How does our genes affect our Mental health?

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A lot many people ask this question- How does our genes affect our Mental Health?

Is there any direct relation between the two? Are Genetics and Mental Health- Parallels or Opposites?

What is Genetics?

In the most simple of terminologies, genetics is the study of heredity. Heredity is a biological process where a parent passes certain genes onto their children or offspring. Every child inherits genes from both of their biological parents and these genes in turn express specific traits.

Some of these traits may be physical for example hair and eye color etc. On the other hand some genes may also carry the risk of certain diseases and disorders that may pass on from parents to their offspring and;

How do we define mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps us to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence and through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior can be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Genetics and Mental Health?

We are now living in an era, where we can examine the physical manifestations of the psychiatric conditions in humans.

It has become clear in recent findings and studies that genetics has become reliable in answering the why, when it comes to mental illnesses. Schizophrenia is one prime example of the mental health getting affected by genes. The human genome programs focuses on finding out the roots of such conditions to prevent them from happening by varying the genetic factors in them.

Coming down to more basic conditions like addiction and depression, both of these affect our mental health to an extent where majority of the population is suffering from. Can we, by just looking at our roots, treat these conditions?

Read More aboutRole of genetics (Epigenetics) in Behavioral Disorders

All of these finding and research, although prove that genetics do have a vote when it comes to the mental health problems, but it is not necessarily a factor that if one of your biological parent has suffered from an addiction, you would too. Other such condition also includes autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder.

After all of these findings, people started forming a view based on the physical manifestation through the genes like cancer. Genes do play a role of cancer running in the family but it usually skips one generation and herein comes the assumption of the mental disorders skipping a generation and continuing in the family. But this assumption is based solely on the biological aspect of the human body.

What can be done?

Now how can a person detect if he is suffering from any mental health issue?

It generally starts with basic symptoms that are common for most of the mental health condition, stress, insomnia, eating disorders, anxiety and etc.  Also these symptoms start occurring after a person has gone through an experience that changed them but coping with was a little difficult which is known as the ‘post traumatic symptoms’.

It is still unclear as to how and which conditions do genes affect and apply, but given the speed and accuracy the scientists today are specifying and finding out the co relation between a person’s genetics and its implications on their mental health, it can safely be concluded that it does go hand in hand and it is always better be cautious rather than being sorry.

There are many other mental health diseases that have been established to the genetic changes in our DNA. Some of these like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s etc may have changes that affect your mental well being without showing symptoms.

It is often advised by doctors that if many members of your family, spread over several generations are affected by disturbed mental health, the members should go for genetic testing to understand if they are carrying some mutation which may affect their response to mental stress.

Proper counselling with a experienced psychiatrist should be done to asses what can be done in such cases.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh

Dr.Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental health professional focusing on Lifestyle & Stress Management. She is heading the Department of Holistic Medicine and Psychology at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon and is the Founder and Director of The Mind and Wellness Studio. She is currently the Founder and Director of NGO Swapn and Serve Samman. She has conducted various seminars and workshop at prestigious institutes and companies like at IITs, IIMs, University of Exeter, Thames Valley University and Royal College of Physicians, Ericsson, Coca-Cola, Infosys etc. She has been the recipient of many honors and awards- one of the first few people from India to deliver a TEDx Talk. She was awarded for being one of the 50 outstanding women in healthcare, and was also awarded Karam Veer Puraskar for Contribution in the Medical Field. She won an award for Extraordinary Support towards the Self- Development of Delhi Police She can be reached at email-rachnaksingh@hotmail.com

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