Do emotional health problems run in families?

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Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry

Emotional health problems often do run in families, but it's not quite so straightforward: just because your mom has depression or your dad has bipolar disorder, doesn't mean you will also. Mental health problems are in part genetic, but they are also environmental. So if you have a "biological predisposition" for a mental health problem (in other words, there's something about your biological make-up that makes it more likely for you to develop a disorder) you MAY develop that illness.

But the other part is the environment - the people surrounding you, and especially your family, play a big part in emotional health. If your father is so depressed that he doesn't work and it's difficult for him to get out of bed on a daily basis, that sends you certain messages and will affect you emotionally. If your mother has obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may learn from her that it's important to wash your hands 30 or 40 times a day.

So the bottom line is that yes, emotional health problems are in part genetic or hereditary; but these are also influenced by environmental factors. This also means that many mental health problems can be effectively treated in psychotherapy, by learning new ways of behaving and thinking.

Some emotional health problems may be linked to heredity. However, family functioning also has a large impact on an individual's emotional health. Therefore, emotional health conditions may be prevalent in families due to environmental factors as well as genetic. The causes for many emotional and mental conditions remain unknown.

Continue Learning about Emotional Health

Emotional Health

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.