Depression is neither entirely biochemical nor entirely environmental. Rather, it is most likely a complex mix of the two. Researchers know that depression has a strong genetic component, with the disease often turning up throughout families and over generations. Scientists have even identified some genetic mutations related to depression.
But experts stress that simply having a genetic predisposition doesn't mean you'll become depressed, or that if you don't have the genetic mutation, you'll never become depressed. That's where the environment comes in. The stresses within a person's environment and how the person is able to manage them are a major determinant of depression, experts say.
- American Psychiatric Association - 703-907-7300 - Provides a variety of resources for consumers on mental disorders.
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance - 800-826-3632 - Provides resources for people with mood disorders and their families, including online chat rooms and a newsletter.
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - 703-524-7600 - A support and advocacy organization of consumers, families and friends of people with severe mental illness. Local affiliates provide guidance in finding treatment.
- National Foundation for Depressive Illness - 800-239-1265 - Informs the public about depressive illness and promotes programs of research, education and treatment.
- National Institute of Mental Health - 866-615-6464 - The leading federal institution studying depression and mood disorders. Its Genetics of Recurrent Early-Onset Depression (GenRED) study is recruiting people with depression who also have had a family member with the disease. For more information, email the national coordinating center at Stanford University, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 877-407-9529. (All emails and calls are confidential.)
- A Deeper Shade of Blue: A Woman's Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years, by Ruta Nonacs, M.D., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster, 2006. Details the causes of depression in women, treatments and ways to lessen the effects of the illness on family and friends.
- Beating the Blues: New Approaches to Overcoming Dysthymia and Chronic Mild Depression, by Michael Thase, M.D., and Susan Lang, Oxford University Press, 2004. Provides tips on recognizing depression and information on types of depression, medication and therapy, as well as drug-free strategies for feeling better.
- Hidden Feelings of Motherhood: Coping with Mothering Stress, Depression and Burnout, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., Pharmasoft Publishing, 2005. Offers advice on coping with the demands of motherhood, while also heralding the important role that all moms have in the lives of their children.
- Out of the Darkened Room: When a Parent Is Depressed, by William R. Beardslee, M.D.; Little, Brown and Co.; 2002. The author, the psychiatrist-in-chief emeritus at Children's Hospital Boston, draws upon his own clinical and research experience to describe how depression affects both parent and child, and how open communication can help the whole family heal.
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