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Not All Factors Giving Rise to Depression Are Equal
Michael D Yapko, PhD posted:
Depression is a multi-dimensional disorder. It has biological components based in genetics, neurochemistry and physical health. It has psychological components that involve many individual factors such as cognitive style, coping style, and qualities of personal behavior. And, it has social components, factors that are mediated by the quality of one's relationships. This includes such variables as the family and the culture one is socialized into, and one's range of social skills. Thus, the best, most accurate answer to the basic question, "What causes depression?" is, "Many things." Likewise, the way out of depression has many different paths, and each person's path will uniquely be his or her own.

The fact that there are many different factors contributing to depression is important to know. Not all the factors are equal in weight- some exert a greater influence than others in specific people. Some exert a great deal of influence that is only now starting to be realized. The social side of depression is especially important, yet is terribly under-considered in most people's awareness.

We know, for example, that depression runs in families: The child of a depressed parent is anywhere from three to six times more likely to become depressed than the child of a non-depressed parent. The genetics research makes it quite clear that it isn't entirely — or even mostly - faulty genes responsible, especially we now know since there is no "depression gene." As genetics expert Kenneth Kendler, M.D., said, 'There aren't genes that make you depressed. There are genes that make you vulnerable to depression."

For most of us, the development of depression has more to do with the patterns of thinking, coping, behaving, and relating that we learn through socialization from parents (and other significant influences in our society) through daily interaction than it does one's genetic makeup. Consider this unfortunate evidence: When you have the largest demographic group of depression sufferers, the 25-44 year olds, now raising children, it should surprise no one that their children are the fastest growing group of depression sufferers. Kids are stressed in ways now that previous generations of kids were not, and they're having difficulty coping. And, realistically, parents can't teach their children what they don't know in terms of coping well with their kids' stressors. As just one example, how many parents know what to do when their kids are being bullied on Facebook or Twitter? How many even know how Facebook and Twitter work? It is a rapidly changing world, in social terms, and the rising rates of depression in all age groups reflect that fact. Learning new ideas and skills to better manage the new challenges we face is essential, as I will continue to explore in future posts.

What do you think? Can you identify changes in our social world that might contribute to the increased rates of depression? Any ideas what might be done to help?

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