What your DNA says about you

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Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.

Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but, when depression is moderate or severe, they may need medication and professional talk treatments.

Depression is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.

Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. More women are affected by depression than men. Although there are effective treatments for depression, at its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

There is a fundamental distinction between depression in persons with or without manic episodes. Both types of depression can be chronic and relapsing, especially when not treated.

Recurrent depressive disorder: this disorder involves repeated depressive episodes. During these episodes, the person experiences depressed mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, and reduced energy leading to diminished activity for at least two weeks. Many people with depression also suffer from anxiety symptoms, disturbed sleep and appetite and may have feelings of guilt or low self-worth, poor concentration and even medically unexplained symptoms.

Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. An individual with a mild depressive episode will have some difficulty in continuing with ordinary work and social activities, but will probably not cease to function completely. During a severe depressive episode, it is very unlikely that the sufferer will be able to continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a very limited extent.

Bipolar affective disorder: this type of depression typically consists of both manic and depressive episodes separated by periods of normal mood. Manic episodes involve elevated or irritable mood, over-activity, pressure of speech, inflated self-esteem and a decreased need for sleep.


Prevention programs have been shown to reduce depression. Effective community approaches to prevent depression include school-based programs to enhance a pattern of positive thinking in children and adolescents. Interventions for parents of children with behavioral problems may reduce parental depressive symptoms and improve outcomes for their children. Exercise programs for the elderly can also be effective in depression prevention. Healthy living habits and having good relationships with family and friends can also help to prevent recurring bouts of depression.

Psychotherapy and psychosocial treatments are also effective for mild depression as they aid in down-moments to reinforce self-esteem.

Good health habits can aid in having a better quality of life:

  • Have positive thoughts
  • Maintain physical health
  • Keep a consistent and balanced daily agenda
  • Add responsibilities gradually and slowly
  • Accept yourself as you are; do not compare yourself with other persons
  • Express your emotions
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get physical exercise

Gene or region studied

  • 12q21.31
  • FKBP5
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