When someone is first diagnosed with a mental disorder, the first question they may ask is “how / why?” If it isn’t asked internally or externally, and the patient knows that their family has a history with certain disorders, it is automatically assumed by them that it was passed down. In order to clear up this confusion, let’s explore the connection between mental illness and genetics.
We are so used to hearing, “Oh your grandmother has depression, too. That makes sense.” Or seeing articles titled “10 mental health issues that are most likely to run in families” but don’t realize the reality of mental health issues and its correlation with genetics.
According to a research conducted and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, many mental disorders are caused by a combination of biological, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors. So, in the end, everything comes into play.
The long and often disputed history of the “depression gene” is a great illustration of this. For years and across multiple studies, many have found and fought over whether certain genes or environmental interaction may contribute to depression. In the end, most conclude that a number of biological and environmental factors contribute.
So… What do I do?
Even though a mental disorder can be caused by an array of factors, keeping track of your family health history is important and often advised. We have to remember that family history does serve as an indicator of possible risk, so therapists and counselors need and we’ll ask about it.
You must also remember that with or without a family history of a particular disorder, it does not define you. We must not fear of living in the shadows of another as well as reflect on ourselves and be responsible individuals that can address and conquer whatever is thrown our way.
I hope that this has clarified the confusion around mental illness and genetics for you. If you have more questions, feel free to comment below. Also, remember to sign up for my newsletter for a more inside look on such topics.