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Describe and Evaluate Explanations of Depression. Refer to Issues Such as Those Raised in the Quotation Above

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Introduction

"Depression tends to run in families and symptoms are similar across cultures, genders and ages. This suggests that biological mechanisms play a strong part in the development of the disorder." Describe and Evaluate Explanations of Depression. Refer to Issues Such as Those Raised in the Quotation Above One explanation which implicates biological mechanisms in the development of depression is the biochemical approach. This suggests that low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin may be involved. Usually serotonin acts to modulate neural activity and regulates emotional reactions; in patients with noticeably lower levels, symptoms of depression, such as apathy and sadness, can be seen. Evidence for the role of serotonin has come from studies of patients taking anti-depressants and from PET scans of patients' brains. Comer (2004) observed that patients who took anti-depressants, which act by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain, showed reduced symptoms of depression. From this it was suggested that without the drug therapy the patients' serotonin levels were too low and were causal in their depression. This theory of reduced serotonin levels was supported by the findings of Mann et al.'s (1996) study which used PET scans to observe patients brains, which showed impaired transmission of serotonin. ...read more.

Middle

A second explanation implicated biological mechanisms in the development of depression is the genetic theory. This idea is based on the observation that depression can be seen to run within families, and implicates genes as a causal factor. If a person has genes associated with depression, it may be that the genes influence aspects such as their hormone and neurotransmitters levels, which would cause depression- and so genetic theory can be linked to the biochemical explanation of depression. Gershon (1990) performed a meta-analysis of ten family studies into depression and found that the rates of unipolar depression amongst first-degree relatives of sufferers were between 7-30%. This is much higher than can be expected in the average population, and so may indicate a genetic link. However, these findings may also have been caused by the environment- it is likely that members of the same family will live in the same or similar environment which may have a negative impact on them, causing a large number of them to develop depression. Also, family studies are often less reliable than other forms of research, due to the data being retrospective. If the data is self-reported by the family it is possible that the evidence is merely anecdotal and so is unlikely to be completely accurate. ...read more.

Conclusion

As twins, especially identical twins, are rare within the population, the sample size within studies is limited. This means it is hard to generate sufficient data which can firmly prove or suggest if genes are involved in depression. Studies must take place of long periods of time too, which normally leads to high rates of attrition which may have an impact on the data collected. The theory that genes can cause depression can be criticised as being determinist, as it suggests that if a person has inherited these genes they are unable to prevent themselves from developing depression- once they have the genes they will certainly develop the disorder. Although these biological explanations are supported by various research studies, there is no conclusive evidence which can determine the precise cause of depression. It is hard to understand whether symptoms of depression such as changes in neurochemical levels are cause or effect, and whether correlational findings from concordance studies imply causation or not. Depression cannot be explained through these biological approaches alone and so needs to be considered from a psychological angle as well. The diathesis-stress model may be more successful in explaining why depression develops as it takes into account both biological predispositions and psychological triggers. 1 http://pi.lilly.com/us/prozac.pdf ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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