Genetic Discovery Boosts Theory That Depression Has Its Roots In Biology

350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. hikrcn/Shutterstock

This study was only made possible by the databases provided by 23andMe, a private genomics and biotechnology company based in California. The company pioneered a saliva-based direct-to-consumer personal genome test, and it can opt to retain this test’s data – a large chunk of which was used in this particular study.

One problem with this research was that it relied on self-diagnosis. Although the word is bandied about a lot these days, “depression” isn’t what most people think it means.

Everyone goes through periods of feeling down, and sometimes these experiences are worse than others. Clinical depression, though, is an illness, and just as medically serious as a physical condition. You cannot simply “snap out of it,” no matter what people tell you.

A proper examination by one or several psychiatrists is required to determine whether or not a patient has clinical depression, but the symptoms tend to involve a persistent hopelessness, a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, and a general numbness. Some people feel a profound sense of anxiety, some cannot sleep, and others have diminished appetites and sex drives.

I had a black dog, his name was depression. World Health Organization via YouTube

In short, it’s very complicated, it’s likely caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and people have different experiences of depression. It’s best summed up by a series of moving animations that refer to the condition as a “black dog,” which were produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Over 350 million people worldwide have depression. Although this is a disconcerting statistic, it also means that no one afflicted by it is suffering alone. Depression can be overcome, no matter what is causing it. The first step, in any case, is to seek help.

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