Mental health disorders are some of the most common health conditions in the United States. In addition to changing the way you think, feel, and behave, mental health disorders can profoundly affect your day-to-day life and your relationships with others. Even though these conditions can have many different causes, many people wonder if mental health disorders are genetic. Understanding mental health disorders and their wide range of causes can help answer this question.
What Are Mental Health Disorders?
Mental health disorders are conditions that affect how you think, feel, behave, and interact with other people. Mental health disorders can also affect your mood, well-being, and quality of life. These conditions can be chronic, long-lasting, or can occur occasionally.
There are several different types of mental health conditions, even though all mental health disorders can interfere with your ability to function in different ways.
Out of the 200 types of mental health disorders that exist today, some of the most common include:
- Anxiety Disorders. These disorders can cause you to respond to particular triggers or situations with fear and dread. If you have this type of disorder, you may often experience a rapid heartbeat and excessive sweating. You may also have an overwhelming feeling of worry, panic, or dread that doesn’t go away with time. The most common anxiety disorders include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Mood Disorders. These disorders often cause persistent feelings of sadness, elation, or a fluctuating mood that shifts from extreme happiness to extreme despair. The most prevalent mood disorders include bipolar disorder, depression, and cyclothymic disorder, which functions as a more subtle form of bipolar disorder.
- Psychotic Disorders. These conditions distort awareness and thinking. The two most common symptoms associated with psychotic disorders are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are images and sounds that are not real. Delusions are false beliefs accepted as truth despite evidence proving otherwise. The most common psychotic disorder is schizophrenia.
- Eating Disorders. These conditions generally involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors around food and weight. Some of the most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
- Impulse Control and Substance Abuse Disorders. These disorders can make resisting impulses, urges, drugs, and other addictive substances difficult. These conditions can also lead to harmful actions and behaviors. Some of the most prevalent impulse disorders include addiction, compulsive theft (kleptomania), compulsive gambling, and compulsive fire-starting (pyromania).
- Personality Disorders. These disorders cause extreme and inflexible personality traits that often cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. Common examples include antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders don’t start suddenly. In the early stages, you may begin to notice small changes that affect your thinking, feelings, or behavior. These changes can include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Social withdrawal or a loss of interest in others
- Confused thinking and difficulty concentrating
- Excessive fear, worry, or feelings of guilt
- Increased sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch
- Feeling disconnected from yourself or your surroundings
- Sleep, appetite, or changes in your mood
- Nervousness, fear, and suspicion of others
- Significant tiredness, low energy, and difficulty sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia, or hallucinations
- Illogical thinking and exaggerated beliefs
- Extreme mood changes that shift from high to low
- Difficulty understanding others and maintaining relationships with others
- Unusual or peculiar behavior
- Inability to cope with daily challenges and stress
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
- Memory troubles
- Suicidal thinking
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact your healthcare provider or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Mental health disorders can also cause physical symptoms such as stomach or back pain, headaches, muscle aches, and other unexplained aches and pains.
How Common Are Mental Health Disorders?
Mental health disorders are the most common health conditions in the United States. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point in their life.
- 1 in 5 American adults will experience some form of a mental health disorder in a given year.
- 1 in 5 American children have or will develop a debilitating mental health disorder at some point in their life.
- 1 in 25 Americans live with a severe mental health disorder such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Are Mental Disorders Genetic?
There is no single cause for mental health disorders. Several factors can cause these conditions, including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Adverse life experiences such as trauma or a history of abuse (i.e., child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence)
- Experiencing an ongoing chronic medical condition such as cancer or diabetes
- Abusing addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol
- Feeling lonely, isolated, or helpless
- Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
Research also shows that your genes and family history can contribute to mental health disorders.
Genes carry the information that determines the traits, features, and characteristics you inherit from your parents. But that’s not all. The DNA in a gene has specific instructions for making particular proteins in your body. Those proteins help the body grow, work properly, and stay healthy. In the same way that you can inherit healthy genes, you can also inherit altered or mutated genes, affecting the proteins in your body.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research has found that certain genes and gene variations are associated with certain mental health disorders. Inheriting those genes and gene variations can increase your risk of developing a mental health disorder, but not everyone who inherits a gene variation associated with a mental disorder develops that condition. Remember, a variety of factors cause mental health conditions.
In short, mental health disorders are not caused by genetics, but your genes and family history can be contributing factors.
A Treatment Facility That Cares
Here at StoneRidge, we care about your mental health. We know how much your mental health can affect how you think, feel, and act. That’s why all of our treatment programs combine compassionate clinical care with the world’s best brain science. Don’t continue to face mental health challenges alone. Let us help you.
Contact us today if you or someone you love needs a treatment center that cares enough to meet your specific needs.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.