Budding the Body Connection

Feelings can have biological beginnings. Does your Uncle Paul seem down in the dumps? Was Cousin Jack a neat freak? Was your grandmother a recluse? What was your great-grandmother like? Why are these questions important? Because depression and anxiety tend to run in families. And genes could be responsible for a good portion of your emotional distress.

If you have access to family members, ask if they'd be willing to talk with you about your family's history. Ask them if any relatives, from either side of the family, suffered from any symptoms of anxiety or depression. You may want to review the symptoms covered in Chapter 1 first. There's no exact number of relatives required for determining if genetics are responsible for your symptoms. However, the more family members with similar problems, the more likely you've inherited a tendency for depression or anxiety. Fill in the blanks here with what you learn.

Members of my family with anxiety or depression (brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents):

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In addition to genetics, depression and anxiety can have biological underpinnings in the drugs you take (legal or illegal) or as the result of physical illness. Drugs — whether over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal — have many side effects. Sometimes solving your problem is as simple as checking your medicine cabinet for possible culprits.

Almost any medication you're taking could influence your emotions negatively. Check with your pharmacist or primary care physician to see if your medication may be causing part of your problem. Don't stop taking the medication without medical consultation.

In addition, alcohol is widely known to contribute to depression or anxiety when it's abused. Some people find that even moderate amounts of alcohol exacerbate their problems with mood. Alcohol also interacts with a wide variety of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs to produce harmful and even deadly results.

Finally, illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and so on are taken to alter moods. In the short run, they accomplish that goal; but in the long run, they almost inevitably worsen mood problems.

Physical illnesses can also produce symptoms of anxiety or depression. Not only can the illness itself cause mood problems, but worry and grief about illness can contribute to your distress. If you've been diagnosed with a medical condition, check with your doctor to see if your depression or anxiety is related to that condition.

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