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.
Posted by Michelle on June 29, 2016
depressives, or at least “neurotic” depressives, are likely to perceive their parents as having provided an insufficiency of care and/or as having been overprotective.
from “Parental ‘Affectionless Control’ as an Antecedent to Adult Depression: A Risk Factor Delineated” (Parker, G. 1983 Arch Gen Psychiatry)
This is terribly interesting to me, since it reflects me as a neurotic depressive and my view of my parents.
Of course, the Parental Bonding Instrument used to determine parenting style is self-reported, and therefore it is difficult to say if “affectionless control” actually came from the parent(s) or if it was simply perceived that way. As well, it does not make parenting style a causal factor of dysthymia/neurotic depression, but rather, points out a correlation one might want to take note of.
Posted by Michelle on July 16, 2013
I’ve noticed that the most common search engine terms that lead people to my blog are ‘parentification’ and ‘spousification’. I’ve only touched on these forms of adultification (when a child/teen takes on the roles of an adult) briefly in other blog posts, but I wish to now expand upon the topics for those looking for information or real-life stories.
You can also read more I’ve written about adultifcation here.
Posted by Michelle on July 5, 2013
I have been gone for a long time; partially because of work and business, partially because of lack of anything to say. However, here I am, and here (here metaphorically being a state of depression, anxiety, or what-have-you) I think I shall always return from time to time.
There have been a lot of changes going on in my life, in my environment. While none of them have left me notable unhappy or anxious, they have left me in a state of unease and confusion. So what better than to write about it?
Posted by Michelle on September 5, 2012
This post is a little different from those I have written before. A few months ago my counselor suggested that I write letters to my family explaining things, or complaining, or just saying whatever I felt needed to be said. These letters were not meant to be given to my parents, but were simply an exercise or a coping mechanism. I wrote three such letters. I dug up the letters again today, and thought I’d share them. Today, I’m going to post the one which is possibly the worst for me: the letter to my father.
Posted by Michelle on July 5, 2012
We’ve all become sick of listening to other people’s complaints. This could be because all a person does, because we do not feel their problem is all that problematic, and a whole slew of other reasons. I myself am guilty of this; most of the time I hate listening to people complain, especially when it comes to really petty problems. It is this fact that kept me from pursuing a career in psychology. It is this fact that keeps me from voicing my own complaints.
Posted by Michelle on June 25, 2012
Apparently, it isn’t normal to feel as though you are solely responsible for your family’s well-being…at least so long as you are not head of house. The sad thing is, I only discovered this very recently.
Posted by Michelle on May 21, 2012