Genetics, a negative explanatory style, and misuse of alcohol can play a role in developing or worsening depression. Alternatively, psychotherapy, a positive explanatory style and proper drug therapy can contribute to alleviating depression.
First, a person’s genetic make-up often plays a role in developing depression. Depression is a mood disorder and mood disorders often run in families. In fact, the risk of major depression increases if a person has a parent or sibling with the disorder. The research evidences that the heritability of major depression is about 35-40%. Among identical twins, this rate may be higher even if the twins are reared apart. In adoptive children, this mood disorder often has close ties to biological relatives. Using linkage analysis geneticists examine DNA from affected and unaffected family members looking for differences. If culprit gene variations can be identified, the door may be open to more effective therapies. Clearly, ones genetic makeup plays a role in developing depression, although genetics do not explain every case by any means.
Also, a person’s explanatory style could contribute to developing or at least compounding the mood disorder of depression. A person’s explanatory style (ES) describes how he or she determines where to place blame for their failures, and a negative life view surely has a part in developing or worsening depression. Specifically, one’s ES determines whether they have a negative or a positive way of handling failures. A person with a negative ES believes that bad events will last forever (stable), these events will affect everything (global), and that the events are their own fault (internal). Depression prone people respond to events with this negative, self-focused thinking. They can develop a depressing sense of hopelessness. Therefore, a negative explanatory style can certainly contribute to developing depression. Also of note, a negative ES can also be an indicator and not a contributor of depression.
Conversely, a positive explanatory style, is where one looks at bad events as situations that will pass (temporary), only pertain to one area of life (specific) and not their fault alone (external). So switching to a positive ES could help to alleviate depression.
The misuse of alcohol would not be useful in alleviating depression. Rather the use of alcohol may actually contribute to worsening or sparking symptoms of depression. As studied in Unit 5, alcohol is a depressant. It lowers one’s inhibitions, slows brain function, disrupts memory formation and reduces self-awareness. Again, while alcohol may not cause depression, abusing it could certainly make depression worsen. For example, if a person was experiencing a temporary period of sadness triggered by a stressful event and turned to alcohol to anesthetize them self against the pain…the depression could be made worse. If a person with a genetic predisposition to either substance abuse and/or depression began abusing alcohol, he or she would take the risk of becoming dependent on the substance. Certainly, alcohol could never be used to alleviate the feelings of sadness or depression.
Psychotherapy would be useful in alleviating a person’s depression. Psychotherapy is a type of mental health treatment involving various psychological techniques, and different approaches. This type of therapy is also known as ‘talk therapy.’ Psychotherapy consists of interactions between a trained therapist and a person seeking to overcome psychological difficulties and to achieve personal growth. While psychotherapy is a broad term and the actual treatment can vary from practitioner to practionerr, the treatment is marked by the close work with the patient to reveal and deal with the underlying feelings and behaviors leading to problems. Therefore, psychotherapy would be an appropriate method to help alleviate depression in a patient seeking counsel. The patient would be wise to seek a therapist trained in dealing with depression.
Finally, drug therapy can be quite useful in alleviating depression. At least two neurotransmitters play a role in mood disorders. Norepinephrine which increases arousal and boosts mood is scarce during depression and over abundant in mania the second is serotonin- which is also scarce during depression. Drugs that relieve depression help increase norepinephrine or serotonin supplies by blocking either reuptake or their chemical breakdown. Consistent physical exercise, such as walking or jogging, reduces depression as the physical activity increases serotonin. Elevating serotonin may promote recovery from depression by stimulating hippocampus neuron growth. Therefore, proper use of drugs, after being evaluated by a psychiatrist (a medical doctor), can be effective in alleviating depression.


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