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Mental Health Disorders and Family History

Health care professionals thoroughly review your family history when they take you on as a patient. They might inquire about any history of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes in your family. A family history for these conditions may increase your risk of facing them in the future. Much like these conditions, many mental health disorders are genetically linked and require the same thoughtful consideration. However, considering mental health disorders when evaluating family history does not always occur, according to PsychCentral. 

The Role of Genetics

A variety of factors play a role in mental health disorders. Environmental stressors — a divorce or death in the family or a personal life in upheaval — may contribute to mental health disorders. So can psychological factors, such as a childhood trauma or neglect. However, in many instances, biology may be an influential factor in mental health disorders. Research indicates that mental health disorders can run in families. In these situations, a gene — or more commonly, a group of genes — may include abnormalities that can trigger a mental health disorder. In fact, recent research indicates that five major mental illnesses — depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism — can be traced to similar gene variations. A great deal of recent research points to the clear link between many mental health disorders and family history.

A Combination of Factors

An individual may carry a gene variant that is associated with a mental health disorder. However, carrying that gene alone does not always mean that the individual will ever be diagnosed with that disorder. In short, the individual with the mutated or variant gene is simply more susceptible to contracting the mental illness.

For those individuals with this family history of mental health disorders, other factors may trigger the onset of the illness. For example, a traumatic event or an increase in stress may influence a mental illness to occur in an individual already susceptible to the disease.

Seeking Help

Individuals with a family history of a mental illness might be unsure of where — and when — to seek professional help. They might worry about their genetic predisposition to a disease and wonder how they can avoid the onset of symptoms. Behavioral health therapists can provide assistance in a variety of ways and help treat many mental illnesses. For instance, eating disorder therapists tailor a treatment plan designed exclusively for your needs, whether you are living with anorexia or bulimia nervosa, overeating or a binge eating disorder.

Medicine Institute offers thorough evaluation and treatment for a variety of mental health disorders. When anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders and more begin to interfere with your life, it’s time to seek help. Comprehensive evaluations, psychiatric assessments, medication management and therapy for individuals, couples and families can help you face your mental illness with courage. Designing a specialized treatment plan for your mental health disorder requires a skilled team of professionals, such as those at St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute.

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