Blueprint of the Mind: The Role of Genetics in Mental Health

Gene expression influences everything from hair and eye color to things like height. Unfortunately, people can also inherent congenital diseases from their parents. Most research in this field has focused on physical disorders, which can be caused by having too many or too few molecules of DNA attached to a chromosome.

Since half of a person’s genes come from each of their parents, they stand a possibility of inheriting a predisposition for certain disorders from either of them. Inheriting certain types of genetic material could potentially make someone prone to developing some forms of depression, anxiety or even certain forms of bipolar disorder. Unlike physical congenital maladies, it seems that gene expression is only one part of why someone might develop a particular psychiatric disorder.

Figuring out whether a particular individual has any of the markers for a certain condition could help to alert caregivers, who could then change specific environmental factors that might otherwise lead to the development of said problems. Some genes aren’t necessarily switched on or off the way that those that control the growth of organ tissue are. Epigenetic regulation refers to the body’s ability to respond to changes in their environment, and a better understanding of these factors could provide the key to understanding why some children develop autism spectrum disorders and other pervasive developmental disabilities.

Emotional stress and physical trauma are more than likely the most important factors impacting those who are already predisposed to a specific disorder. To some extent, emotional pressure can cause the development of mental disorders in anyone. If someone were predisposed to developing depression, then the possibility of it exploding into something more serious explodes exponentially. Ready access to personal therapy services may help to reduce the burden that these environmental factors have.

Those who have foreknowledge regarding their genetic status can take steps to ensure that they have a support network for dealing with life problems that would create the conditions necessary for developing mental difficulties. Specialists have advised providing testing resources for children and young adults in order to locate genetic markers before any negative gene expression has occured. New advances in the field are helping to develop new types of cognitive behavioral therapy guidelines that could be used as a form of early intervention in order to improve possible mental health outcomes.

At the same time, several recent breakthroughs in the field of allopathic medication have also made it possible to prescribe pharmacological agents from a younger age than was previously permissible. Clinical research participants have tolerated these regimens well in studies, and it appears that the trial phase for many of them will be closing shortly. Unfortunately, genetic screening services always run the risk of false positives and may serve to further stigmatize mental health treatment. Efforts to educate the public about the benefits of such services are still ongoing and often met with derision. The main goal is to try and keep those that can be kept safe.

Regardless of whether a prospective patient comes in of their own volition or because of the advice of a specialist, those who receive personalized treatment that takes more than mere genetics into account will experience the best outcomes.