The Role of Genetics in Mental Health


A gene is the functional unit of heredity. It is this gene that passes generations over generations that carry parental characteristics like eye color, blood type, etc. However, it might sound surprising to you that genetics plays a significant role in our mental health. Since we are carrying our parents’ genes, it is quite possible that a particular mental disorder can run in the family and may pass down to us as well. Both nature and nurture have an important role in developing any psychological condition. Researchers also continue to know about the facts of how genes play a role in mental health illnesses. To know more, read what role genetics plays in our mental health.

The Heritability Of Mental Illness

The heritability of mental illness can be beneficial for many researchers and clinical psychologists to understand the root cause of any mental illness and provide the best for the individuals. This can make a place for new treatments and interventions. To understand more about how genes have a relationship with mental illness, the talk of twin studies holds a special place.

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The Twin Studies:

The twin studies can help us understand the measurability of a mental illness. This research can lead to comprehending the relationship between genetics and the environment. To understand the genetics role, Two types of twins i.e., identical and fraternal twins. The studies comprise the monozygotic twins that share 100 percent of each other genes and the dizygotic that share around 50 percent of genes. When these studies are compared, if they show that mental illness is more likely to develop in identical twins, then it can be concluded that genes play a role in mental illness.

If we want to understand nature’s role, then the studies can help to demonstrate that if we raise identical and fraternal twins in different environments. The identical twins still develop the same mental illness despite being raised differently. This also can suggest that genetics are an important factor.

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This study also shows the heritability of mental illnesses such as bipolar, schizophrenia, and depressive episodes.
Specific genes are linked to many mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This gene includes DRD2 (dopamine receptor D2) SLC6A4 ( serotonin transporter), MAOA (monoamine oxidase A), ANK3 ( ankyrin 3) COMT ( catechol 0, methyltransferase) linked to mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

How Gene Influences Mental Health?

The gene that influences mental health is increasing its popularity all over the world. These genes can develop the risk of psychological conditions like bipolar, depression, anxiety, etc. Genes when they interact with environmental factors can lead to developing mental health issues. For example, we know that stress is harmful to both physical and mental well-being. So whenever people take stress this can make a change in gene expression that eventually leads to bad mental health. So a person who has a genetic predisposition for depression, by taking stress the chances of developing the depression could be high.

How Gene Impacts Brain Development?

The genes influence the brain development that eventually controls the way we think and respond to a situation. Not only this, the gene also gives instructions about the brain chemicals and what amount of these chemicals should be released. It also regulates emotions and memory, through influencing areas like the hippocampus, which is responsible for long-term memory formation and retrieval, and the amygdala responsible for emotional regulation like fear.

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As we said the gene regulates how much of the amount of neurotransmitter should be released, its production, and the reuptake of neurotransmitters. Hormones or the neurotransmitters that are linked to mood and behavior serotonin and love hormone dopamine are also associated with genes.

It is also said that genetic mutations also make changes in the regulation of these neurotransmitters. For example, if there is any genetic variation in the gene that produces these happy hormones, then it will result in decreased levels of moods and behaviors.

What Are The Ethical Consideration Around Genetics And Mental Health?

There are certain ethical considerations around genetics and mental health. Therefore, these considerations are important to understand as they come with many risks and dangers. It may include the role of discrimination as it would be wrong to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their genetic and mental health information. Confidentiality should be there. Respect and privacy for everyone so that their information shouldn’t be used anywhere inappropriately.

Stigma And Discrimination Against Those With Mental Illness Risk Genes:

It is unfortunate that in our society, people with mental illness risk genes often face discrimination and object to stigmatization. Therefore, care should be taken while interacting with people having mental illness risk genes. Sometimes lack of empathy could also make these people subject to the stigma. Labeling them as “out of control” isn’t just a choice of words; it can harm their mental health and erect barriers between them and society. All this can make them feel lesser.

Therefore, people should have empathy toward them and be supportive of them. Educating other people about this, so that people can become aware of these mental illness risk genes.

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Limitations around predicting mental illness based on genes alone:

It would be wrong to predict any mental illness only on genetics, as the factors that cause mental health could be environmental, genetic, and biological. Furthermore, many people do not fully understand the genetic basis of mental illness. Whenever we link mental health and genetics together, everyone should understand that the mental illness risk gene doesn’t result from a single gene but rather from an interplay between many genes. Mental health issues are not solely a result of genetics, but the environment also plays a crucial role.

Future Directions for Research

To understand the relationship between genetics, and mental health, it is crucial to have genetic counseling for mental health. This type of counseling can create awareness in society, preventing people from being subjected to any stigma and reducing discrimination. The government should also take steps to introduce this counseling and more funding for this. Developing more targeted medicines for genetics is gaining popularity all over the world. As it can reduce the risk of side effects of medications and hence result increase the effectiveness.

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