From a medical point of view, psychological illnesses are very complicated. It is widely agreed that the biological aspect of this is equally as important as psychological aspects. Think of it like this; you messed up at work because you were annoyed.
The question is; are you annoyed because you messed up or did you mess up because you are annoyed? While this is a very crude example, it still drives home the point. The relationship between the biological and mental exists; we are not sure how it works.
Most self reports by patients point out that the root cause of the emotional symptoms is trauma experienced in childhood. For this reason, the role of the family becomes central in the development of depression later in a child’s life.
Abusive Families and Depression in Adulthood
Significant life events can cause relapse into depression. Living with people who are critical of your achievements or unsupportive of your pursuits can be emotionally taxing. For those who have just overcome their conditions or were ever at risk will develop depression in this environment.
These situations act as reinforcement for the beliefs that caused the depression in the first place. When you have come across the same reactions over and over again, it’s hard to keep yourself above it all.
Parent Behavior and Depression
Many psychologists say that there is a link between unstable relationships with parents and the risk of depression (or other mood disorders). These relationships create a negative “self-schema” that forces depressive individuals to think in a pre-set way.
The way patients see themselves in relation to the outside world is an important factor in deciding their emotional responses. Those who have been conditioned to think of themselves negatively will have negative emotional responses, rather than proactive approaches to conflict. People with negative “Self-Schemes” are more likely to develop depression than those who do not have negative self-schemes.
This view of the self is directly linked with unresolved issues coming from traumatic experience in childhood. The relationships children form with their families shape their identities. When children witness certain reactions, they tend to form an association between themselves and the reaction.
These associations are carried all the way to adulthood, where these children mimic the same emotional reactions in their adulthood. If a child is brought up in an environment where they are nurtured; it is less likely that they think of themselves negatively. This will not be the case for children growing up in turbulent families.
Children with neglectful, critical or overly involved parents are at a higher risk of depression. The earliest thoughts they formed about themselves were of negatively affecting their parents, which made them think less of themselves. These thoughts are reinforced as they grow up and develop behaviors that resemble those of depressive patients.
In conclusion, family dynamics play an important role in the prevention and spread of depression. Considering the high prevalence of the condition across the America population, it is necessary that we intervene to prevent a society wide epidemic. Parents need to seek therapy to resolve conflicts without them spilling over onto their children. Families need to be made aware of the effect of their words on the young.
Azizeh Rezaiyan is an anxiety and marriage counseling specialist at Silicon Valley Marriage Counseling. She is a Farsi speaking therapist who offers sex therapy and family mediation services in Palo Alto. You may contact Silicon Valley Marriage Counseling for more information on her services or to make an appointment.