Can I inherit a mental illness? Exploring family health

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Family health and the heritability of mental illnesses are increasingly relevant areas of study in the understanding of psychological conditions and their genetic influence. Have you ever wondered if mental pathologies are inherited? If the fact that your grandmother had depression can have an influence on you? If you read on you will discover the importance of heritability, the relevance of family history and how we can use this information to promote healthy living and take care of our mental health.

What is heritability and how does it relate to family health?

Heritability is a term used in genetics to describe how much of a given characteristic, such as height or eye colour, is due to genetic factors. In other words, heritability is the proportion of the variation in a characteristic in a population that is due to genetic differences between individuals. For example, if the heritability of height is 80%, this means that 80% of the differences in height between individuals are due to variation in their genes.

It is important to note that heritability does not refer to an individual characteristic, but to the variation of the characteristic in a population. Therefore, heritability percentages may vary depending on the population being studied. The heritability of intelligence will not be the same in a North American population in the year 2020 as it was in a South American population in the year 1960.

However, it is important to understand that many mental illnesses have a genetic basis. Which means that certain variations in genes may contribute to their development. By understanding this, we can use this information to improve the prevention and prognosis of these pathologies in individuals,. In this way, bearing in mind that these genetic variations can be reflected in family health history.

Why is family history important?

Many people are unaware of the importance of looking at their family health history for clues about their risk of developing a psychological trait or pathology. This practice is very common with cancer, diabetes and heart disease. But few people know that this information can also be collected for mental health when it comes to family health.

By knowing family health history, individuals can take preventive measures to reduce their risk of developing certain conditions. For example, if a family member has a history of depression, their risk of depression may be higher, so adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet and regular physical exercise would be particularly advisable. As several studies have found that sport can act as a protective factor against depression.

How to know the family health history?

If you are interested in knowing your family health history, talking to your family members is the best option. Ask them about any illnesses or psychological conditions that have affected family members in the past. Keep in mind that years ago, mental health awareness was not the same. Today, psychological problems are more visible, more understood and less stigmatised. The fact that in the past this was not the case led to a large number of cases where the problem went undiagnosed. This is why it is important when gathering information about your family members to bear in mind that this could have happened to them. Explaining to them how family health works is also important so that they can provide information in the best possible way.

If you have access to your or your family’s past medical records, reviewing them can be helpful in identifying any conditions that may be important to your health. In addition, you can seek medical advice to better understand how your family health history may affect you. A doctor or genetic counsellor can provide you with more information and guidance on how to protect your health. Don’t hesitate to educate yourself and take preventive measures to ensure a healthy life.

Are mental illnesses hereditary?

Genetic counselling is a service that provides family health-based information and support to individuals and families who are at risk of developing a genetic disease or who have a family history of inherited diseases. Genetic counsellors are professionals specialising in genetics who help people understand the risks and implications of their family health history and genetic test results. They can also advise which type of genetic testing is most appropriate for each case based on your family health. In addition, they can provide information on treatment and prevention options, and direct individuals to additional resources.

In summary, it is essential to understand that both our current mental health and family health is the result of a combination of biological, environmental, psychological and genetic factors. Although predicting mental health is complex, there are increasing options available to both prevent and treat mental disorders. It is crucial to be informed and to understand that you are never alone in this struggle, and that seeking help and support is the first step to maintaining good mental health.Family health: Inheriting a mental illness?