Aetiologies of depression

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Introduction and physiological explanations

  • Depression is a mental disorder characterised by feelings of sadness, lack of interest and a sense of worthlessness.
  • Gene theory. Gershon (1990) presented the findings of a number of studies inot the rate of depression within families. The rate of depression for individuals with a first degree relative wth depression was about 2-3 times more likely than the general population. Shows depression can run in families. Meta-analysis so reliable. However, ethics - privacy as looked into fmailiy history.
  • McGuffin et al (1996) studies 177 probands and their same sex co-twins. Concordance rate MZ twins were 46% and DZ twins were 20%. Suggests genes isnt the only cause of depression, if it was, MZ twins would ahve 100% concordance rate as share all of their genes. 
  • All twin studies so not exclude envrionmental factors. Children who are adopted are likely to be raised in a similar envrionment to their other sibling. Twins share childhood experiences, meaning there may be an environment or social factor as to why they develop depression. Difficult to generalise twin studies to the rest of the population as many people do not have identical twins.
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Psychological explanations

  • Freuds theory. Argued depression was like grief and caused by the loss of an important relationship. He distinguished between actual losses (loss of a loved one) and symbolic losses (loss of a job) and exaplined that both cauld be strong enough to cause the illness in an individual.
  • Shah and Waller (2000) found that many people who had suffered with depresison describe thier parents as affectionless. Suports Freuds theory of withdrawal of affection. However may be the depresison that causes them to view the behaviour this way.
  • Bifulco et al (1992) women who lost their mother as a child were more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression as adults. Supports Freuds theory. However, it has gender bias as only uses women - results not generalisable to men.
  • Validty of all of these studies are low. Depression of the people cause them to interpret their parents behaviour as affectionless. Also it may be the lack of care off of their families that cause the illness rather than the loss of a parent.
  • Freud stated that the repessedanger felt by depressed people wopuld emerge in their dreams. However, Beck and Ward (1961) found no evidence of this.
  • Weisman et al (1971) found that depressed individuals express considerable anger and hostility to those around them, the oppositye of what Freud said.
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  • There are many theories for the aetiologies of depresison. Diathesis-stress model - may be more than one cause - -biological predisposition and life event that causes the onset of symptoms.
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