As the term “genetics” gets thrown around as a way to explain the disorder, a few experts are starting to point out that the word isn’t so simple.
It’s not that genetics isn’t related to depression, they say, but that “the concept of genetics is an umbrella term to describe a number of distinct aspects of the disorder” that are “uniquely associated with it.”
This is particularly true for the genes associated with the disorder.
But genetics isn´t a single thing.
It´s a collection of genes.
And those genes are different across the population.
Some are located in the brain, and some are in the heart.
There are some in the eyes, but there are also some in our immune system.
This can all contribute to depression.
“The concept of genes is an intersection of human variation and biology,” says Dr. Daniel R. Schwartz, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
“Genetics is about the interaction between these elements.”
A genetic mutation in a gene can cause a particular behavior.
But there are many genetic factors that contribute to a person´s mental illness, including genetics.
For instance, certain genes are associated with depression and are associated to some people being depressed.
The same genes that make a person more anxious, or more sensitive, or less inclined to exercise, can also make a child more likely to get a diagnosis of depression.
And so on.
A person’s genetic makeup is just one factor that contributes to the development of the disease.
It also can affect how the person thinks about the illness.
People with a certain genetic makeup are more likely than others to experience a mental illness and to seek treatment for it.
“One way that we think about a genetic disease is through its effects on the environment,” Schwartz says.
“There are environmental factors that can influence a person’s development and behavior.”
In the case of depression, for instance, one of the main environmental factors is genetics.
The more genes you have in your body, the more likely you are to develop depression.
But a genetic predisposition to depression also can have an impact on how people behave and feel about their depression.
Some studies suggest that genetic variations may contribute to the difference between a person with depression in the early stages of the illness and someone who has recovered.
These differences are known as epigenetics, and they may play a role in how we treat patients with depression.
In one study, Schwartz and his colleagues found that patients with a history of major depression were more likely, on average, to report being unable to function independently than those with no history of depression at all.
In other words, their levels of depression were higher.
These findings suggest that epigenetics may play an important role in the development and progression of depression in people who don´t respond to medications.
For people who have been treated for depression, epigenetics is a particularly tricky concept.
They don´’t have the same genes as the rest of the population, and their DNA doesn´t match the general population.
For this reason, the idea of epigenetics isn´s complicated.
They are not as simple as just talking about DNA, but also the way our cells work, Schwartz says, and epigenetics also doesn´st explain why people have different epigenetic profiles.
Some of the researchers Schwartz has spoken to are working to develop epigenetics that are more specific to the disease and target specific genes.
In addition, epigenetic approaches to depression are being used in other disorders, like autism and schizophrenia.
The idea that genetics plays a role, for example, in how people deal with stress may be the first step toward developing a treatment for these conditions.
“Our approach to this is to understand the genetic basis of stress and then identify the genetic elements that have a strong impact on this stress response,” Schwartz explains.
“This means developing targeted treatments to those genes that are associated in the stress response.”
The key question in terms of the future is whether epigenetics can be applied to depression in humans, since many of the genes linked to depression don´s have been identified in the general human population.
It has been suggested that there may be a genetic component to depression that is specific to humans.
And that could be the answer to how we approach this issue.
“Epigenetics is one of many potential therapies that might help with depression,” Schwartz adds.
“For instance, we might be able to find a genetic link that would predict the risk of developing depression.
We might be looking at epigenetics to determine if certain genes, like the one that causes depression, could also play a protective role.”
There is much work to be done, but for now, epigenomics is a field of intense research.
Schwartz is already exploring how epigenetics could be applied in the treatment of depression to determine how to develop treatments that target specific aspects of genes and how to reduce the risk for genetic disorders.
“We are still very far away