Monday, July 4, 2011

Treatment Solutions Network Articles: Life History and Depression

Treatment Solutions Network Articles: Life History and Depression

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Life History and Depression

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 02:16 PM PDT

We don’t really know what causes depression, except that it often runs in families and can be brought on by some sort of emotional loss or things like substance abuse. If we could predict who was going to suffer from depression, we could be more prepared to treat them.

Depression is often called the silent epidemic. Many people suffer with it on their own, not getting help until it is too late. Family members often do not realize their loved one had depression until they have ended their life, or hurt someone else, and too many lives are tragically altered because of this disease. We need to do more to diagnose and treat depression.

Effects of Tragedy Early in Life

A new study tries to predict which people are more prone to developing depression, based on the earlier events of their lives. Researchers at UCLA released the results of a study that looked at the life history of people with depression. They found that people that had experienced the death of a parent or separation from a parent before the age of 18 were more sensitive to stress than other people. They may have become less resilient in the face of adversity, which lead them to be depressed. Those who had suffered from depression in the past were also likely to be affected by future depressive episodes.

George Slavich, the lead researcher for the study, explains; "The present study suggests for the first time that [certain] associations may be unique to stressors involving interpersonal loss. In other words, individuals who are exposed to early parental loss or separation and persons with greater lifetime histories of depression may be selectively sensitized to stressors involving interpersonal loss." (1)

The Power of Perception

The researchers also have a theory about why this is, and it has to do with our thoughts. Individuals who have experienced adversity or negative events at a young age begin to believe negative things about themselves and the world around them. "Although many factors impact stress sensitivity," Slavich said, "thoughts almost always play a role. For example, when your best friend doesn't call back, do you think she is angry at you or do you think it just slipped her mind? Our thoughts affect how we react emotionally and biologically to situations, and these reactions in turn greatly influence our health. Regardless of your prior experiences, then, it is always important to take a step back and make sure you are interpreting situations in an unbiased way, based on the information available." (1)

This explains why some people are more affected by a relationship breaking up than others, or sensitive to everyday stresses in life. If someone has been telling themselves all their life that they are going to experience trouble, they may be expecting problems to come their way. Realizing that these thoughts and attitudes can actually be a precursor to depression can help us provide early intervention to these individuals before their depression escalates to a debilitating level.


(1) Life History Contributes to Future Stress Sensitivity, Depression

Sweating the small stuff: Early adversity, prior depression linked to high sensitivity to stress

A Tough Childhood May Lower Your Threshold for Stress 

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