It is a well known fact that physical health issues can be inherited and doctors and health care providers are constantly urging patients to be familiar with the medical history of their family. A recent research even found that mental illnesses are inheritable and confirmed that parents who suffer from mental illness–including depression and anxiety– have children who are genetically predisposed to developing the same mental illness.
In the study published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‘, experts concluded that children can inherit over-active brain circuits which link three parts of the brain, making them more susceptible to developing depression and anxiety disorders.
The study was able to pinpoint the three regions of the brain responsible for transmitting anxiety from a parent to a child: the amygdala, the limbic brain fear centre; and the prefrontal cortex, which humans use for higher-level reasoning.
Scientists believe that high levels of chronic stress have increased in our society, particularly in recent decades. This spike could potentially set up the next generation to experience mental health problems in epidemic proportions.
How to help a child that may be predisposed to developing depression and anxiety
It’s important to keep in mind that having family members with depression does not necessarily mean that a child will become depressed. People with no family history can develop depression and anxiety disorders as well.
Having parents or other family members who are depressed can increase the likelihood that someone may become depressed. But even in the presence of an inherited predisposition for depression and anxiety, it takes a combination of factors for a person to develop a mental illness.
Whatever the contributing factors may be, depression and anxiety are very treatable. If you feel depressed or see symptoms in your child, discuss it with a health professional who can make the proper diagnosis and recommend treatment.