depression development.

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