Mental Illness And How It Runs In Families

I am so sad. Yesterday we had to take our daughter to the Mental Health Clinic at Burwood as she is going through Major Depression and has Panic Disorder. On Saturday night she rang us in the middle of a full-blown panic attack saying she wanted to kill herself. Luckily she was with her flatmate who was well able to cope with the situation. We said we would be there in an hour and a half, the length of the drive. When we got there she was in a terrible state. Could barely walk and speak and remained like that for two days. I rang her psychiatrist and he said he wanted to admit her to the Clinic for full assessment and safety. A bed wasn’t going to be available until Thursday. By Tuesday she was eating again and talking, though not much, but crying all the time. She continued to have panic attacks. It is so distressing to watch your twenty-three-year-old daughter go through so much mental anguish and not be able to do anything to fix it. All we could do was feed her, cuddle and talk reassuringly to her.

As the week went on she improved and got stronger so by Thursday was ready to accept that she needed to go into the Clinic. It was particularly hard as I had just come out of the Clinic myself after a five week stay the previous Friday. We had different psychiatrists of course. I have CPTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder with Major Depression and Panic Disorder. She has had no abuse in her childhood or any other trauma so just has to deal with the Depression and Panic Disorder. Both psychiatrists say she has most likely inherited it from me as these conditions run in families. One of our other sons also has Panic Disorder and High Functioning Autism. His father was diagnosed as an adult with High Functioning Autism.

How awful that such conditions can run in families. You can’t prevent them. You so want to protect your children but you can’t. You have to hand them over to the professionals to take care of them and hope they do a good job. The scientific evidence is sound for genetics in mental health.

Major mental disorders traditionally thought to be distinct share certain genetic glitches, according to a new study. The finding may point to better ways to diagnose and treat these conditions.

Scientists have long recognized that many psychiatric disorders tend to run in families, suggesting potential genetic roots. Such disorders include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. Symptoms can overlap and so distinguishing among these 5 major psychiatric syndromes can be difficult. Their shared symptoms suggest they may also share similarities at the biological level. In fact, recent studies have turned up limited evidence of shared genetic risk factors, such as for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, and depression and bipolar disorder.

To take a broader look, an international research consortium conducted an analysis that incorporated data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of the 5 major disorders. This type of study involves scanning through thousands of genetic markers in search of tiny variations that appear more often in people who have a particular condition than in those who don’t. The research received primary funding from NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), along with other NIH components.

As reported online in the Lancet on February 28, 2013, the scientists screened for evidence of illness-associated genetic variation among over 33,000 patients. All had been diagnosed with at least 1 of the 5 disorders. A comparison group included about 28,000 people who had no major psychiatric diagnosis.

The analysis revealed variations significantly associated with all 5 disorders. These included variations in 2 genes that code for the cellular machinery that helps regulate the flow of calcium into neurons. Variation in one of these, called CACNA1C, had previously been linked to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression. CACNA1C is known to affect brain circuitry involved in emotion, thinking, attention and memory — functions that can be disrupted in mental illnesses. Variation in another calcium channel gene, called CACNB2, was also linked to the 5 disorders.

In addition, the researchers discovered illness-linked variation for all 5 disorders in certain regions of chromosomes 3 and 10. Each of these sites spans several genes, and causal factors haven’t yet been pinpointed. The suspect region along chromosome 3 had the strongest links to the disorders. This region also harbors certain variations previously linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“Although statistically significant, each of these genetic associations individually can account for only a small amount of risk for mental illness,” says study co-author Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital. Because of this, the variations couldn’t yet be used to predict or diagnose specific conditions. But these results may help researchers move closer to making more accurate diagnoses. They may also help lead to a better understanding of the factors that cause these major mental disorders.

Source: NIMH

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  1. Oh, I am so sorry that your daughter is suffering so, along with you and your husband having to watch her in such pain. I hope she gets the help she needs at the hospital.

    • Thank you for your well wishes. She is having a really hard time. We’re lucky we have insurance and can send her to a good Clinic and she has a good psychiatrist. She has settled down a bit since going into the clinic but continues to have panic attacks with no triggers. I appreciate you getting in touch and reading my blog. All the best Erin.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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