Hand-Me-Down Blues: How To Stop Depression From Spreading in Families


A powerful, family-based approach to understanding and treating depression that goes way beyond Prozac.

Many people have been led to believe that depression is caused simply by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and as a result they look to science for convenient answers, hoping that "a capsule a day will keep depression away." Unfortunately, this narrow focus on biology and the use of medications has often led people to overlook other ...

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A powerful, family-based approach to understanding and treating depression that goes way beyond Prozac.

Many people have been led to believe that depression is caused simply by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and as a result they look to science for convenient answers, hoping that "a capsule a day will keep depression away." Unfortunately, this narrow focus on biology and the use of medications has often led people to overlook other important influences, such as how our family can affect emotional health in powerful ways.

In Hand-Me-Down Blues, Dr. Michael Yapko carefully describes how the family can play a crucial role in the development of and recovery from depression. Parents introduce their children to various life experiences and inevitably reveal their own values, perspectives, and biases. Children typically learn to interpret life events in the same way their parents do, and their interpretations can be a basis for depression. Once depression strikes, it distorts family relationships, splintering families as it spreads from one person to another like a virus. Thus, children can "inherit" depression less from their parents' genes and more from their parents' attitudes and behaviors. Consider, for example, how the behavior of an emotionally inexpressive parent can affect a child who is hungry for eye contact, a smile, a hug and a kiss. The family that does not know its own power to hurt or heal its members is a family at risk for becoming overwhelmed and, yes, depressed.

Hand-Me-Down Blues describes the family as a powerful agent not only in the development of depression but also in its resolution. Without blame, the book shows how families can deal effectively with depression, armed with much more than a prescription. Part I describes the nature of depression, including both its biological and social origins, and introduces you to a family systems perspective— how depression can be a reflection of what's going on in a family. Part II covers how you can acquire depression from your family, bring this negative influence unintentionally into your marriage, and unconsciously pass it along to your children. Part III offers specific methods to help diminish depression's influence on your family, including being responsible to others, building family rituals, and developing realistic expectations. Dr. Yapko's solutions show you that you are not a victim and have more power than you may realize to change unhealthy situations and other people's responses to them.

Did you learn depression from your family? Maybe. But this is one family legacy you don't have to carry on. Hand-Me-Down Blues shows how learning effective problem-solving and relationship skills can reduce and even prevent depression— something no medication can ever do.

"...affirms that depression is not necessarily inherited through genes, but through family behavior & patterns... describes the nature of depression both biologically & socially & how it can be acquired from family."

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
There's been a great deal of attention paid in recent years to the biological underpinnings of depression and to the powerful drugs now available to help treat it. There's no doubt that these medications have helped countless sufferers, writes psychologist and family therapist Michael Yapko in his new book, Hand-Me-Down Blues, but amid all the hype it's easy to forget that depression is a much more complicated disorder than a simple biochemical imbalance. If it were that simple, he argues, we wouldn't see the variable rates of depression that exist among different age groups, genders, and cultures. And presumably we'd be able to diagnose depression with a blood test or a simple brain scan, something not likely to be true anytime soon. Yapko reminds us that depression is influenced by and influences everything in our lives, especially our interpersonal relationships.

It's for this reason that Yapko sees the desperate need to address the phenomenon of depression in families. Of course there is a genetic component in many cases, Yapko acknowledges, but he writes that his more than two decades of experience as a therapist treating depressed individuals, couples, and families have convinced him that the family is "a powerful system, both for unwittingly teaching depression and for helping to overcome it." In Hand-Me-Down Blues, he offers advice on how families can deal effectively with depression, above and beyond filling a prescription. He examines depression's psychological and biological roots, the effect it often has on marriage and on family dynamics, and its powertoharm families, especially in combination with the negative cultural influences many families are experiencing today. Yapko offers practical advice on how to stop depression from spreading in families and on how to strengthen and rebuild families to withstand inevitable stresses. Throughout, he draws on examples from case studies that help to reassure and to clarify. Hand-Me-Down Blues offers hope that family members, who so often feel miserably helpless in the face of a loved one's depression, can effectively help each other fight this damaging disorder.

Library Journal
Mental health practitioners have long observed that depression runs in families. Clinical psychologist Yapko (Breaking the Patterns of Depression, LJ 6/1/97) discusses the interrelationship of depression, parenting styles, and family dynamics, contending that inherited depression cannot be solely explained in terms of genetic inheritance or biochemical imbalance. Social and behavioral factors play a major role; parents transmit dysfunctional patterns of perception and thinking to their children, who in turn continue negative attitudes and behaviors and unwittingly pass these on to their own children. Through clear explanations and case studies, Yapko illustrates that how families deal with life experiences can either predispose members to depression or insulate them from it. Yapko describes communication, problem solving, and critical thinking skills that individuals and families can learn and use to create healthy relationships and outlines methods of family systems therapy in the treatment of depression. Recommended for popular psychology collections.--Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582380216
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist in private practice who lectures worldwide on the subject of depression. He is the author of five previous books and dozens of articles in which he describes active, skill-building interventions as vital to effective treatment of depression, including the authoritative section in the Encyclopedia Britannica's Medical and Health Annual. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Medicine in England and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He lives with his wife near San Diego, California.

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