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How Genetics Affect Our Mental Health

By :Marisa Behl, Contributing Writer

What are Genetics?

Have you ever wondered why your hair is blond or brown? Or how your eyes are brown or blue? Or how are you short or tall? These factors are most likely caused by your genetics. Genetics is the “study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics”(Oxford Languages dictionary). Genetics affect our hair color, height, and eye color as well as impacting our mental health.

Can Genetics be passed down?

A few mental disorders can be passed through genetics, such as ADHD, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, and depression. All major mental disorders can be heritable. Anxiety, depression, and OCD are 25% to 40% inheritable alcohol dependence and anorexia nervosa are 50% to 60% inheritable. In addition, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia can be 75% inheritable.

How are genetics passed down?

Genetics are passed down during reproduction, specifically when the egg and the sperm meet and form a zygote. An embryo is created, and it will receive DNA from both parents, which help define the characteristics and traits of the child.

Factors that lead to mental disorders

Genetic factors include epigenetic regulation, how a person reacts to an environmental factor. Epigenetic study of heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes).Epigenetic's helps determine if a mental disorder will develop. Another cause of mental disorders are genetic polymorphisms, when a change in our DNA occurs. When a change in a certain polymorphism and an environmental factor can lead to a mental disorder. Factors that can cause mental disorders that are related to genetics are chemical imbalances in the brain.

Environmental Factors in Mental Disorders

Mental health disorders can be caused by environmental factors in addition to heritability. Environmental factors consist of stress, trauma, and substance abuse. Environment factors can trigger a genetic reaction which can lead to a mental disorder.

Genetics Heritability Research

Researchers discovered variations in four genetic regions and they looked at the DNA of people who have mental illnesses. Some mental disorders affect how calcium moves through the brain, which could lead to creating treatments for these disorders. Genetic testing can be used to predict or diagnose mental disorders. Mental health conditions are genetic as well as being caused by environmental factors.


Mental disorders such as ADHD, depression and schizophrenia can be passed down through genetics. Currently, additional research is being completed to discover how and what disorders are passed down. Mental disorders can also be caused by environmental factors. Environmental factors include trauma, stress, or abuse. Genetic factors that cause mental disorders are epigenetics and inherited genes. There are a variety of factors that cause one to develop a mental illness, so always talk to a trusted adult and seek professional help.


  • ADHD - “A chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness”(Mayo Clinic)

  • Bipolar depression - “A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs”(Mayo Clinic)

  • Major depression - “A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life”(Mayo Clinic)

  • Schizophrenia - “A disorder that affects a person's ability to think, feel, and behave clearly”.

  • Zygote - “a diploid cell resulting from the fusion of two haploid gametes; a fertilized ovum”(Oxford dictionary)

  • Epigenetics - means a gene is either on or off.

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