Research shows that certain mental illnesses can run in families. Maybe there are several people in your family who have the same illness and you want to understand why, or maybe you’re a parent who’s concerned about passing on the mental illness you have to your children, or even grandchildren.
Mental illnesses are not exclusively genetic, but in addition to other factors, genes can indeed play a role. There are five major mental disorders that have been linked to heritability, and these disorders are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Hereditary mental illnesses are not uncommon, but they are still a bit of a mystery to mental health professionals. In this article, we’re going to share with you what we’ve learned so far.
Can a mental illness be hereditary?
Yes, a mental illness can be hereditary, but just because an aunt or grandfather has a certain mental illness, doesn’t mean you or another family member will automatically inherit the same illness, or a mental illness at all for that matter.
There has long been evidence supporting the concept of mental illnesses running in families, but now there are recent studies that suggest there are specific additional factors that increase the likelihood of certain people developing — or inheriting — these mental illnesses.
Mental illness hereditary factors
While we do not yet fully understand what causes certain mental illnesses to run in families, we have discovered several major factors that play a role in making these illnesses hereditary.
The environments you’re consistently immersed in can lead to mental illness, such as being alone for most of the time, or being surrounded by toxic or particularly negative or stressful people. Living with family members who struggle with mental illnesses themselves is another potential factor, though this doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop an illness of your own.
Your genetic makeup also plays a large role in your susceptibility to different mental illnesses. In recent decades, studies have shown that specific genes can be responsible for causing abnormalities in both fetal and post-birth development. This can make certain individuals more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, other disorders, as well as substance abuse.
There are other potential factors, such as behavioral traits and brain chemistry, but the two we’ve noticed to play the biggest roles are environment and genetics.
Taking care of your mental health
If you’re worried about inheriting a mental illness from a family member, or if you’re concerned about passing the one you have down to your children, there are steps you can take to take care of yourself mentally, to lessen the likelihood of adopting or passing down what might be considered a hereditary mental illness.
Having a healthy diet is not only physically good for you, but is actually good for your mental health as well. Food, healthy or otherwise, has a lasting effect on your health; the right foods can be both fuel and medicine for your brain, giving it all of the different nutrients and minerals it needs not only to function, but to stay healthy and thrive in the long run.
Proper amounts of sleep
Sleep, too, plays a large role in taking care of your mental health, but is often one of the most overlooked aspects of self-care due to it often being an automatic sacrifice when you’re struggling. We stay up late snacking, drinking, watching television, mindlessly scrolling on our phones — we sacrifice our sleep because distracting ourselves is more gratifying than going to sleep at an earlier time. How much and how well you sleep matters though; it’s a practice worth prioritizing.
Practicing mindfulness, becoming more self-aware, is also an important practice for your mental well-being. Getting to know yourself on a deeper level, consistently noticing your thoughts and emotions, will help improve your mental well-being as well as equip you to better notice if you start developing signs of chronic stress, depression or anxiety.
Staying active, both physically and socially, works to establish a default mentality of positivity and optimism. You get a rush of endorphins and serotonin when you work out and when you spend quality time with people you love; you’ll be inspired to gravitate to hope, gratitude, joy. People who have a default mindset of these qualities are not immune to mental illnesses, but they do have a less likely chance of developing one.
Therapy is one of the best resources you have available to take care of your mental health. Having a safe, private environment to freely and openly discuss your struggles, as well as receive qualified, professional counseling on your life, helps you stay ahead of developing a mental illness as well as promote more peace and happiness in your life.
Reach out for additional resources
Here at Tapestry, we’ve designed our mental health programs to provide you with personalized care that takes into consideration your family history, unique background and experiences, as well as your own preferences.
Our staff is dedicated to getting to know you on a personal level so they can help you choose the program best suited for your needs and the vision you have for your life.