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Symptoms of Co-Occurring DisordersJune 1, 2018
Major mental health disorders thought to occur individually may actually share certain genetics, according to research. Major mental health disorders thought to occur individually may actually share certain genetics, according to research. Scientists have long asked, “does mental illness run in families?” recognizing the potential link between mental health and genetics. According to experts, such disorders include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. But does this mean people with a family history of mental illness are going to develop one themselves?
Does Mental Illness Run in the Family?
If someone in your family has a mental illness, you might be worried about developing the same disorder. If you have a mental illness, you might worry about your siblings or children. While mental illness is not the direct result of genetics, research suggests that mental illnesses do run in families, and individuals with a family history of disorders like ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are more likely to develop them. The most commonly passed down mental health disorders are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, along with schizoaffective disorder, major depression, and anxiety.
But what causes mental illness in families? Are there certain genetic factors that may increase one’s likelihood of developing the same disorder a blood relative has? One study that screened for evidence of illness-associated genetic variations in over 33,000 people suggests that there is a genetic link.
All individuals in the study were diagnosed with at least 1 of 5 disorders: autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. A comparison group contained 28,000 with no psychiatric diagnosis. The study revealed genetic variations associated with all 5 disorders.1
These variations included 2 genes that are part of the code that helps regulate the flow of calcium into neurons. One of these genetic variations, CACNA1C, has been previously linked to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression and is known to affect brain function involved in emotion, thinking, attention, and memory. Another calcium channel gene called CACNB2 was also connected to all 5 disorders.1
The same researchers also discovered variations in certain regions of chromosomes 3 and 10 linked to all five disorders. Each of these sites spans several genes.1 While these findings are significant, they’re only a fraction of what must be fully understood in order to truly say that mental illness does run in families.
Looking at Family Mental Health: Personal Risk Assessment
Your family health history may be one of your best clues for determining whether or not you’re at risk of developing a mental health disorder. Certain mental disorders run in families, and having a close relative with one could mean you’re at a higher risk.
While a family history of mental illness doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll have a mental illness, too, it can help you determine whether you’re at risk and help your doctor recommend actions to reduce this risk and be prepared to identify any early warning signs. Below are some steps you can take to determine whether you have a family history of mental health and how best to prepare.
- Talk to blood relatives: The first step to determining your family health history is to speak to your blood relatives. These include “first-degree” relatives like your parents, siblings, and children, as well as “second-degree” relatives like aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces and nephews, and half-siblings. It’s okay if some relatives don’t want to share, but it’s helpful to get as much information as you can. You can also look into relatives who may have passed on and who were closely related to your parents, including your parents’ siblings.
- Keep a record: There are plenty of free online tools and templates that can help you record your family’s mental health history. As the family grows, information can be added to the record. This can then be shared with others in the family who are curious, including any healthcare providers you meet with.
- Talk with a mental health professional: If you suspect that you’re at risk of developing a mental health disorder or that you’re exhibiting signs of one, speak to a mental health professional. Our Banyan facilities for mental health offer mental health diagnostic services to help patients better understand their disorders and the signs associated with them.
- Speak to a genetic counselor: Genetic counselors assess a client’s risk for a variety of inherited conditions, ranging from birth defects to psychiatric disorders. Speaking to a genetic counselor can help you determine whether you’re at a greater risk of developing a disorder that’s present in a close relative.
Finding a Mental Health Rehab Near Me
Banyan Mental Health offers individual residential and partial hospitalization treatment for people with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders. With various levels of care, we’re able to meet patients where they are in their recovery and offer them a treatment program that meets their needs.
In addition to individualized mental illness treatment, we also offer family mental health services to help the parents, spouses, and siblings of our patients recover from the impact their loved one’s mental illness has had on their lives. Our support groups for families of mentally ill individuals are also crucial for rebuilding damaged relationships and constructing a strong support system the individual can lean on outside of treatment.
For more information about our Banyan mental health treatment and how we can support you or a loved one in recovery, call us today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information and we’ll reach out to you.