There are many reasons why a mental health disorder can develop. If you’re struggling with one, you are well aware of how challenging it is. There are emotional, biological, and genetic components, meaning some mental health disorders run in families.
For instance, if several family members struggle with certain mental health issues, it may help you understand better the problems you’ve been dealing with. According to experts, several mental health disorders have at least some hereditary components.
Keep in mind that the majority of mental diseases aren’t strictly inherited by a single gene. Rather, they more closely resemble a complex trait such as intelligence or height. Generally speaking, this means that a family history of mental health issues increases the risk of developing mental illnesses. However, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily guaranteed.
In fact, the exact cause of most mental health issues is still unknown to scientists. But environmental and genetic factors can interact to raise (or lower) the risk of mental disorders for any particular individual.
But there is good news. Every mental illness can be effectively treated with both medications as needed and cognitive therapy, which helps the patient manage the disorder and understand what exactly it does to them.
In these cases, a thorough evaluation is critical so that the patient can benefit from a treatment plan designed to help them cope with the mental issues they face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if any of the disorders listed below sound familiar.
Here are 9 genetically linked mental health issues!
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that manifests itself through emotionlessness, “thinking problems”, and delusions, among other things. And yes, there is a high genetic risk associated with it.
According to Dr. Bryan Bruno, a psychiatry specialist and medical director at Mid City TMS, the general population faces a 1% lifetime likelihood of developing schizophrenia. However, the risk jumps to 45% if both your biological parents have schizophrenia.
But it’s worth mentioning that those odds don’t represent a 100% guarantee. If schizophrenia runs in your family and you’re afraid you may also have this mental disorder, speaking with your doctor is the best thing you can do.
There are several reasons why depression may develop, but you’re more likely to experience it if your parents did. “Both depression and anxiety are thought to be inherited if they run in families”, says Sara Makin, NCC, MSEd, founder of Making Wellness.
There are two main reasons people develop depression: they have a genetic predisposition and also model their parents’ behaviors. In other words, if they see that their mom or dad is withdrawn and tends to sleep a lot, they are more likely to adopt the same habits. If you’re starting to exhibit similar tendencies and you know depression runs in the family, talking to a loved one or a specialist may help you cope with this mental health issue.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It manifests itself as a feeling of apprehension or fear about what’s to come. For instance, giving a speech or going to a job interview may cause some people to feel nervous and fearful.
But if your feelings of anxiety last for at least 6 months, are extreme, and interfere with your life, this may be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder.
As with schizophrenia, doctors say anxiety disorders are genetically transmitted if they run in families. Some symptoms of anxiety disorders include chronic stress, poor self-esteem, or feeling socially isolated.
A predisposition to self-medicate to cope with this disorder may result in substance abuse; however, this is not the case for everyone. If you’re dealing with anxiety, always talk with someone you trust or even a therapist, especially if you’re beginning to self-medicate.
4. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also called manic depression, is a mental health disease that causes extreme mood swings, including emotional lows (depression) and highs (mania or hypomania).
This mental illness can also be genetic. According to experts, people who have a first-degree relative with either bipolar disorder or depression are at a higher risk. In fact, the average person has between a two and three percent lifetime chance of developing bipolar disorder, but the odds jump to a striking 50% when both biological parents have the disease.
Even if this doesn’t guarantee a diagnosis, talk with a doctor if you believe you may have bipolar disorder.
5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have a lot to do with the way a person was raised, and what was modeled for them as a kid. For instance, if your parents were impulsive, it can still have an impact on you now.
Compared to ADHD used for children, adulthood ADHD is diagnosed later in life, which suggests that it may be a learned behavior or mechanism. If you are having trouble concentrating and worry it may be ADHD, talking to your doctor about how to cope with your symptoms may be the best thing to do moving forward.
6. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
As with other mental health disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, also called OCD, can run in families, although not always due to hereditary factors. According to Racine R. Henry, PhD and licensed family therapist, “OCD may be more indicative of an unhealthy learned behavior or coping mechanism”.
It is characterized by uncontrollable verbal or behavioral repetitions that interfere with a person’s daily functioning. Similar to anxiety and depression, a child with a parent with OCD may either emulate their behavior or purposely do the opposite as an act of defiance.
Although it can be triggered by trauma, it doesn’t have the same genetic causes as bipolar disorder. Nevertheless, more research needs to be done. According to experts, there may be a gene found to be associated with OCD, but its exact cause and effect are still unknown.
7. Eating Disorders
An eating disorder is actually a mental health disorder characterized by abnormal eating behaviors that seriously affect a person’s mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing eating issues, it may be due to the fact that eating disorders run in your family.
According to Dr. Michael Lutter, one of the experts working on a recent study conducted by the Eating Recovery Center, over 50% of the risk of developing an eating disorder is hereditary. This means if your dad or mom had one, it could explain why.
But don’t get discouraged. Even though it’s extremely challenging, there are many ways to overcome an eating disorder.
Contrary to popular belief, problems with addiction, such as gambling or alcoholism, can run in families. According to experts, people with a first- or second-degree relative with alcoholism or addictive behaviors have a higher risk of developing this mental health disorder.
The researchers found that a region of chromosome 15 contains multiple genes involved in the movement of the neurotransmitter GABA between neurons. They discovered that one version of the gene, GABRG3, is statistically associated with alcoholism in the affected families.
Additionally, some data suggest that these tendencies are more likely to occur if you saw them as you grew up. This said, watching a parent drink increases the odds of getting the disorder. Having a family member who had issues with substance abuse doesn’t always mean you’re predestined to develop addictions, but it may be a sign to monitor your substance intake.
Did your mom freak out and scream whenever she saw a snake? Was your aunt terrified of heights? Well, you may have picked up this tendency if you grew up seeing them react intensely in these situations.
Since several anxiety issues run in families via learned responses, there’s a chance to develop the same phobias as your parents. In fact, studies show that this mental health disorder is actually passed down genetically.
While they can feel deeply ingrained, there are ways to control phobias. Medications, desensitization techniques, and even support groups are some of the many treatment methods you should consider if you’re dealing with phobias.
Keep in mind that just because a close relative has a certain phobia, that doesn’t mean you will develop it. But experts say that knowing your family’s history can help you take a more proactive approach to your mental health overall.
You may also want to read Could It Be OCD? These 9 Interesting Facts Will Surprise You.