The amount of people with mental health conditions is on the rise. More than 1 in 5 adults in the United States have a mental illness.
That tends to beg the question—why? What has changed? Are genetics to blame for mental health conditions? Like many things, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
What We Know
Genetics aren’t entirely to blame for mental health conditions, but they do play a role. Mental illnesses are complex. Research from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that mental illnesses can be caused by a combination of biological, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors.
Genes are pieces of DNA in your cells that are passed from your parents to you, some specific genes and gene variations are linked to mental illnesses. Scientists don’t yet know all of the gene variations that are linked to mental health disorders. That being said, there are still ways that you can apply this knowledge to your life.
What You Can Do
Learning about your family health history can help you get a sense of what mental illnesses you and your family are more at risk for. Genetic factors can contribute to the risk of the onset of depressive disorders, for example.
Talking with your parents, siblings, and extended family about your family’s history with mental health can help you have a better understanding of what mental health conditions are common in your family. You can also consider having your DNA screened to learn more about your genetics. While knowing your family history is valuable, genetic tests can’t accurately predict how at-risk you are for developing a mental illness.
Once you have more information about your family, talk to your doctor or mental health professionals. Not only can you learn about ways to reduce the risk of mental illnesses, but you can also talk about what genes you could potentially pass down.
If you are experiencing symptoms and believe there is a history of mental illness in your family, Valley Oaks can help you get connected to treatment or other resources based on your concerns.