What Causes Depression? Is Depression Genetic?

According to Dr. Stephen Illardi, nearly one in four Americans—over 70 million people—will struggle with major depression in their lifetime—and those numbers are on the rise. But why?

What Causes Depression?

In the video below, Carrie Wrigley, LCSW, a licensed therapist, shares profound insight on possible causes of depression.

Transcript of What Causes Depression?

We often think of depression and anxiety and addiction as genetically caused sorts of problems. And there’s no question that there’s a family connection with all of those. What has yet to be established is that that family connection is purely genetic.

One of the problems with that theory is that we have much more widespread incidents of depression and anxiety and addiction now in our world—something like thirty times as much as was the case even when I was born a few decades ago.

But clearly genetics have not changed that much in the last thirty, forty, fifty years. So something else is going on. 

Our world has become, in many ways, much more challenging, much more distressing. There are far fewer social supports than there were a few decades ago. There is a much wider range of distressing information available 24/7 from our media devices.

Social Connection

We are far less socially connected than we used to be, notwithstanding the proliferation of social media. Social media is not the same a real relationship with a real person, who is able to help you tend your kid when you’re sick, or that’s able to allow you to cry on their shoulder. It’s nice to get the ‘likes’ on your Facebook post when you’re having a hard day and all your friends say, “Oh, you know, we like you.” But it’s not the same as having somebody actually there.

In many ways, in the world that we live in, we are starving to death for actual person-to-person connection and that starvation contributes significantly to these emotional challenges of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, addiction. It is when people are struggling with that kind of loneliness, that sense of walking through hard things by themselves, that they are most vulnerable to fall into those challenges.

So, again, these conditions have proliferated, to a vast extent, over these recent decades. There has not been a whole lot of evidence of genetics changing a lot during that same period of time.

I’m not crazy about the genetic theory simply because it feels a little hopeless. If addiction has been in my family for the last five generations, I may be tempted to think that I’m sort of doomed. If dad was as an alcoholic, if grandpa was an alcoholic, and great-grandpa was an alcoholic, or whatever.

And so in the process of me, daring to do the work, I not just—I not only change my own life, my own heart, I set the foundation for future generations to come, to be able to have an experience in this world that is happier, and more whole, and more complete.

What causes depression? Do genetics cause depression? How can I heal from depression? Carrie Wrigley, LCSW, a licensed therapist, shares profound insight on what might cause depression.

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