Are mental health problems genetic? Can they be avoided? Find a Psychiatric Consultant in Kolkata.

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Having a mental illness in the family is called a predisposition. It makes you vulnerable to illness but does not guarantee its onset. The chance of an individual having a specific mental disorder is higher if some other family members have the same or similar mental disorder. Even though a mental disorder may run in a family, there may be considerable differences in the severity of symptoms among family members. This indicates that one individual in the family may have a mild symptom presentation while someone else has a more severe case of the mental disorder. It has to be taken into account that mental illnesses do not follow the usual genetic inheritance patterns.

Diseases due to a single major genetic factor, whether dominant or recessive, are often called Mendelian disorders, Gregor Mendel having initially described the inheritance of traits due to the operation of single genes. In the human population, a single mutation contributing (singlehandedly) to Mendelian disorders are rare. Indeed, the genetics of the most common human disorders tend to be complex, and include, in addition to mental disorders, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus types I and II, and hypertension.

No one psychiatric or mental disorder has a full 100% genetic basis or heritability, and many environmental/external factors may strongly influence the likelihood of developing a particular disorder or not – both when there is presence or absence of genetic elements. This indicates that the genetic predisposition makes you more vulnerable and stressors can affect you more easily. Many of these disorders, therefore, have multifactorial causes – some genetic and some environmental.

Stressors -

Stressors are like the shove that sends a vulnerable person over the edge, plummeting downwards. These contributing elements lead to the development of mental disorders and include:

  • Abuse: Sexual, physical, emotional abuse, domestic violence, etc. all lead to an increase in the likelihood of developing a mental disorder.
  • Life events- such as loss of a loved one, becoming homeless, going through natural disasters are also major contributors.
  • Childhood trauma- any adverse events happening during childhood such as bullying, lack of secure parental attachment, peer rejections, broken family environment, etc.
  • Substance Abuse: Exposure tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs either prenatally or in childhood has been associated with the development of mental disorders beyond just substance use disorders or addiction.
  • Poor social support system: we all face challenges in life, however, having sources of genuine support, encouragement and guidance helps people maintain some degree of stability and positivity. inadequate peer relationships, stressful family environments, etc. hence push people towards isolation and further emotional distress.
  • Poor awareness of mental health and avoidance of help-seeking practices- mental health is still a taboo in our country and people are often observed to be afraid of taboo and labelling that they might have to encounter should somebody know that they have visited a psychologist/psychiatrist. This can unfortunately lead to further deterioration of an already troubled mind with clients often been brought to a psychiatric ward after they have already suffered a lot.
  • Chronic biological ill-health- the physical state of well-being positively affects the mind. Frequent bouts of ill-health or prolonged illnesses adversely affect the mind and may give rise to psychological conditions such as depression and health anxiety

So why do we need to have the awareness of our genetic vulnerability? We always try to keep people informed that early intervention is the key. This is because, the sooner you identify initial warning signs, the sooner you can nip the problem in the bud before it fully manifests. Each episode of mental illness may have economic and social repercussions, jeopardising education, job and housing security and disrupting relationships.

Lowering the risk of developing mental illness-

1. Healthy practices such as balanced diet, proper sleep and exercise should be paid attention to

2. Force yourself to take some well-deserved me time, at least once a day!

3. Journaling can give you a source of emotional expression

4. Do not force yourself to stay in situations that negatively affect your mind

5. Make your distance from individuals who make you feel badly about yourself

6. Do not let work-related stressors seep into or hamper your personal life

7. Always feel free to consult a mental health profession. Remember that vising one does not necessarily have to involve mental illnesses…...Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists often help people grow and make the most of life!

8. Avoid using addictive substances such as alcohol and tobacco to solve your problems

9. Make sure to possess details about family history of mental illnesses and make them available for health professionals for easy references

10.Do not ignore any signs of emotional stress or mental pain and assume that it is temporary and/or unimportant on your own, without seeking professional opinion.

At Mpower minds Kolkata, we aim not only for Remission but also towards Maintenance! In other words, we do not stop at healing but also ensure that once the client is doing better, they continue to remain stable, balanced and adequately functional.

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