In the summer of 2018, a horror film came out that rattled audiences to their core. A brand new feature from a first time director and writer that nobody knew anything about, really. There had been some talk of it and a few snippets of information that came out, but for the most part, it was wholly unknown. When it was released, it took the horror world by storm. An absolutely terrifying exercise in horror, the film tells the story of a family falling apart, tearing themselves apart from within. The entire film is a reflection and metaphor for mental illness, detailing and commenting on the ways it can be passed down through generations, remaining a constant presence in a family. The film was called Hereditary. While, of course, the true consequences of mental illness in the family don’t reach the extreme and horrifying limits of the film – it is a metaphor after all – it is a powerful examination of how mental illness carries on through the years, beyond just us. We may be the ones afflicted with the disorder or condition, but its reach extends beyond us, possibly creeping its way into our very own bloodline. Perhaps that’s why the film was so successful; the best horror films are the ones that are a reflection of our lives. They take something very real and they make it very scary.
When hit with a diagnosis, our first instinct is to help ourselves, which is the right thing to do. We enter recovery, go through several processes to help us reach a point of recovery, and we live our lives with a better grasp of our illness. But, for some of us, the worry is still there and it goes beyond the worry of our daily lives. How can this illness affect our future family? Will it alter our desire to have a family? For some, it’s a sign for them to not pursue that reality. They don’t want to expose anyone to what they went through, let alone their own child. They feel that it is safer and smarter to forego having children just to keep their illness at bay. But others still don’t want to give that dream up, nor should they have to.
Mental Illness in the Family
There are several different ways in which a person’s genetics can affect a person’s lineage and family. The first factor is something Epigenetic Regulation. Basically, epigenetics affect how a person will react to environmental factors. They are hereditary, being passed down through our DNA. They are not a constant thing in a person, so they alone will not cause a mental disorder to form. There must be other factors, and certain timings, for a disorder to form. These genetics will just play a role in the formation.
The next factor we want to talk about is Genetic Polymorphism. This relates to changes in our DNA that make us who we are. They are the parts of our genetic code that cause very specific parts of us. They decide if our earlobes are attached or not; they are either/or situations. As is the case with Epigenetic Regulation, a single polymorphism won’t be the cause of a disorder to form, but the presence of several polymorphisms in addition to certain environmental factors can cause one to form.
Our last, and rarest, a factor we want to talk about are single-gene changes. This occurs when a single gene changes or mutates, and again, combined with an environmental factor, a mental disorder can be developed. As it is with all these factors, there is no simple, genetic switch that will turn on and cause a disorder to form. There needs to be several other influences that are combining with our genetics to allow a mental disorder to form. It is not necessarily a cut and dry situation where you can guarantee that your child will inherit some kind of disorder from you. These things are complex and it is difficult to determine a person’s likelihood of inheriting a mental illness. It comes down to a lot of different moving parts in the right environment.
It is important to keep your future in mind when thinking about your mental illnesses. It is a big consideration and how it affects you will come down to how willing you are to deal with it if it comes up. As we said, it is not a guarantee that your children will have an illness if you do, but it is possible. If that is enough to make you want to avoid having children, then, by all means, stick with that decision. But if not, then there are ways to handle it. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing for your child to develop a disorder. You got through it and you can help them get through it too. We know it’s hard to know that your disorder has such a reaching impact, but it isn’t anything you can’t handle. You are strong enough to keep dealing with it, no matter when or who.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with addiction or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]