If you or a member of your family is struggling with a mood disorder, you should know about recent research. Strong links are turning up between heredity and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. These disabling conditions are among some of the most common, affecting about 9.5 percent of adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
You probably know that mood disorders have a physical component, as antidepressant medications confirm. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft focus on rewiring reactions in the brain that affect your mood.
New evidence suggests that your genome helps determine whether you’re at risk for developing bipolar disorder or major depression. This breakthrough research will someday help doctors predict and possibly prevent these genetic disorders.
Insight into Depression
As the number one disabling illness for Americans aged 15 to 44, major depressive disorder is a widespread problem that affects nearly 15 million people in the U.S. each year. If you have depression, you probably have a parent, a grandparent or a sibling who suffers from the same disease. As it turns out, major depression and bipolar disorder run in families.
Research studying identical twins has been especially conclusive. Results of one study show that if one twin has a mood disorder, the second twin stands around a 50 percent chance of developing the same illness. Another study reveals that 46 percent of the time, depression in identical twin sets affects both twins. Since identical twins have identical genes, this supports the theory that the seeds for major depressive disorder are rooted in some people’s DNA.
Bipolar Disorder Research
If you have bipolar disorder, you’re in good company. Nearly 5.7 million American adults – that’s 2.6 percent of everyone over 18 — are bipolar. Even though it’s becoming clearer that specific genes can trigger mood disorders, scientists haven’t pinpointed which ones link to bipolar and which to depression.
University of Michigan researcher Jun Li, Ph.D., has been studying family groups in which several members are bipolar. He has isolated a few common genomes that could be the culprits. So far, his team has identified FOXD4, DRD5 and GRIK3, all genes with known connections to mental illnesses like schizophrenia, ADHD and OCD. The next step is further scrutiny of Dr. Li’s identified genes and developing new micro therapies to address them.
The Environmental Wild Card
The environment in which you grew up is also a deciding factor in whether you develop a genetic disorder. For example, children born with a genetic tendency for depression who experience abuse are more likely to develop the disorder. Other environmental stress factors such as poor parenting, neglect or bullying might also add to your genetic risk for mood disorders.
Epigenetics, or factors that shape your inherited traits, could also be at play in your early years. According to the tenets of this science, environmental factors actually drive physiological changes that affect the way your genes ultimately express themselves. Epigenetics may work for you, reducing your risk of mood disorders, or against you, making you more susceptible to them.
Genetics and Mood Disorder Treatment
Besides acting as an indicator of risk, your genome may also suggest the best treatment for your mood disorder. Family members are more likely to respond well to the same types of medications, so that gives your doctor a starting place for drug therapy. Once researchers know the specific genes that increase your risk for bipolar or major depressive disorder, they will have data that is key to finding a cure. Read more about treatment of mood disorders in New York City, or get help by contacting our psychologists at comprehendthemind.com today.