Q. What is the role of genetic predisposition in depression?

Answered by
Dr. Suresh Kumar G D
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Jan 11, 2020 and last reviewed on: Jan 13, 2020

Hi doctor,

I am a mother of two children. My daughter at the age of 21 started showing signs of depression. She had to drop from university. After six years of struggle and treatment, she is on her way to recovery. But even now she gets panic attacks and feels depressed and is unable to handle stress.

My son at exactly the same age (21 years) started showing signs of depression. My kids had a very normal childhood without any issues. We are a normal healthy family.

My husband's family has a history of mental health issues. I have heard that at least one member from all our extended family branches had mental health problems. My father-in-law was a patient of chronic depression all his life. Please let me know if depression is genetic and is it possible that my children's problem is because of the genetic predisposition.

Dr. Suresh Kumar G D

Child Health Paediatrics Psychiatry


Welcome to icliniq.com.

You have asked a very pertinent question. As a parent, I can understand your quest for answers for your children's illness and treatment.

Depression is usually caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If there is a positive family history, a person is more vulnerable to develop depression, especially when faced with environmental stressors (epigenetics). So to answer your question, yes, genetic predisposition could have played a part in your children developing depression, but it may not be the only responsible factor. It is positive that they have a normal childhood. But any factors like academic pressure, or peer relationships, or social interactions or demands of growing up, etc., could have contributed to them feeling stressful which can then trigger depressive episodes.

With effective treatment, depression can be very well managed and your children can live productive lives. Treatment involves a combination of medication, psychological therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, yoga, and mindfulness meditation will be helpful.

I hope this helps.

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