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Does Mental Illness Run in Families?

Mental illness affects not only the person with the disease but also the family who loves them. Board-certified psychiatrist, Amr Beltagui, MD, knows how difficult it can be to cope with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. 

Dr. Beltagui also understands the struggle to understand exactly where the mental illness comes from. Here’s some insight into the family risk factors for common mental disorders.

The link between mental illness and family

While we can’t pinpoint the exact root of many of the mental illnesses we face today, your family can play a role in several ways:


There are conditions, like bipolar disorder and depression, that can be passed on to children from their parents. This type of condition is known as a hereditary mental illness, which relates to your genetic makeup.

Some mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, seem to skip a generation, showing up in grandparents and their grandchildren based on certain genetic factors.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors also play a role in your mental health. If you face a traumatic event or are under constant stress, you may be more likely to develop a mental illness, especially if you already have a family history of a mental health condition.

You have a higher chance of developing a mental illness if you are under constant stress from your family or grow up in a family that has abuse, violence, neglect, or other trauma.

How to protect your mental health

Even if your parents or other close family members have a mental health condition, it doesn’t always mean you’re guaranteed to have one, too.

However, because your risk factors for mental illness may be higher than those without a family history, it’s important that you stay proactive about your overall health.

Some of the most effective ways to stay healthy in body and mind include:

Following a proper diet

A well-balanced diet is essential for both your physical and mental health. If you lack the nutrients your body needs to function, it can affect your brain and mental clarity.

It’s important that you continue to get the vitamins and minerals you need from fresh fruits and vegetables and eliminate processed foods from your diet as much as possible.

Engaging in daily exercise

Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is important for protecting your mental health and ensuring that you maintain a healthy body weight.

Low-impact activities, like daily walks, are great for clearing your mind and helping you burn off excess calories. Walking and other forms of exercise are also beneficial for relaxing the tension in your muscles and reducing your stress levels.

Managing stress properly

Daily stress can cause weight gain, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Long periods of stress can burn you out and lead to physical health problems, like heart disease, that can further worsen your mental health.

If you find that your daily stress is too overwhelming, you can rely on Dr. Beltagui for the resources you need to better manage your stress and make the necessary changes in your life to reduce stress permanently.

Establishing a good sleep routine

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can affect your behaviors and your ability to think. Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Eating healthy and exercising can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. You should also set a good bedtime schedule, turning off electronics at least an hour before bed. Go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning to establish healthy sleep patterns.

Limiting recreational alcohol and drug use

Use of alcohol and drugs can lead to mental health issues in some people. If you have an existing mental health condition, alcohol and drugs can worsen it and complicate your life even more if you develop an addiction.

If you find yourself self-medicating with alcohol and drugs to address mental health issues, it’s time to seek professional help from an expert like Dr. Beltagui.

You can schedule a psychiatric evaluation by calling the office of Amr Beltagui, MD, at 323-424-4687 or by requesting an appointment online today

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