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Is mental illness hereditary? An expert answers

Updated on:20 October 2021, 14:57pm IST
When it comes to mental illness, many wonder whether it runs in the family and can be passed from one generation to the next. An expert talks about it.
Grace Bains
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mental illness
Mental illness must be looked at from all angles, including genetic factors. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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In spite of how prevalent it is, mental illness is not too widely discussed in our society. It is still a taboo subject. Hence, the awareness regarding the development of mental illness is restricted. Due to this lack of awareness, people often form their own opinion about what could cause mental illness and one prominent notion is that mental illness runs in the family.

But, how true is this? We spoke to Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare to understand how family history or genetics may play a role in the development of mental health issues.

mental illness
Many wonder if mental illness runs in the family. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

According to the expert, “When we examine the cause of a mental illness and its treatment, we must look at it from a biopsychosocial angle. Genetics may play a very small role when it comes to developing mental illness, just like any other illness. It is usually a result of many other factors at play in an individual’s life. We have to look at mental illness keeping in mind the biopsychosocial model.”

What do biopsychosocial factors entail?

Dr Parikh shed light on what constitutes biopsychosocial that are often found to be at play when it comes to the development of mental illness:

1. Environment

This primarily refers to our immediate surrounding which includes our family and friends. So, the relationship we share with those around us has an impact on our mental health.

If we are experiencing stress in our personal relations, it may put us at an increased risk of our mental health deteriorating.

mental illness
Our environment plays a role in determining our mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Chemical balance

Our brain functions well when its chemical balance is maintained. When there is an excess or an insufficient presence of these chemicals in the brain, it is said that you’re suffering from a chemical imbalance.

This imbalance also plays a role in our mental health. For example, depression is believed to be caused due to an insufficiency of serotonin.

3. Behaviour

We all have unique personalities, behaviours and moods. These influence our habits and the decisions we make regarding our lives. Such factors, hence, also affect our mental health in the long run.

How we react to certain situations and perceive specific contexts depends on our personality and eventually, it influences our mental health.

The last word

Dr Parikh informed us that these factors are taken into account when diagnosing a patient and it also helps professionals determine the treatment.

Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.