Mental Health conditions hereditary?

I’m back! Contrary to rumours, I was just on a short break for a fortnight (as the site celebrates a year shortly and I have an announcement)

I was focusing on my book and my-speaking engagements / moving into the public forum with my wealth of beating experiences on various addictions and my work as a Suicide Survivor and CSA survivor.

Some guest blogs from some good friends is a website for Brez who writes on Anxiety, Depression and various Mental Health conditions and from a male perspective. UK based, top class blog and an accompanying excellent twitter account @myjourneybrez

Today we look at a topic that has firm opinions on both sides

Is Mental Health hereditary?

I know the Mental Health Advocate Kas Thomas finds the question – “Is there Mental Illness in the family”- completely meaningless as a question!

Have a read here, you could argue
it is not black or white
However, I’m on the “Yes” side after a previous brain analysis!

Enjoy! My thanks to my good friend Brez acrosss the water.


Hi Guys, and thank you all for reading my last blog post.

Today I want to talk about Mental Health and can it be hereditary. Big Thank you to The Mammy on Elefriends for this topic suggestion.

When I look at my family history there are a few from uncles to cousins even my own parents that show traits of MH issues. I am the first in my immediate family that I know of to have been diagnosed with anxiety but depression seem evident in a few family members.

According to the Mayo clinic mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:

• Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
• Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
• Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression.
An article I found on the NHS website states “five of the most common psychiatric disorders are genetically linked.” This news is based on a landmark study that examined the genetic sequences of more than 50,000 people. Some of these people had one of five common long-term conditions the researchers called ‘psychiatric disorders.’ These were:

• autism
• attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
• clinical depression
• bipolar disorder
• schizophrenia
This useful and well-conducted study provides an invaluable insight into the possible genetic factors linked to these common mental health disorders.

Researchers found variations in four genetic regions were associated with these disorders when they looked at the DNA of people who had been diagnosed with one of the mental or behavioral conditions.

Some of these genetic variations affect how calcium moves through the brain. These findings have given rise to speculation about the possibility of new treatments being developed for these conditions.

However, reports that genetic testing could be used to predict or diagnose mental illnesses are probably wide of the mark. The researchers have stated that the effects of the genetic variations are small, and that on their own the variations would not be useful for predicting or diagnosing these conditions.

It is also simplistic to regard mental health conditions or behavioral problems as being purely genetic. There is a wide range of rigorous evidence that shows that environmental factors are also involved.

This was a genome-wide association study of five conditions: autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

These five conditions are generally classified as either starting in childhood (childhood onset – autism, ADHD) or in adulthood (adult onset – depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia). There are currently no medical tests for any of these conditions. Instead, they are diagnosed according to the occurrence and impact of distinct sets of symptoms.

It is uncertain what precisely causes any of these conditions. The consensus is that a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors contributes to their development.

This research examines possible genetic factors and how they may be shared across these five disorders.

The researchers analysed genetic data from more than 30,000 people with autism, ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and compared it with the genetic sequences of more than 27,000 people who did not have these conditions. All were of European ancestry.

They carried out several distinct analyses in order to determine whether specific genetic variations were associated with these disorders, and whether any of these variations were linked to multiple disorders.

The human genome is the entire sequence of information contained within our DNA. This sequence is made up of strings of molecules called nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. These nucleotides can develop into distinct variants known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Certain types of SNPs are thought to have a significant effect on human health.

In this study, researchers first analysed genome-wide SNP data to determine if any were associated with the five conditions being studied.They then ran several additional analyses to determine whether these variations were associated with multiple disorders (called cross-disorder associations), and whether these genetic risk factors overlapped across the five conditions.

The researchers also assessed which genes these variations were located near to or in. This is so they could understand which genes may be responsible for the associations seen and which particular biological process (or pathways) they play a role in. This could potentially provide clues as to how SNPs could contribute to these mental health conditions.

The researchers also looked at a number of SNPs that previous studies found were associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.


The researchers analysed genetic data from 33,332 individuals with one of the five conditions, as well as from 27,888 controls. They carried out initial analyses that supported the view that a large number of genetic variants each have a small effect on the risk of developing the five disorders.

In their main analysis, the researchers found that specific variations (SNPs) in four regions of the genetic code were significantly associated with these conditions. They then looked at whether the variations in these four regions increased the risk of each condition and the size of the effect.

They found that three of the variations seemed to have a similar effect in all five conditions. The fourth variation showed significant variation in effect across the disorders, with its effects most apparent in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Some of the variations that were linked to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia in previous analyses also showed evidence of an effect across some of the other conditions. However, the evidence for these associations was not as strong as for the other four variants they identified.

The researchers found evidence that some conditions share common genetic risk factors, with the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia overlapping with both depression and bipolar disorder. The results also suggest overlap between autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but this link was not as strong.

They also found that variations in two of the four main regions identified were linked to genes involved in controlling the flow of calcium through cell membranes in response to electrical signals. This process plays an important part in nerve cell signalling and signalling within cells.

Previous studies have found associations between bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depressive disorder and the SNPs linked to these genes. SNPs linked to other genes that play a role in calcium flow across membranes were also found to show evidence of association with the five conditions. Overall, this suggests that this biological process could be important in the development of these mental or behavioural conditions.

So in conclusion it does appear that mental health issues can be genetic?! I am also a firm believer that a lot of my issues are learned behavior for example my mom had a hang up most of her life about being skinny and tall which made her self-conscious about her appearance. Most of my life I have considered myself to be fat even at my lowest weight of 11 and a half stone which is low for my height I felt fat even though people said I looked awfully skinny! This I truly believe to be a learned behavior after watching how it made my mother feel.

Thank you for your time in reading this post and your feedback really means a lot so please get in touch via the contact page or through my Twitter channel @myjourneybrez