Depression Runs Deep: How It Affects Families

depression concept

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the United States. It affects at least 5% of the population, while many more may have remained undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. In Utah, the state’s health agency revealed that it has one of the highest rates of self-reported lifetime depression than the national average.

Despite being typical, it is challenging to diagnose and treat or manage. First, the symptoms can be vague or even mimic other psychiatric or physical illnesses. Second, many factors can affect or influence its development. For instance, some studies claim that depression may have a genetic component.

If there’s one thing experts, doctors, patients, and their families can agree on, it’s the fact that depression can profoundly impact familial relationships.

Depression Spreads in the Family

The severity of depression can vary, but either way, it needs utmost attention and the right treatment, including therapies like ketamine for depression. This is because the condition affects the patient and the people close to them, such as their spouses, siblings, and children.

Long-Term Effects on Children

One of the significant studies on the impact of parental depression on children is Columbia University Medical Center in 2016. The research began in 1982 and then spanned for decades as the team conducted follow-up interviews on children when they reached their teenage and young adult years.

The results of their analysis were revealing:

  • Children who grew up in a household where either or both parents were depressed had higher risks of suffering the same illness. They were also more likely to experience morbidity and even premature death.
  • The odds of developing depression among the children were as high as three times. These depressive episodes could also be recurrent and occur even in their later life.
  • These kids could achieve the same employment status and even education as their low-risk counterparts. However, they were the ones who could experience divorce or separation. They also had fewer children.

Another study, this time by the University of London in 2017, also shared a similar outcome. According to their research, there is a correlation between a father’s depression and teenage depression. In fact, for every three-point deviation in the Moods and Feelings Questionnaire answered by the fathers, there’s a 0.2-point increase in their adolescent children’s score.

The Effects Can Happen Even if Symptoms Are Mild

Many people with depressive symptoms or diagnosed with the illness skip or avoid treatment, such as therapies and medications, for several reasons. Some are scared to go through the process, while others don’t want to deal with the stigma.

Other parents may also underestimate their condition because their symptoms are “mild.” But a 2019 research by the National Institute for Health and Welfare showed that the effects of depression can still be significant even if the patients feel others have it worse.

For the study, the team worked with Finnish families with children, who they monitored at the ages of 2 and 5. The results then suggested that those born to mildly depressed mothers could still exhibit negative emotional behaviors. These could include aggressiveness, anxiety, and hyperactivity.

Interestingly, the same link didn’t exist when they considered the father’s depression only. It doesn’t mean, though, that the depression of one of the parents doesn’t affect the other. The researchers cited that the condition’s risk increases when either the father or the mother has the symptoms.

Pointing the Blame on Themselves

anxious man

In 2009, a study in the Journal of Family Psychology began its introduction by saying that parents who suffer from depression are at risk of experiencing interparental conflict. This is understandable as changes in moods and behavior can take a toll on romantic relationships, particularly marriage. In fact, a 2015 research revealed that mental distress could be a significant predictor of divorce within 16 years.

These parents often forget to account for how these conflicts can affect the perception of the children. The 2009 research cited that kids exposed to high-stress home environments could exhibit more negative behaviors than those in households with fewer conflicts.

It could impact the way they appraise the situation, including blaming themselves for their parents’ sadness. Unfortunately, these children could likely face anxiety and depression, according to a 2020 Southern Methodist University research.

It’s Not a Lost Cause

Depression doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution since it can manifest in hundreds of ways among patients. But it is not a lost cause either. Several studies already reveal that family therapy and better social relationship engagement can help someone manage their illness.

Newer drugs and therapies like the age-old ketamine could decrease the symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder.

What is vital is for parents to receive professional help even when they think they don’t need it before the disease affects their family, especially the children.

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