Study Suggests Depression and Anxiety Can Be Genetic

A new study has suggested to Chrysalis Not For Profit that depression and anxiety can be genetic; that parents can potentially pass the risk of developing these mental health conditions onto their children.

Depression and anxiety

Figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists show that one in five people will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Meanwhile, data collected by mental health information portal Mental Healthy, indicates that 16% of the UK population will experience anxiety at any one time.

A study published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,’ has shed some light on why people experience depression and anxiety. The research indicates that parents pass the risk of developing these conditions onto their children.

Origins of mental health conditions

Experts at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health conducted an experiment with nearly 600 young rhesus monkeys, which are evolutionary cousins of humans. They used brain imaging to measure anxiety-related behaviours when the monkeys were confronted with a situation that has been known to cause anxiety in children, e.g. being confronted by a stranger who refuses to make eye contact.

UW School of Medicine and Public Health

The UW School of Medicine and Public Health

This experiment showed that family history can be used to explain 35% of variation in anxiety-like tendencies. It also found that there are three areas of the brain located in the brain-stem, which could be connected to hereditary mental illness. These are the prefrontal cortex (used by humans for higher-level reasoning), the limbic brain fear centre and the amygdala.

Neural underpinnings of inherited anxiety

The School’s Chair of Psychiatry, Ned Kalin, served as the senior author of the research. He was quoted by the Independent explaining: “Over-activity of these three brain regions are inherited brain alterations that are directly linked to the later life risk to develop anxiety and depression.

“Basically, we think that to a certain extent, anxiety can provide an evolutionary advantage because it helps an individual recognize and avoid danger, but when the circuits are over-active, it becomes a problem and can result in anxiety and depressive disorders.” Kalin concluded by commenting that “this is a big step in understanding the neural underpinnings of inherited anxiety and begins to give us more selective targets for treatment.”

Chrysalis Not For Profit

An effective treatment for depression and anxiety is counselling; a talking therapy which allows professionals to help mental health patients work through their underlying issues. You can help people with depression and anxiety by learning to become a counsellor via a range of Chrysalis courses supplied by Chrysalis Not For Profit.

Established in 1998, Chrysalis Not For Profit is now the UK’s market-leading trainer in talking therapies. We offer creative, enjoyable and relaxed courses, fully accredited by the relevant professional bodies on a part-time basis to fit around your commitments.

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2 Comments

  1. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that
    helped me. Thanks a lot!

  2. Interesting reading.

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