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Why you should be aware of your family history on mental illness – Part 1


We all know having a mental illness can be worrisome. Of optimal worry is also if someone in your family is suffering from one. Will your children or siblings be affected? Most people with mental illness do not have relatives with the same illness. But research does suggest that mental illness can run in families. The table below shows the chances of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder being passed down through family members. These numbers are based on recent studies. But different studies can show different numbers. You could look at the figures in the table the other way round. You can then see that the chance of someone not developing bipolar disorder is around 97 out of 100. If someone has one parent with bipolar disorder, the chance of not developing the condition is 85 out of 100.


What causes mental illness to run in families?
The truth is no one knows or why it can be passed on in families. When it is, it is called ‘hereditary’. This can be complicated. As the table above shows, the chances of developing a mental illness could depend on you and your relatives’ genes. It could also be passed on to family members for different reasons apart from genes. Loneliness or a stressful life event, i.e. factors from the environment can cause mental illness, especially if you have a propensity for one. This is where family history can be a ‘pain.’ In effect, if you have a family history of mental illness, you have a higher chance of developing mental illness in the above cases. However, having a higher chance of developing a mental illness doesn’t mean that you will develop one. People with no family history of mental illness can develop a mental illness, too.

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