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Does my genetic code sentence me to have a mental illness?

answered 02:51 PM EST, Sun March 25, 2012
anonymous anonymous
I am 21 and I have OCD and panic disorder. I was adopted and I have never had any real interest in finding my birth mother, but there is no history of mental illness in my adoptive family so I think any of the problems I am having are genetic and not environmental. Is there any advantage to me trying to track down my birth parents to find out more about what types of mental illness are lurking in my genetic code? Or is whatever is going to come going to come regardless so there is no real point in my instigating a relationship I do not really want?

Art Matthews Says...

To my knowledge there is no way to determine conclusively that the children of people with mental or behavioral conditions will have the same or similar illness or condition. Scientists have been battling about the nature Vs nurture debate for decades with only one seemingly clear result: both nature (including your genetic code) and nurture (how you were raised and your environment) seem to both influence what you might experience in the way of mental health issues. In fact stress seems to have the greatest influence. Certainly there are conditions that appear to have more biological basis like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

If you are concerned and are worrying excessively about it, then you may want to pursue the medical information about your birth family. I would suggest that you talk with a genetic counselor as well as a mental health counselor to be fully prepared and supported while you go through this process. As an adoptive child, you may actually have a right to any medical information on file with the agency without opening you up to any disclosure or unwanted relationship with your birth mother or father. Your adoptive parents could possibly make the request for you.

It would be equally o.k. to simply accept what you know now and focus on making changes and managing the things you have. Deal with anything else that comes up as it does, or doesn't. None of us has any assurances in life. It's not like knowing someone in your lineage had a disorder before you show any signs of it would somehow prevent you from getting it. There's no vaccine for mental illnesses.

We do the best we can with what we have at the time. I think it's likely a manifestation of your anxious brain that you are worrying about what you don't know. Consider working on developing mindfulness and work with someone knowledgeable in the field if nueroscience as it applies to therapy. You can make great strides and new medical evidence suggests you can even heal physiological damage that might have been done to your brain! This is an exciting age in counseling and therapy.

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Page last updated Mar 25, 2012

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