Hereditary Mental Illness

When individuals suffer from mental health disorders, they may often wonder why they are dealing with these issues. What caused them to develop their mental illnesses? Well, the answer isn’t black and white, as both genetic and environmental factors cause people to develop mental illnesses.

A hereditary mental illness is a mental health disorder that’s heavily influenced by genetic factors. Thus, another term for a hereditary mental illness is a genetic mental illness, or a mental genetic disorder.

Genetic disorders develop because of abnormalities in people’s unique genomes. People inherit genetic disorders when one or both parents pass their defective genes down to their children. People can also develop genetic disorders by having a simple gene mutation affect their DNA.

Single gene disorders due to one mutated gene constitute nearly 4,000 known diseases. Parents can pass down single gene disorders to many generations. That’s because single gene disorders involve dominant and recessive genes, and recessive genes can be dormant for three to four generations.

Mental Illnesses That Are More Likely to Be Hereditary

In 2018, scientists discovered that certain genetic gene variations can help cause certain mental health disorders. These mental health disorders include the following:

  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Through a large genome wide study, scientists discovered that inherited gene variations alone can cause people to have around a 28% chance of developing these mental illnesses. Furthermore, shared genetic variations due to genetic mutations, deletions, duplications, and gene-environment correlations can cause people to be even more likely to develop hereditary mental illness.

Some studies even suggest that some genes can carry markers for more than one of the five mental health disorders that’s listed above. As a result, some inherited genetic variations can increase the chance that one can develop more than one of the five mental genetic disorders.

More Information on Each Type of Hereditary Mental Illness

As this article previously mentioned, autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia are more likely to be mental genetic disorders. Below are more details on why this is the case for each of the mental illnesses.

There are numerous specific genes that correlate with autism. Some of these include MECP2, SHANK1-3, CACN1E/B2, NRXN, SYNGAP1, UBE3A, KCNQ2/3/5, SCNA2, and SYN1/3. Many of the genes connected to autism also connect to specific ion channels and synapses in the brain. This suggests that abnormal synaptic and neural development, or inherited genetic variations and mutations, play a role in the development of autism.

Bipolar disorder correlates with many of the same genetic mutations as autism. This shouldn’t be a surprise as genetic factors are 70% to 90% of the cause for why one develops bipolar disorder.

The high genetic cause for bipolar disorder makes it a clear hereditary mental illness. The risk of developing bipolar disorder is especially high for those with first-degree relatives with the mental illness.

The specific genetic mutations connected to bipolar disorder include CACNA1C, ODZ4, TRANK1, GNG2, ANK3, TPH2, ITPR2, SHANK2, and NCAN. Individuals can inherit these genetic mutations from their parents. People can also form these genetic mutations from dormant genetic bipolar genes that skipped generations during development.

Similar to bipolar disorder, genetics can greatly increase the likelihood that a person develops schizophrenia. This makes schizophrenia a clear hereditary mental illness. In fact, schizophrenia has up to a 70% – 80% genetic heritability. Some of the specific genetic mutations that correlate with schizophrenia include LAMA2, SETD1A, DPYD, TRRAP, TAF13, ARC, VPS39, and DISC1.

People with first-degree relatives with schizophrenia are much more likely to develop the mental illness themselves. This is because of the strong genetic heritability of schizophrenia.  In fact, the chance that one will develop schizophrenia goes up from 1% to 10% for individuals with close relatives with the disorder.  Similarly, people who have two parents with schizophrenia contain a 40% – 50% chance of developing the hereditary mental illness.

While scientists are still studying the full genetic components of depression, enough studies have been done for them to know that genetics play a clear role in the development of the mental illness. The chances of developing depression are especially high for those with first-degree relatives with the mental disorder.

Studies involving twins even found a 37% inherited chance of developing depression. Variations in genes that regulate neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, play a major role in the development of depression.

genetic mental illness

As a neurological disorder, it’s no surprise that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is hereditary. People with parents or siblings with ADHD are especially more likely to develop the disorder. While ADHD is clearly a hereditary mental illness, the inheritability of ADHD is complex and not clearly related to a single genetic fault.

How Can I Know If Mental Illness Runs in My Family?

mental genetic disorders

Individuals that want to determine if mental illness runs in their families or not should research and keep track of their family health history. To do this, one should first talk to their blood relatives. The best way to go about this is to first talk to first-degree relatives, then second-degree relatives, and so on and so forth. People should then talk to genetic counselors and their medical professionals to get any family health information that they weren’t able to discover themselves.

When talking with relatives about family health history, make sure to ask detailed questions and write down every detail of the family members’ responses. To help legitimize a family health history report, make use of free print and online family health history tools. For example, the U.S. Surgeon General created a “My Family Health Portrait” tool that anyone can use. The My Family Health Portrait tool helps people keep track of information about their families’ health history in an organized manner.

Individuals can download and print out the My Family Health Portrait form through the My Family Health Portrait tool. Once people fill out the My Family Health Portrait form, they should make copies of it. That way they can give one copy of the form to their doctors and their other medical professionals, if necessary, and still contain a copy for themselves. Individuals should also make an effort to update their family health report whenever their family grows, they discover new, important family health history information, or family members are given new health diagnoses.

What Triggers a Hereditary Mental Illness

While genetics play a key role in why a person is susceptible to developing certain mental health disorders, environmental factors are what often trigger people with such susceptibilities into actually developing mental illnesses.

Things that often trigger the development of both non-hereditary and hereditary mental illness include the following:

Sleep issues strongly correlate with mental illness. While many mental health disorders cause people to develop sleep issues, sleep issues can also trigger the development of mental health disorders. Furthermore, sleep issues can be the reason why a person continues to suffer from mental illness.

When it comes to the correlation between sleep issues and hereditary mental illness in particular, research shows that people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression suffer from sleep disturbances at much higher rates than people that don’t suffer from these hereditary mental illnesses. The impact that poor sleep can have on one’s mental health is why creating healthy sleeping habits and practicing good sleep hygiene is so important.

Similar to sleep, one’s diet can greatly impact his or her physical and mental health. Evidence has shown that certain nutrients such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and tuna, along with nuts and seeds, positively impact one’s mental health. Evidence also shows that a diet that is rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables can help lower a person’s risk of developing depression.

If there were three top things that can impact a person’s physical and mental health in a positive or negative way, it would be sleep, diet, and exercise. That’s why the next common trigger for mental illnesses is inactivity, or lack of exercise.

There is a plethora of research that proves how beneficial exercise is to one’s mental health. In fact, exercise is well-known to cause the brain to release serotonin, the happy hormone. Thus, exercising can help people keep their depression and anxiety at bay. Studies show that exercise can also help reduce stress and improve sleep and cognitive function.

Regardless of whether a person is an introvert or extrovert, every human being needs positive social interactions and support to maintain good mental health. This is because, at the core, all human beings are social creatures. Also, with all the stress that life brings, a good social support system can be the difference between a person thriving in life or crumbling into a pit of stress and despair.

Having a positive support system from family and close friends from birth through adulthood can also help people avoid getting into precarious situations that can cause them to experience trauma. It really does take a village to raise a physically and mentally healthy human being.

Trauma is a huge trigger for mental illness, both hereditary and non-hereditary. This is partly because trauma can cause the cells in people’s brains to form unhealthy synapses, or connections, to cope. This, in turn, can lead to the development of mental health disorders.

Mental health disorders often co-occur with substance abuse issues. This is because many people start abusing substances when they’re at their lowest and suffering from mental illness. Substance abuse itself can also trigger the development of mental health issues. This is because abusing substances can cause changes in one’s brain chemistry that can lead to the development of hereditary mental illness.

Oftentimes, suffering from severe physical illnesses, such as cancer, can cause people to develop depression and anxiety. That’s why individuals with severe physical illnesses should do the best that they can to do things that can help them keep their spirits up. This includes getting a healthy hobby, maintaining a good sleep schedule, eating healthy, and socializing with people that they love.

Stress is a major trigger for genetic mental illness. That’s why individuals need to learn how to cope with stress in a positive manner.  Eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy social support system, and having positive hobbies can all help people cope with stress.

Adler Health Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health

Adler Health is a premium mental health treatment center in Orange County, California. The Adler Health treatment center provides patients with individualized, targeted care that betters the mind, body, and spirit.

Thus, at Adler Health, not only can one receive the care that he or she needs to treat his or her hereditary mental illness, but one can also learn positive coping mechanisms that can help individuals keep their hereditary mental illnesses at bay. To receive treatment for mental genetic disorders at Adler Health, contact the mental health treatment center here.