From a medical point of view, psychological illnesses are very complicated. It is widely agreed that the biological aspect of psychological illnesses is equally as important as the psychological aspects. Think of it like this; you messed up at work because you were annoyed.
Now, the question is; are you annoyed because you messed up or did you mess up because you were annoyed? While this is a very crude example, it still explains the point that we are trying to make. The relationship between the biological and mental exists; we are not sure how it works.
Most self reports by physiologically disturbed patients point out that the root cause of the emotional symptoms is trauma experienced in childhood. This is why a family has a vital role to play in the onset of depression in later stages of a child’s life.
Abusive Families and Depression in Adulthood
Significant life events can cause relapse into depression. Growing up with narcissistic, critical, and unsupportive parents and other family members can leave you unstable both emotionally and mentally. For those who have just overcome their conditions or were ever at risk will develop depression in this toxic environment.
These situations act as pre-cursors and reinforcements for the beliefs that caused the depression in the first place. When you are targeted with the same abusive, uncaring, and unsupportive behaviors over and over again, you are more likely to develop an unstable mentality. 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 and psychological studies suggest 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 individuals with depressive tendencies 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 brought up in toxic homes have been conditioned to think of themselves negatively and will only be able to produce negative emotional responses, rather than proactive approaches to conflict. People with negative “Self-Schemes” are more likely to develop depression later in life 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, specially parents, shape their identities that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Children learn by trial and error and when they observe negative or extreme reactions from their parents, they form an association between the action that they did and the reaction of their parents. When children witness certain reactions, they tend to form an association between themselves and the reaction.
Children carry their childhood associations all the way to adulthood and function the same way even when they are all grown up, at least physically. As opposed to children living with toxic families, children being brought up in an environment where they are nurtured are less likely to think of themselves negatively.
Children with neglectful, critical or overly involved parents who cannot be satisfied or made happy are at a higher risk of depression. The first opinion that they form about themselves is being inadequate and being the source of shame for their parents’ reputation which makes 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 this 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. They also need to understand how they should behave with and around 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, couples 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.
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