Women with a history of depression may become smokers as a way of self-medicating, something that may be triggered by the genes that are associated with conduct disorder, says a Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Public Health researcher.
"Some people with a history of depression may become smokers as a way of self-medicating," said SLU's Qiang John Fu. "Some people who are smokers might become depressed when they try to give up cigarettes and can't. When I tried to explain this correlation, I discovered the answer lay partly in [the] genes that are associated with conduct disorder, which is extreme rebellious behavior of teens and children. My findings are an alternate explanation about why nicotine dependence and major depression go together."
Dr. Fu explained that women who have conduct disorders, such as stealing, vandalizing, running away from home and fighting are likely to become addicted to other drugs and behave impulsively. "Our data showed that both major depression and nicotine dependence were highly genetically correlated with conduct disorder," he said.
Interestingly, the research also may explain why smoking seems to run in some families. "Maybe Dad and Mom have a certain personality, which is why they may be more likely to smoke or to be depressed. That personality trait may be based in their genes," he said.
The research points geneticists in a new direction to understand the influences of a personality trait, according to Dr. Fu. He believes clinicians could use his findings to identify those who are at risk of developing major depression or nicotine addiction. "When they see people with a history of conduct disorder, they may be able to predict those people who could develop major depression or nicotine dependence," he concluded.
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Source: Saint Louis University