Is mental health hereditary?

Mental illness affected 50 million people in the United States in 2022 (19.86% of the population), making discussions on the topic more increasingly open and common. With such a wide range of people living with mental health issues, one =question that is brought up often is, “What causes mental illness?”

Situational factors and our environment, such as divorce, death of a closed one, childhood trauma or unhealthy habits are just a few of the reasons scientists and health experts explain the onset of mental illness. In addition, brain chemistry and the balance of our hormones can also factor in.  In fact, there are a wide range of things that can have an effect on one’s mental health. One theory that scientists have been exploring is the idea that some aspects of mental health and specific conditions appear to, in fact, be hereditary. This might lead one to wonder: if your parents suffer from a mental health condition, what are the chances you might have one?

Genetic markers and patterns for mental illness

ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia are the five most common mental illnesses that show a correlation to heredity, according to the National Institute of Health. However, research has yet to fully understand the correlation of mental illness or why it can be passed along to some family members and not others. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while mental health conditions can run in a family, there are still a wide range of differences in the severity and extent of the symptoms.

So far, there are no direct genetic markers or patterns for mental illness that can be predicated with complete certainty. The causes of mental health issues are complicated, and someone’s individual risk can not exclusively be determined by whether their parents are diagnosed with a mental illness. While we may components of our parents genetics, our environment and life experiences, which contribute to our overall mental health, can be vastly different. Therefore, it is unclear how much of their DNA will affect our own mental well-being.

There is research showing correlation that having a parent with a mental illness may raise one’s risk slightly. One study showed that the chance of developing bipolar disorder is 1%, but if a parent is bipolar, the risk could rise to 8%, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. But even though the risk is increased, it still remains very low and cannot be officially determined. A genetic predisposition of just 7% is mild, when compared to other markers for hereditary illnesses, such as certain cancers, muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis.

Will you inherit your parent’s mental illness?

So, are mental health conditions hereditary? “Although statistically significant, each of these genetic associations individually can account for only a small amount of risk for mental illness,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital. reported by the National Institutes of Health.

That being said, if an older member of your family has a diagnosed mental illness, be sure to check in with yourself and be aware of your own mental health. Since the risk of gaining a mental illness may slightly elevated it is important to practice mindfulness and self care.

If you have any questions regarding mental health, our clinicians team would be more than happy to assist in answering any questions or talking through any worries. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and discuss more.