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Is Mental Illness Genetic?

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crazy looking young man

As my 15th year working in the mental health field arrives, not only is my briefcase due for a major trade in, at times, there are days when I need a major “tune up” on myself.

I look into my schedule and with a deep sign I see a name that sounds all too familiar. Could it be? Yes the daughter of a client I may have provided services to years earlier.

There are times in your life when you had really wished you were not right. “I knew it!” I say under my breath with slight anger.

I then go on in my selfish mind with thoughts about why someone with such a strong mental illness, with such infliction and difficulty in life would have a child knowing that the chances are pretty good that they will inherit the same type of illness.

I then lightly shed a tear because I know the suffering they will face. I also forget that people with mental illness have the same desires, the same needs and the same dreams we all do. Then I feel something called “guilt”.

Shared DNA

My experience is that we all share DNA our parents pass on to us. I share the same color eyes as my mother and the same quick temper as my father. Genetically I am a mixture of both of my parents. Let’s not forget I am also a dab of my grandparents and a splash of my aunts and uncles.

New studies point to genetic components in mental illness, but there is the question of nature vs. nurture. Does a child simply learn the same behaviors they see growing up or in fact is there a genetic pre-disposition?

I am not sure what all the newest research says but for what my opinion is worth, I say “both”. I have worked with many young adults who have been taken out of their homes as children due to their parent’s being unable to care for them due to their own mental illness.

Having said this, later in life, some of these children start developing the same symptoms their parents exhibited without ever even have met their parents.

By the same token, I have also seen children raised by parents that struggle with the gripping terror of paranoid schizophrenia and never so much as exhibit one symptom of anxiety. However, don’t be fooled, I have seen it appear in the grandchildren.

dna model

How Close Are We to a Cure for Mental Illness?

Is science any closer to developing a cure for mental illness?

I believe in comparison to other medical illnesses, the research and understanding of their complexity is only now in its infancy.

As my schedule fills with the nieces, nephews and children of people I have served, I will try to keep an open mind. I will hope science finds a form of treatment that allows for a more functional and satisfying life for these people who just want the same things in life we all want.

References & Image Credits:
(1) zubrow via photopin cc
(2) ynse via photopin cc

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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