Do mental health issues run in families?

Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. Going by the definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. It is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, relate with each other, earn a living and generally enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

What are mental health issues?

Mental health issues are also called mental illnesses. They are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these), and are associated with distress and/or problems in social, work or family functioning. Like any other illness, they are treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

There are different mental disorders, with different presentations or manifestations. Most of them have in common, a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others. These mental disorders include: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism.

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year,1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, and more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.

Causes of mental health issues

Scientists do not have a complete understanding of what causes mental illnesses. This is hardly surprising considering the structural and organizational complexity of the brain together with the complexity of effects that mental illnesses have on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. However, what is known about mental illness is that it is associated with chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.  For example, depression is associated with lower level of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, while another neurotransmitter dopamine is believed to be associated with schizophrenia.

However, there are some risk factors associated with mental illnesses. They include early difficult life experiences like trauma or abuse like child abuse, sexual assault; adjustment to chronic medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, family history of mental illnesses, and use of alcohol or drugs. Mental illness generally develop when there is an interplay between genes, and the social, and psychological environment.

Can mental illnesses run in families?

The answer is yes, some mental illnesses are known to be strongly associated with a positive history of someone in the family suffering from such an illness. Some individuals by reason of certain genes inherited from the family may be more predisposed to suffer from certain mental illness when they are interfaced with certain environmental and social conditions.

 Mental issues that run in families

Some of these are:  


Bipolar disorder,


Depression, including post-partum depression

 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Others are:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Eating disorders

Drug and alcohol addiction and