Runs in the Family

Mental illness can have hereditary links. Between scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, I don’t think many people would disagree with this. If somebody in your family has a certain mental illness, you might have it too. You might not. But you might.

I couldn’t really tell you if depression runs in my family. I’m tempted to say it does, but I could be mistaking somebody’s regular old sadness, or temporary bouts of depression for something more serious. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t try to diagnose anybody.

However, I can say with more confidence that anxiety does run in my family. It is especially common in the women. One of my aunts has received medical attention and medication for anxiety. When some of the others talk about their worries, I’m able to recognize the unhealthy thought patterns. I recognize them because I have them myself.

But here’s the thing: we don’t talk about it, not really. Something might be mentioned in passing. Nobody comes out and says “I have an anxiety disorder.” For whatever reason, talking about it isn’t something we do. I’m really no better than the rest of them. I’ve never told anybody in my family my diagnoses. None of us are necessarily hiding the truth, but we don’t face it head on either.

And I wonder how much of the anxiety is learned behaviour. My mother is a worrier. She’ll keep herself up all night worrying about things. I’ve done it a time or two (or three, or four – I’ve lost count) myself. Did I pick up on her bad habits? Did I subconsciously learn to be afraid of things because I sensed that she was afraid?

I don’t know, but I know it can happen. We’ll use the example of my mother again. She hates thunderstorms. She’s afraid of them. I love them, but so does my father. I asked my mother why she’d afraid. She said because her father was. When there was a storm in the night, he’d get up and pace in the kitchen. He was afraid of storms because his mother was afraid. She would gather the children and they would all hide beneath the kitchen table when there was a storm. This fear was passed down through the generations because the children took on their parent’s worries.

What can I conclude from all this? Not much. All I know is that my family is a bunch of worriers and I love a good storm.

Leave a comment


  1. Laurie Cash

     /  June 29, 2016

    I have read before that anxiety behavior can be passed down. Not necessarily the illness. But children watch their parents behavior during specific events and think that is the way they are supposed to behave also. Only until you are an adult can you address those reactions as positive or detrimental and deal with it.

  2. trevorharley

     /  June 30, 2016

    I see the cycle in my family: mother depressed and anxious, grandmother depressed and anxious, great-grandmother, … in a way it doesn’t make much practical sense to talk about nature and nurture in such families. It’s been dysfunctional for generations, and the misery keeps on getting passed down.

  3. I feel that alot of mental health issues are linked to society and its affect on us. I also believe to a certain extent its learned behavior. I wrote a little blog post regarding how advertisements are a big course of alot of mental health conditions.

  4. Normally there are genetic predispositions, but it as much depends on the environment. You can check my website: for additional information . The website is 100% Non profit and FREE.

  5. lifeofmiblog

     /  July 4, 2016

    Hey Michelle, good post.
    Is it passed on? I would say yes and no, it really depends on the personality of the next generation. Either way it’s there.
    As for talking about it, i think that comes back to the same old misunderstanding of mental health, they dont understand it so they are scared to talk about it.
    All the best, keep it up

  6. No one in my family is diagnosed but me however, I know many relatives have mental illness. It’s sad really. I have come a long way with my Bipolar Disorder and I see them still suffering; refusing to acknowledge or seek support.

    I enjoyed you post very much.

  7. good article

  8. Great article. So true about rarely talking about it. I think we feel the need to hide these things or we feel that we may be a burden.

  9. Alexandra C.

     /  August 6, 2016

    Great article! Take a look at my take on depression. Hope it helps!

  10. My anxiety and depression came from my father and grandfather. I found out it was in my genes as a young child, and their beliefs growing up became my beliefs. Great post.
    My story –

  11. Terri

     /  August 25, 2016

    Thank you for writing this article and sharing your thoughts. I too have had my ups and downs over many years. It took me about 20 years to realize that my own worst enemy was myself. Depression affects many of us in many different ways and it is typically the result of much deeper emotions we hold within ourselves that we have stored away for safe keeping so we don’t have to think about it. The problem is that – it sits there deep within our souls. We think we have eliminated it, but we have not. There is a solution to this – it’s called ZPoint. The founder and creator for this process is Grant Connolly. And this process really works at not only addressing the negative emotions but releasing them as well. So if you have an additiction, dealing with depression, relationship problems or any other negative emotions, give this a try. I personally use this process on a regular basis and it has helped me so much. I am posting the website here in hopes that it finds you well and helps you with the emotions you are dealing with:

  12. I can relate with the questions you asked “are these learned behaviors”? I would think that some are, some behaviors only increase the levels of stress which will affect how you respond mentally.
    Ive been struggling with depression my whole life and at the age of 33 I decided to see a counselor who has helped me open that door to coping and recovery. I too have started a blog and would like folks to stop by and check it out as my story unfolds. It’s something that’s been locked away from quite some time and I look forward to sharing it.

  13. I see my mother who suffers from Bi Polar, Depression, Anxiety, and lord knows what else, I fear that I will become the same walking madhouse as she is. It hurts to see her and this storm of uncontrolable emotions.

  14. Aimee Eddy

     /  October 6, 2016

    It is so true that mental illness can be inherited. My grandmother had mental illness and I believe an aunt and uncle have mental illness. My aunt and uncovered never diagnosised but I recognize The signs from my own experiences. Other things can also contribute to mental illness like abuse, bullying, a traumatic experience and a chemical imbalance in the brain. Excellent post.

  15. Henry Becket

     /  December 11, 2016

    Try using Hemp Oil. While CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, it is not psychoactive. In fact, it is one of the best remedies for psychosis. It is equally effective in treating depression. Unlike the pharmaceutical medications for depression, hemp or CBD oil have few side effect

  16. Couldn’t agree more my mother suffers from both depression and anxiety and so did her mother. When I was at my lowest point I thought I never wanted to have kids because it would not be fair to give them my mental genetics.

  17. Love it. I always wondered why I struggle with anxiety. I see a few mental health issues, but maybe it’s a little bit of everything; genetic, learned behaviour and life experience.

  2. You Have to Become Your Own Mental Health Expert – Emotional Sobriety: Mind, Body, & Soul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: