Is Mental Health Related to Family History?

How do genetics effect mental health?


Genetics can often be a window that reveals certain medical issues – including mental health issues – that may have been passed from one generation to the next. The effects of a psychiatric disorder aren’t always readily identifiable just by looking at a person, so researchers and health professionals rely on genetics, brain anatomy and even family history to determine an individual’s likelihood of developing a mental illness.


For years, people have analyzed biology down to a molecular level to gain more understanding into psychiatrics. Many scientists today continue to investigate whether there is a direct, identifiable correlation between mental health and family history.


The human genome – the entire sequence of information contained in our DNA – tells the story of who we are and where we came from; It can also give an indication of genetic issues to which we are predisposed.


According to the National Human Genome Resource Institute, mental illnesses fall under the multifactorial inheritance category of disorders, meaning they are caused “by a combination of small inherited variations in genes, often acting together with environmental factors.” Often, when an individual is born with a genetic predisposition for developing a certain psychiatric disorder, environmental factors contribute to both the onset and the development of a mental illness.


Picture these genomes as ingredients that make up our DNA. Certain ingredients, if combined, create the perfect “recipe” for mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, autism or bipolar depression. Environmental factors — the “heat” that bakes the recipe — often contribute to the pressures that cause a psychiatric disorder to present itself in a patient.


How do mental disorders affect the body physically?


In 2013, professionals in the field of psychology celebrated a study that found genetic similarities between individuals who suffered from five of the most common mental disorders.

The study analyzed the genetic sequences of nearly 60,000 people to determine traits of autism, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), clinical depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.


The study examined four main regions of genetic code and found that certain genetic variations were present in individuals who suffered from mental health disorders.


How can I track my family’s mental health history?


The National Institute of Mental Health says being aware of your family history is one of the best ways to determine whether or not you’re at risk for developing mental disorders. “Certain mental illnesses tend to run in families, and having a close relative with a mental disorder could mean you are at a higher risk,” NIMH says. “Currently, genetic testing cannot accurately predict your risk of developing a mental health disorder.”


It’s true — genetic testing doesn’t yet yield the most concrete answers for mental health. However, some disorders can be detected through genetic testing, so if you think you may be at risk for a psychiatric disorder, you should speak with your health care professional to determine whether or not testing is necessary.


Regarding family history, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention houses the My Family Health Portrait, an online tool that allows you to record your family’s health. With this tracking tool, you and your health care provider can look for trends and links in your family tree in order to identify symptoms of psychiatric disorders early.


What treatment options are available for those with mental health disorders?


If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder, you can contact a treatment facility or your health care professional for help.


At Havenwood Behavioral Health, we provide the privacy and individual attention conducive to emotional healing and problem solving. The Havenwood Adult Inpatient Psychiatric Program provides treatment for individuals ages 18 and over experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms that inhibit normal daily living activities and pose a threat of harm to self or others, such as severe depression, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts, schizophrenia, and/or severe mood swings.


To learn more about the breadth of services offered at Havenwood, visit or call us at (864) 660-6217. With proper treatment and support, you can overcome mental illness.