The Likelihood Your Teen Will Inherit the Mental Illness in Your Family


There are many reasons why a person develops a mental illness. Certainly, genetics is one of them; however, it’s not the only reason. Mental illnesses are complex disorders that result from a variety of factors. Genes can play a role in whether a person develops an illness, but it’s not the only contributing factor. This article will explore the likelihood that your teen may develop a psychological illness, if it’s already in his or her genes.


It’s important to know that genes alone cannot predict mental illness. Understanding the full picture of a teen’s life is important. Details such as a teen’s environment at home and school, whether he or she has friends, how well they are doing in school, whether a teen has had a mental illness in the past, and whether a teen is experimenting with drugs might all play a role in whether an illness exists.


For instance, according to research genetics plays a 50% role in whether a teen will develop addiction. The other 50% is having poor coping skills. One study, for example, examined the role of addiction in sets of identical and fraternal pairs of twins. The study found that when one of the identical twins was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of developing an addiction. On the other hand, when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not have a propensity of developing an addiction.


Certainly, teens are at a vulnerable stage in life. They are growing emotionally, physically, and psychologically. And because of this they may be prone to emotional swings, impulsivity, and mania. Although some teens might experience depression, anxiety, and other disorders, not all teens are vulnerable to mental illness. If you’re a parent and you know that there is mental illness in the family, you may want to watch out for any signs of a psychological disorder. This can include:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Beginning to not care about appearance
  • Losing interest in school
  • Dropping school grades
  • Absenteeism from school
  • Talking about death or having a fascination with death
  • Staying up all night for two or more nights in a row


In addition to looking for these signs (in the event that you are concerned for your teen), you may also want to contact a genetic counselor. These counselors are familiar with the ways that genes affect a person’s physical and psychological health. Genetic counselors also know ways to minimize the chances of someone in the family developing an illness if in fact there is psychological disorder in the family genes. Sadly, there are no genetic tests that can indicate whether a person will develop an illness. This is because environment, conditioning, and experiences play a significant role.


However, if you have any concerns about the psychological health of your teen, contact a mental health provider. If you’re particularly wondering about how mental illness in the family may affect your teen, contact a genetic counselor for more information.