heredity mental health

It seems that heredity can be an important factor in one’s mental health.

It’s not a new subject, by any means, discussed with my weekend “kindred souls”. It’s a topic of conversation that has traveled between friends and opened up tangents to other regions of communication. It’s the topic of mental health, or rather mental disorder, that takes a small group of like-minded individuals on the journey through time.

What we’ve been dwelling upon lately is how heredity plays a role in anxiety and depression. I, for one, really think there is a connection, and so, research and gossip provides an assemblage of answers. What I’ve learned is interesting enough.

A gift from mom and dad

I guess it’s not a gift, more like a curse, but mom and dad may have left me and you with unsettling thoughts. Anxiety and depression could have been my legacy. Either way, I got the message. Living with my legacy is no walk in the park and I do not thank them for what they left to me. So, I guess you can say, I believe it. I believe that heredity plays a big role, that anxiety and depression can be inherited. Here’s what I’ve collected.

Children inherit anxiety and depression in an over-active area of the brain responsible for controlling the fear response. How the parents responded to fear is generally how children, for the most part, learn to respond. I can understand this since I watched my mother have anxiety attacks when worried. My experience with worry ended in much the same manner – it was almost identical.

So let’s test this!

And what did science do? Scientists used the rhesus monkey to discover the facts behind this assumption. Considering the rhesus monkey’s brain is so similar to human, the results can be comparable.

When scans were completed, visuals of the monkey’s brain showed three different areas involved in fearful responses leading to anxiety or depression. In addition, it was proven that 35% of anxiety responses were attributed to genetics or family history (heredity).

Does it always have to be this way?

Is it our destiny to become copies of our parents and so, be victims of heredity? I think not. Genetic counselors tell us that our genes are only part of what we shall become. While there is really no way to control which genes we pass to our offspring, we can, as offspring learn to control mental illness through education. Maybe this isn’t the answer you prefer, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What can we do with this information?

Professor Ned Kalin, author of a study on inherited anxiety and depression, states,

This is a big step in understanding neural underpinnings of inherited anxiety and begins to give us more selective targets for treatment.

There are good and bad points when it comes to anxiety. While most of the time anxiety can create a stressful environment, it can also act as an elevated warning system. Most people suffering from anxiety, like myself, can see trouble from much farther away than those who are more stable in this area. The problem with that lies with the over-active circuits which can lead to paranoia and stress spiraling into depression. Our elevated senses can basically drag us down and leave us useless, in the long run, to act in our fear responses.

As far as anxiety can be based on heredity, it may be the card you were dealt, but you can play it well. And discussions continue…

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Sherrie is a freelance writer and artist with over 10 years of experience. She spends most of her time giving life to the renegade thoughts. As the words erupt and form new life, she knows that she is yet again free from the nagging persistence of her muse. She is a mother of three and a lifetime fan of the thought-provoking and questionable aspects of the universe.