There are so many factors that can play into depression. Today I’m going to cover as much as I can in a reasonable amount of space. This could well end up being a multiple-part topic.
Let’s look at genetics first. One of the questions I always ask a new client who presents with depression is, “Who else in your family, in your own generation or your parents’ or grandparents’ generations, has had a “nervous breakdown,” or been given some sort of medication for nerves, such as Valium?” Almost without fail, there is someone. Typically, there will be more than one in the family tree who has suffered from depression.
So, is there a “depression gene”? Honestly, I don’t know. I found some articles on the subject. Here is one link you may find interesting. Just remember, this whole topic is in a very new state of research:
What I do know is that some people are more resilient about how they handle stress than others are, and there is a personality type that can “run in the family” that does not handle stress well without some help. This is why I look for the genetic connection; it helps me understand if there is a generational tendency toward depression, and knowledge helps me know how best to help my client.
What personality type am I talking about? The Melancholy, according to the study I like best. There are other studies that call it by different names, but the traits are the same. Here is one thumbnail sketch:
Much more can be said about this personality. It is the deepest, richest, most complex and most contradictory of all the four basic temperaments. Often, the Melancholic is richly gifted in some way. Many of our most beloved writers, poets, composers, artists and other creative people are/were deeply melancholy. They are indeed perfectionists, and they are world-class worriers. While they can be super organized, to the point of OCD, they can also live in utter chaos because they want to be orderly and neat, but they think they have to make that happen all at once. It’s so overwhelming that they simply walk away from the task and start some other project–or go read a book 🙂 Melancholics are sentimental, holding on to relationships even after they are cold and dead. They are almost always the “dumpee” rather than the “dumper” in relationships. They are deeply introspective, always looking inward to see how they’re measuring up to their own often unrealistic expectations. That in itself is depressing. Melancholics are born with a strong sense of guilt, although they’re often not sure what it is they’re guilty of doing/thinking/feeling that is so wrong. They tend to allow people to use them, then complain about how no one appreciates them. “I’ve given up everything for my kids/husband/friend/work and no one appreciates/understand/knows what I’m going through. No one loves me. Everyone takes advantage of me. I’ll never be understood/appreciated/happy.”
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At the same time, these folks are tremendously generous and others-oriented. Yet, they can be unbelievably critical, narrow, self-righteous, and unforgiving. Unforgiveness turns to self-pity turns to bitterness turn to depression. Tim LaHaye wrote a wonderful little book many years ago titled How to Win Over Depression. It’s an excellent resource. I also like his book on the temperaments. The latest rewrite that I know of is called Why You Act the Way You Do. I read his first temperament study years ago, and it’s been a most valuable resource ever since. It’s title is The Spirit-Controlled Temperament.
All right. I suspect that’s about enough for this week. There is a great deal more to say on the how and why of depression, but I guess we have lots of time now that we don’t have to worry about the Mayan Calendar any more!