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Does Depression Run in Families? What You Need to Know About Intergenerational Depression

The Leaders in TMS Annapolis Break Down Your Biggest Questions About Intergenerational Depression

When visiting a new doctor, one of the first things your provider will ask about is your family history. In this question, they hope to learn about the history of specific cancers, heart issues, and mental illness, among other health concerns.

It seems odd that mental illness would be grouped with these other diseases, but it’s because certain mental illnesses are tied to your genetics. This leads many of our patients to ask: does depression run in families?

As the leaders in TMS Annapolis, Psych Associates of Maryland is here to answer this question for you. Check it out—the answer may surprise you.

Does Depression Run in Families?

The Leaders in TMS Annapolis Break Down the Nature vs. Nurture Link

Nature vs Nurture

We’ve probably all heard the phrase “depression runs in my family” before. It’s true—people whose parents have depression do tend to also be depressed. One overview of multiple studies suggests a two- to three-times increase in lifetime risk of developing major depressive disorder among first-degree relatives. But the leaders in TMS Annapolis suggest that the answer to this question is much more complex than a simple yes or no.

If you’re familiar with the nature vs. nurture debate in psychology — one in which people debate whether your upbringing actually weighs in on your personality or if it’s entirely predetermines — the same type of grey-area answer exists. Studies suggest that there are genetic predispositions for depression in addition to environmental factors, but researchers have not pinpointed the singular link between that leads to intergenerational depression.

This conclusion doesn’t come from a lack of research either. A number of studies have been conducted, including one studying identical twins (who have identical DNA) that shows that there is not a single gene that codes for depression. Additionally, a number of studies have shown that a parent’s stress, anxiety, and reactiveness can lead to an increase in depression in children.

In other words, studies have found that depression does in fact run in families. However, there is no conclusion about whether this is generic or a result of the environment of a family—the nature vs. nature argument—leaving a bit of grey area for depression sufferers and practitioners alike. 

Am I at a High Risk for Depression because of my Family?

Breaking Down Major Risk Factors for Depression

High risk family

While there is certainly a familial link for depression, having a history of depression isn’t an end-all, be-all for your future. Mental health is extremely complex and is determined by a variety of factors, making it nearly impossible to pinpoint or control your likelihood of experiencing depression. However, there are a number of things—that may be related to your family’s health or lifestyle—that can increase your risk of depression:

  • Experiencing trauma as a child
  • Social isolation or having few close relationships
  • Suffering from a serious medical condition, like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes
  • Living with chronic pain
  • Taking certain medications (e.g. certain drugs used to treat high blood pressure)
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

To minimize your risk, it’s important to take on a healthy lifestyle. Active lifestyles, healthy diets, and comfortable relationships with others can help minimize stress and decrease your risk of depression over time.

How Do I Treat Intergenerational Depression?

Tackling Depression with the Leaders of TMS Annapolis

Intergenerational depression

While it can be stressful knowing that you have a risk factor for depression that is completely out of your control, you can rest assured knowing that intergenerational depression is common and treated similarly to other types of depression. Best of all, people who are aware of their risk can take proactive measures to ensure that they keep their minds and bodies healthy. If you already have depression, here are your treatment options:

  • TMS Therapy: If you want to end depression once and for all, consider TMS Maryland. TMS, or Transcranial magnetic stimulation, involves using painless electrical waves to reactivated under activated portions of the brain. After several weeks of treatment, many patients experience remission of all depression symptoms. 
  • Medication: There are a number of medications available for managing depression. Psych Associates of Maryland will help you find the medication that best manages your depression over time.
  • Psychotherapy: Commonly referred to as ‘talk therapy,’ psychotherapy is the treatment available talking through life issues with a practitioner every week or two and developing skills for coping with depression in a healthy way.


Think it’s time to take control of your depression once and for all? Get in touch with the leaders in TMS Annapolis at Psych Associates of Maryland today to get started.


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