Is a mental illness inherited

Can mental illness be inherited?

Last update: August 24, 2020

Can mental illnesses be inherited? Many people have probably asked themselves this question before. Especially if their family had mental illnesses and disorders. In addition, research shows that some mental illnesses have a genetic component.

On the other hand science has not yet been able to provide answers to all questions. For example, it remains to be seen how strongly our genes influence the diseases mentioned and their outbreak. Progress in this area is slow but steady. Little by little we learn more about the genetic factors that promote the occurrence of mental illnessalthough there is still a lot to learn.

For example, we now understand that mental illness and our health in general are dependent on both genetics and our environment. We also know that people in many cases do not inherit the disease itself, only the predispositionto develop this. And this predisposition may vary in strength.

Which factors determine your health?

Developing a disease or not depends on many factors. This also applies to hereditary diseases. You may have it within you, but you may not develop it, or develop it only to a small extent, if other genetic or environmental factors cause this.

Because of this, scientists work with probabilities. It is impossible to predict with absolute certainty whether the child of a mentally ill person will develop the same disease or not. Rather, it is that a certain - usually higher - probability insists that this is happening. And when a father and mother have the same disease, the chances are even higher.

Let's discuss the chances of the occurrence of mental illness in the next generation.

The likelihood of developing schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects many brain functions, including thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is a psychotic disorder, which means that those who suffer from it lose touch with reality.

According to various studies, the probability that offspring of a schizophrenic father and a schizophrenic mother will develop the disease is 40%. Another 15% show mental abnormalities but do not meet the criteria for the disease itself. Due to genetic identity, the risk of an identical twin becoming schizophrenic is very high if the twin already has the disease.

The Risk of Inheriting Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected and is one of the most feared mental illnesses. People with bipolar disorder have unusual mood swings. The condition is also known as manic depression: Patients go through manic episodes and feel happy and alive during these episodes. You are then more energetic and active than other people. At other times, people suffer, feel sad, and depressed. You experience depressive episodes, then have little energy and are much less active than normal.

The risk of developing bipolar disorder increases if the parents already have the condition. In identical twins, one of the twins has a 95% chance of developing this disorder if the twin has already been diagnosed with it.

The risk of inheriting an intellectual disability

Most severe intellectual disabilities are caused by external factors. For example, it could be an accident or an illness that the patient suffered in the womb or in early childhood. Therefore, most intellectual disabilities are not hereditary.

On the other hand, many of the mild and moderate intellectual disabilities are linked to genetic factors. When both the father and mother are mentally disabled, more than half of their children also suffer from poor intelligence. However, only a small proportion of children are affected if only the mother or only the father has an intellectual disability.

One negative factor is that people with intellectual disabilities often enter into relationships with one another, which increases the chances of stamina being inherited.

What about other mental disorders, such as B. Neuroses?

Neurosis patients react so unusually due to previous experiences and external circumstances. Therefore, neuroses are not hereditary.If several cases of neuroses occur in one and the same family, these can be better explained by a “false inheritance”. In these cases, the increased incidence is not due to the genes, but rather to a persistently harmful environment. This is sometimes referred to as the "emotional pathogen" which tends to cause mental illness.

However, there was also evidence of a hereditary predisposition to neurosis provided. Therefore, not all family members who are exposed to the so-called "emotional pathogen" become ill. In other words, there appears to be a genetic predisposition to react neurotically to certain events.

Overall, it can be said that the genetic component that contributes to the development of mental illness can vary in size. Thus, some can definitely be classified as hereditary diseases, while others are more likely to be described as multifactorial diseases.

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