By: Chris Anderson Psy.D

As mental health providers, we are often asked by clients about whether what they are dealing with is a result of how they were raised (nurture) or whether it is all just genetic (nature). It is very normal to want to figure out the origin and root of issues, not only to understand how things evolved to be where they are, but also to get to the bottom of things in hopes of fixing it. The short answer to this question, that no one really likes, is that it depends.

There are definitely some conditions and issues that lean much more heavily on the nature side of the fence. This often comes down to the genes we inherited from our family lineage, but can also include our particular biochemistry or physiology. For instance, schizophrenia is a good example of biochemistry gone awry. We have learned through research that there is an imbalance in dopamine that is largely responsible for the hallucinations and delusions that people with schizophrenia suffer. It most cases medication is a necessary treatment to correct this imbalance. Similarly, bipolar disorder is often the result of an imbalance in neurotransmitter that requires a mood stabilizing medication. ADHD is another condition that is more impacted by chemistry and physiology. PET Scans have shown that children and adults with ADHD do not have the same neural activity in the frontal lobes of the brain. Medications are often used to stimulate that part of the brain and get it firing the way that it should.

Similarly, they are often environmental situations and circumstances that create problems for people. We often see otherwise well-adjusted adults coming into therapy on the heels of a divorce. This a life circumstance that produces a lot of stress for most people and many fall prey to bouts of depression or anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another condition that is often environmentally created for regular people faced with having to deal with traumatic events such as military combat, abuse, sexual assault, or natural disasters.

For some of the most common issues like depression, anxiety or addictions, most research will say that it is often a combination of both nature and nurture. Often there may be a family history that genetically predisposes a person to developing an issue, but this does not mean it is predetermined. They are simply are higher risk relative to other people who do not have these issues in their family history. Interestingly, it is often different life stressors that people endure (job change, moving, rocky relationships, being a new parent, etc.) that can activate some of these latent issues. Often when working with client, we find that their depression or anxiety started on the heels of some enduring and difficult stressors they were trying to deal with. Similarly, we see many normal drinkers who start abusing alcohol to cope and relax during tough times and suddenly develop an addiction.

Knowing some of your family history can be helpful in sleuthing out the origin of problems, but often sitting down with a good therapist or psychiatrist can be a great way to figure what is going on and the best way to treat it. If you are concerned about issues you are having, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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