Although psychologists still do not fully understand what causes mental illness, research does suggest that mental illness can be passed down from your family members. Realizing that you may be at risk can be nerve-wracking. Below are some answers to some questions you may be asking yourself.
1. How do I know if I have the same mental health condition my parent has?
If your parent suffers from a mental health condition, it's natural to be worried that you may have the same one. While having a family member with a mental health condition could possibly increase your chances of developing that condition, it is does not mean it will definitely happen. Genetics are not the only factor that leads to mental illness. Environmental factors, like loneliness or a stressful life event, are just as likely to cause the development of a disorder. Being aware of what's going on inside of your own head is a helpful practice to gauge your own level of mental wellness. If you unbiasedly compare your own moods, emotions and behaviors to your parent, what are some of the major differences or similarities? Taking note of certain behaviors can help you to identify common patterns that may alert you of any red flags to be aware of in your own mental health.
2. Is there a way I can get tested just to be sure?
The best way to get tested for any mental health concern is by working with a clinically licensed talk therapist or psychologist. Sessions usually last 60 minutes, during which you will discuss with your therapist your family history, mental health concerns, and any past significant life events that could be impacting your psyche today.
3. What can I do to manage my mental health disorder or reduce my risk of developing one?
Many mental health disorders are treatable and preventable. Thankfully, there are things you can do to improve your mental health like:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet
Eating healthy is good for your mental and physical health. If you have a limited diet, or eat a lot of unhealthy food, it can make your mental health worse. Eating healthily can make you less likely to become unwell, and it can help you stay at a healthy body weight. Some mental illnesses can get worse if you don’t have certain nutrients in your diet. For example, a low level of vitamin B is linked to depression.
Getting regular exercise
Moderate exercise can help to improve your mood. It can also help you to feel better about yourself.
Getting enough sleep
Problems with sleep can affect how you feel physically and mentally. In turn, how you feel physically and mentally can also affect how you sleep. If you regularly have problems sleeping, then you should talk to your GP.
Actively manage your stress levels
A lot of things in life can cause stress, which can impact your mental health. Sometimes stress cannot be avoided. But you may be able to use coping techniques to limit the effects of stress.
Avoiding drug and alcohol use
Using alcohol or drugs can cause mental illness in some people. Some people have told us it caused problems with getting the right treatment when they were unwell. If you find you use alcohol or drugs to deal with problems or stress, then you could try some of the options above instead.
Work with a talk therapist
Working with a professional can give you invaluable insight into your own emotional framework. It can also be a great preventative step to take if mental illness runs in your family. If this is something you think that you would benefit from, we'd be happy to introduce you to an exceptional clinician you can work with here.