In the realm of mental disorders, depression is still all too often chastised. Regardless of everything we know about it today, most people believe you can “snap out of if” with a swift kick in the pants. This is definitely not the case. It is a well known fact that genetic factors are the root of depression. Fortunately, the work of a Quebec team of researchers resulted in the discovery of a gene that predisposes individuals to major depression. This finding could be the turning-point in the diagnosis process and treatment of this disorder.
Believe it or not, depression is a very common mental disorder. It is estimated that 5 to 12% of men and 10 to 25% of women will experience at least one bout of depression in their lifetime. Here are a few symptoms suffered by people going through depression: depressed mood; incessant sadness and crying; tiredness and lethargy; uninterested in activities previously enjoyed; important changes in appetite, weight and sleep habits; anxiety; difficulty concentrating and making decisions; feeling dejected and under the impression that they serve no purpose and having suicidal thoughts. These feelings, no matter how unfounded they may be, remain very critical and obvious signs of distress.
People afflicted by major (unipolar) clinical depression exhibit a combination of these symptoms, while those suffering from bipolar depression also go through intense euphoric phases and depressive episodes, alternately. Bipolar disorder or depression was previously known as manic depression.
Although it has long been suspected that heredity may be precursory to depression, insufficient scientific proofs supported the hypothesis. Hence, the work by a team from Quebec’s CHUL Neuroscience Research Centre could help change our perception of depression. In fact, they discovered a gene that predisposes people to major clinical and bipolar depressions. Their results have been corroborated by a very reputable German research centre.
Even though this gene is actually present in everyone, we do not all suffer from depression. Rather, it is a mutation of this gene that renders people more vulnerable to the disorder. Therefore, depressive people who carry a mutation on the identified gene are predisposed and are at greater risks of going through more than one episode of depression in their life.
However, having the mutated gene does not necessarily mean you will definitely suffer from depression. It is quite possible that other genes may be involved in the advent of this complex disorder. Researchers also believe that being exposed to lengthy periods of extreme stress may contribute to triggering depression. In fact, stress has a toxic effect on the entire human system and body. Recent studies suggest that cell destruction occurs in some parts of the brain during intense and prolonged periods of stress and that the immune system, the body’s defence mechanism, becomes perturbed. It is therefore believed that a person who carries the gene mutation could avoid depression by avoiding intense stress.
Further studies are required to better understand depression. However, these results bring additional proofs that depression is not a sign of character weakness, laziness or lack of willpower. Continual research projects like these should enable the healthcare community to rectify many false beliefs that often prevent a person suffering from depression from seeking help and the treatments needed to battle this sad disorder.
If you know someone who might be suffering from depression or if you feel you have symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Professional help is but a telephone call away! Your pharmacist or local CLSC will point you in the right direction.