According to information first published online in TIME, a study may have discovered the developmental roots of childhood depression.
In the study, which was published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, researchers focused on understanding depressive rumination (which is a complete focus on one’s problems and an inability to find solutions to problems). While no one is shocked by the fact that rumination is connected to depression, numerous studies do show that talk therapy worsens depression in some patients by forcing them to completely focus on the problem’s origins instead of leading them toward solutions. This is why researchers sought to gain a better understanding of just how rumination plants the seeds of depression in the first place.
To do this, the researchers, led by Mollie Moore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, analyzed data collected from 756 young teenaged twins between the ages of 12 to 14. For the study, they compared identical twins (who share identical genes) to fraternal twins (with different gene strands). The goal was for the study to question the teens who were more likely to brood over their problems rather than look for solutions to them. The researchers found that this “moody pondering” increased the kids’ chances to develop depression.
The researchers also found that while brooding may be influenced by the kids’ environment, genetics may actually cause the tendency to brood, which inevitably is linked to depression.
“I appreciated the authors’ distinction between brooding and distraction and their finding that the two played opposite roles,” says Gregory Smith, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, who was not associated with the research, “At the core, they found that although brooding is not highly heritable, genetic influences appear to contribute to the relationship between brooding and depression.”
Finding a genetic link to teenage depression through rumination may be a first step to helping doctors find alternative solutions to the condition vs. antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor. Both Paxil and Effexor are also known to cause serious side effects, which can include violent and suicidal thoughts and behaviors as well as birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drug while pregnant. Some of those defects include PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects and oral clefts.