When one or both parents suffer from a mental health illness such as depression, a child is more likely to struggle with their mental health. However, most experts agree that when it comes to depression, the disorder is so complex that several factors such as genetics and environment come into play. Much of the recent research shows that there’s only an inherited genetic vulnerability to depression (and not a “depression gene”).
How can depression in families be treated?
Families with a history of depression – or indeed any mental health condition – can establish a good relationship with a mental health professional, even before a child who may be at risk goes on to develop any symptoms. If you wait until you’ve reached a crisis point with your child, you may struggle to find a child therapist (who’s a good fit) quickly.
Can Bipolar Disorder be inherited?
Once known as manic-depressive illness, this disorder is another one that can often run in families and may have genetic traits. A child whose parent has the condition is 15–30% more likely to develop it, too and if both parents have it, then the risk rises up to 50-75%. Research has also shown that many people with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative suffering from that illness or from major depression.
In some cases, it may be helpful to create a bipolar disorder family tree to see just how at risk you or your child may be of inheriting the condition. It usually begins to develop when a child reaches late adolescence or approaches adulthood, but it can also occur earlier or much later in life.
If you have a child or teenager displaying what you suspect to be symptoms of any mental health condition, it’s a great idea to get them evaluated by a mental health professional as soon as possible.
It’s important to remember that as a parent, your child is often a product of the environment they’re raised in, and if you or your partner are struggling to cope with a mental illness, your child may be affected by that. So, get help for your own illness, and, if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, seek help for them as early as possible.
Be sure to check out our new counseling office in Colorado Springs.