Sobbing like a little bitch
February 11, 2007 11:49 PM   Subscribe

Can depression start at/before birth? [tiny bit of detail inside]

I've been doing a shitload of thinking since my last question and I've been trying to reflect back on my childhood and see what my 'true passions' and whatnot are (in the hopes of figuring out what direction I should get my ass moving towards). I've started to come to the realization that I don't really have passions. And that I never really did. As a child, I didn't have many friends, I never played outside, and the most creative I got was taping the paint chip cards from Home Depot and the like to the inside of a cardboard box in the basement. I wasn't one of those kids whose aspirations changed from day to day. (The only three things I ever did consistently were: cry, read, and write 'stories'.)

Is it possible to be depressed from birth? Because that's what it seems like to me. Or is it one of those things where since my parents never gave me a chance to make choices when I was younger and since now I'm (somewhat) able to make choices that I can't make a decision?
I've checked out a bunch of the tags for depression/childhood and haven't found much in this direction.
posted by sperose to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Two ideas, though I'm no expert and IANAD. These are just guesses for you to consider.

First, if depression is caused by hormonal imbalances, then yes, depression at a young age is possible. However, I think it's more your parents than the chemicals, since this and your last question makes them seem a little controlling/overbearing. By paying your rent and making it convenient for you to live with them, they are doing you an injustice. They are stifling you in addition to coddling you.

Second, I do not believe there are people in the world without passions. There are only people who haven't found their passions yet. You need to get out and experience some new, uncomfortable, strange and exciting things. You don't have to stick with any one thing you try, but girl, you need a change.
posted by Brittanie at 12:10 AM on February 12, 2007

It may be the case that you've been the way you describe. Or it could just be that you're depressed (which your last AskMe might suggest also) and that is coloring your views of the past. Since you provide no evidence other than your opinion, I suggest this may be the case (what would your parents have to say about your childhood?)

As for the rest... maybe stop trying to decide on what direction to take but rather take a direction.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:31 AM on February 12, 2007

You can be genetically predisposed to depression. You can suffer abnormal fetal development that results in neurological complications such as depression later in life. Your childhood experiences can cause chronic depression. And there are a lot of other things that can cause depression. In other words, it could be anything.

Your question is phrased in generalities, and it doesn't sound like you've done a thorough examination of your condition. That is, if you are truly depressed. Your first stop should be to see a psychologist and / or psychiatrist.
posted by randomstriker at 12:46 AM on February 12, 2007

re: current situation coloring the past
The reason behind this question is because I've been going back through memory keeping bits of my life (pictures and journals) and the more stuff I find, the more it seems like I've always been this way. (Basically never smiling in pictures, drafting suicide notes from the age of 7, etc.) I remember being constantly sent to the guidance office when I was in elementary/middle school because I wouldn't stop crying/teachers didn't know what to do when I would hide under my desk. I had a permanent hall pass from grade 2 on until I got into high school.
There might be a touch of confirmation bias from the fact that my parents have been especially grating lately, particularly my mother. (Including comments like: "if only you'd let me take over your appearance for a month", "your father knows what's best for you", and her current favorite "don't worry about finding a job and/or a place to live, your father and I will take care of that when the time comes").
posted by sperose at 12:49 AM on February 12, 2007

It seems to me you probably have not been depressed since birth since you are now lamenting not having passion; you probably have had passion at some point in order for you to miss it now (though you may not remember right now). Matt Oneiros might be on to something when he says your opinion might be colored by your current depression.

The important point is that you are depressed now, and it is distressing you. Depression can be treated, but the correct treatment for you depends on many factors. We posters on metafilter are not doctors, so you should to talk to a mental health professional.

And dont worry if they want to put you on medication: dentists give flouride for your teeth and cardiologists give you pills for your heart, and sometimes they give you a pill for your brain, its no big deal.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:33 AM on February 12, 2007

"don't worry about finding a job and/or a place to live, your father and I will take care of that when the time comes"

Please see my above comment. You are not being allowed to live your own life on your own terms and learn from your own mistakes, and this is making you complacent. I can't think of anything more depressing. Get the fuck out of that house.
posted by Brittanie at 1:40 AM on February 12, 2007

I don't know if I can answer your question, but I can relate my own experience, which in many ways seems similar to yours.

I also cried a lot as a child, never smiled in photographs, etc. It was around age 12 that I first started thinking through the fact that I wasn't passionate about anything, didn't care about anything, and didn't want anything. I was worried, scared, and embarrassed, because I could tell that wasn't how I was supposed to be.

That was fifteen years ago, and I'm still not passionate about anything, but my perspective on it has changed.

Fuck passion. Passionate people are flighty airheads who flit off once their passion fades, leaving the real work for someone else. Passionate people wreck relationship after relationship looking for a true love or friendship that doesn't exist outside of fantasy. Passionate people think they're so goddamn special because their tender little hearts are gushing over... whatever nonsense it is this week.

I don't think much of passion.

That said, if you're truly unhappy with yourself, with where you are, I encourage you to seek help for the depression you suspect you may have. However, please don't feel bad simply because you're not passionate enough to measure up to the passion standard. I know how alienating it can be to be the only person who doesn't care about anything.

There are friends who will accept your lack of excitement, though, and lovers will appreciate your steadiness. There are careers where credentials and performance are enough.

If you don't actually want to change, you don't have to.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:33 AM on February 12, 2007

since my last question

I mean well, but that sounds a lot like "since my last session". AskMe isn't a therapist; I don't think you'll find the answer you're looking for if you treat it like one.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:29 AM on February 12, 2007

I came here asking about the possibility of depression occuring from birth because I've attempted to google for it and haven't found much in the way of respectable stuff. I came here to ask about it because there are a shitload of knowledgeable people here. The other stuff was just to give more of a background.
posted by sperose at 3:41 AM on February 12, 2007

This is obviously just anecdotal, but I too felt what may have been early-onset depression (or just much stronger than normal bad mood swings for my age), beginning as far back as maybe 7 or 8. My mother also suffers from chronic, untreated depression so I always figured there was either some kind of genetic link, or else observing my mom's patterns caused them to rub off on me. Regarding the lack of passion, I myself have found interests, sometimes things I am deeply interested in, but they tend to be fleeting. I find myself feeling like I may have "missed the boat" on true happiness, or on finding the things that truly fulfill me. I'm still looking though.

I wanted to say, also, after reading your last couple of posts, that I'm very sorry for the extra baggage it seems your parents are putting on you. I can (somewhat) relate and it sucks that you have to go through it on what should be a pretty exciting and independent time in your life.
posted by justonegirl at 4:23 AM on February 12, 2007


Your description of your past and currrent situation does sound like depression. As another poster suggests, however, if you are currently depressed, it may be hard for to you remember your youth in an unbiased manner. For example, there are experiments where people view faces - a hostile face, a happy face, and a neutral face. Significantly more people with either an anxiety disorder or depression perceive the neutral face as hostile, while a person without this diagnosis does not.

Honestly I think it may be better use of your time if you - see a psychiatrist and/or psychologist now. If you really want resolution to the question after you begin treatment, ask other relatives (not your parents from your description) to describe your youth.

A child can be diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder.

Just other thoughts, but - similar to another poster, does one of your parents seem depressed (when you were a child?). A recently study suggested that some children with a depressed mother would also have a mood or anxiety disorder and that when the mother was successfully treated, the child's depression also disappeared (and the child was not treated in this situation). If you want to find this study, in pubmed, look for the Star*D trials.

There are research articles suggesting that if part of the serotonin pathway is disrupted (e.g., a receptor, 5-HT2R; or enzyme, TH2), and individual is more likely to have depression or an anxiety disorder as an adult.There are a few (not many - just because they have not been done) studies suggesting an interaction between genes and the environment. Therefore, children with a gene such as the one listed above, and stressful life events were the most likely to have depression or an anxiety disorder as an adult.

If you want to try to track down the abstracts in pubmed and can't find the material, drop me a line I can help you find the abstracts. I may be able to get the papers in some cases, too.

Best of luck.
posted by Wolfster at 5:20 AM on February 12, 2007

Read Listening to Prozac by Peter Kramer. He discusses this question.

Note that the answers can be really hard to tease apart. If you were born depressed because you inherited depression from your parents, then your parents are depressed in some way too. If they weren't getting pleasure out of their lives (including not experiencing the pleasures of parenthood) then that would affect their parenting. So to figure out what portion of your depressive temperament is biological and what portion is the way you were raised, you'd need to go back with some infant speroses and some other random infants and hand them out to be raised in different families. If all the speroses grew up to be depressed and none of the other infants did, then it's all your own biology. If all the infants raised by your parents grew up to be depressed and none of the others did, then it's all your parents' parenting. If it's some combination, it's both.

But that experiment is never going to happen, so we will never know the answer for sure. It doesn't change your course of conduct anyway. You still need to talk to a medical professional today, in the present - preferably a psychiatrist. And probably also a talk therapist because it sounds like you have lots of questions to work through.
posted by kika at 5:21 AM on February 12, 2007

If you are depressed now, you may be unable to remember being happier, at least that's my experience. The mind-body problem describes the complicated mix of chemistry and thinking, and it's a huge discussion. But, given that depression is often driven by chemistry, then an infant could be depressed. The sooner you seek treatment, the better. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 AM on February 12, 2007

I don't think clinical depression can be clearly diagnosised until after puberty and even then it is a tough call. As for depression since birth... you may be predisposed to suffer in the future but it can not be scienctifically proven. In other words, there are no specific chromosomal markers one can point to- at this current time- and say, "You are broken and this is why".

As for passion... sounds like some of the best times of your life were found at the end of good book. Reading is a passion, looks like you have one- and have had one since childhood.
posted by bkeene12 at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2007

Children certainly can have depression. Your description of suicide notes at 7, etc. sounded just like the kids described in this book we published back when I worked at Penguin: Help Me, I'm Sad.
posted by MsMolly at 6:18 AM on February 12, 2007

It possible but extremely rare and certainly would be followed by other problems. Im afraid the answer you are seeking is just 'Yeah, its genetic, youre screwed' and use that as an excuse to either not get help or be defeatist and thus more depressed.

I also agree with the above poster that while depressed it is very very difficult to remember what feeling good in the past felt like.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:05 AM on February 12, 2007

Get the fuck out of that house.

Best piece of advice in the thread. And by "out of that house", I mean California.
posted by mkultra at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2007

I don't know about birth, but I was definitely depressed from about first grade (age six) through age 23, though the severity varied over time. There's evidence in my little kid diaries, video of me, and my mom's logs of what my childhood was like, in addition to my own warped memories. Treatment helped some, but getting out of the house and out of school are really what made the difference.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:45 AM on February 12, 2007

re: GTFO
There are plans in place, just waiting for the $ situation to get moving.

posted by sperose at 8:03 AM on February 12, 2007

To address your actual question, a brief PubMed search turned up Depression in infancy. (Abstract only at this link - check with your local library.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:43 AM on February 12, 2007

I had depression beginning at about 10/11 years old, and continuing up and down through now, fortunately responsive to treatment plus a good/interesting life.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:17 AM on February 12, 2007

Also, from Medscape: Depression and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents.

This doesn’t go into depression in infancy, but reviews several studies of using medication to treat depression in children as young as 7.
posted by kika at 9:31 AM on February 12, 2007

Hey sperose,

I don't have anything to weigh in on re: the depression, but just wanted to say that it's really good to hear that you took some advice in your last set of answers and are looking to improve your situation (i.e. GTFO). Congrats on taking the first steps - keep at it. and keep us posted.

good luck!!
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2007

That sounds like my childhood, and I had the same "symptoms" as you. I was withdrawn, spent much of my childhood and adolescence reading, writing, and I cried a lot.

I'm a little different from you in the sense that I had passions, but had few opportunities to outwardly express aspects of myself safely. And after awhile of that, I sort of stopped trying. Was I depressed? Sure was, and still am. I hated having my thoughts and feelings and interests caged up and denied by others. That can cause depression in anyone, and if you grew up in that kind of an environment, it can seem that you've had depression all your life, and therefore, you assume it's an undiagnosed, chronic medical condition.

Well, maybe. Or not. Coming to an epiphany of sorts and re-evaluating your past (or thinking about it critically for the first time) can itself put you into a worse depression, and that can warp your thinking a bit. I think as you start to do stuff, outside of your parents' influence, you'll feel worse (because you're starting to realize what you never learned that you should've learned and you need to learn and on and on), but also hopefully relieved and more in control. Talking to a counsellor might help. But I wouldn't give myself a medical diagnosis just yet--it could be situational, in which case, do what you need to improve your situation, give yourself a year or two afterwards, then re-evaluate. I'd rather think my depressed state was because of circumstances, not because of my physiological make-up.
posted by elisynn at 7:54 PM on February 17, 2007

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