Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is mental illness hereditary?

 This is a series of post answering questions posed by Kevin's daughter.  I asked permission to answer each of these questions as if I was answering my adult children.  I will also include a link to Kevin's answer.

2. Is mental illness hereditary?

Debated and redebated and round and around. For a few years, 'experts' declare that it is all environmental, then they blame the parents, then they blame traumatic events.  Then they blame genetics.  Then the swirl back around to choice.  A person chooses mental illness.  Latest thing being blamed is traumatic brain injury, TBI.  After all, who hasn't fallen and hit their head at some time?  Bottom line, scientist can't eliminate enough possibilities to pin point exacts causes. Sadly, sometimes people that choose evil are said to be mentally ill and given a diagnosis rather than say that evil exists.  People are not allowed to be used as guinea pigs to find out what will happen to them.  Not  OK. 'Proving' one theory over another is just about impossible.  Theories are some experts' best guess.

Perhaps the question behind this question is, "will my children get mental illness because I have it?"  I was asked this by one of my children and I believe my answer still applies.  "No, you will not end up like me because, I will believe you, teach you what I have learned, and encourage you to get counseling."  I won't deny their reality.  The depths of suffering that I experienced was partly due to neglect.  I neglected to get the care I needed because I didn't believe it was possible for me to be mentally ill.  Denial causes plenty of damage. 

I read articles that declare that abuse actually changes DNA.  For a time I was troubled by the idea that my abuse would be transmitted by me.  Then I did some research and learned that human eggs are already formed before birth.  So can abuse be past on? Is it genetic or environmental? Is mental illness the results of genetics or environment of having a peculiar parent?  I don't have a solid answer.  My best guess is I don't know.  I would love to have a definite answer, I don't.     

Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors -- not personal weakness or a character defect --   

Life is a gamble.

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