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Mental Health Use this forum to share your mental health concerns and to seek advice.

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Mental Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 23rd 2010, 01:28 AM

Just had my first day of Psychology class, and the topic came up of whether mental health problems like, Depression for example were biological, meaning from your genes from your parents and such, or Environmental, meaning from the things that happen in your life, or even the things to do/eat.

I'm not positive, but I think they've at least been looking for a gene that links depression and other such mental health issues. But I know, that there are a lot of environmental things that do it too. Stress a big one, but also drugs give one a higher chance of getting depressed. (Not saying it's certain, so letís not get into that please. ) And also I learned, that eating things like fish in all its fatty goodness, is actually good for your mind! Sucks, cause I hate fish.

I personally think it's a little bit of both. But I could probably argue Environmental for a lot of them. Like, if your mom is depressed for instance, maybe it's not biological making you depressed, but instead you've picked it up from her via the environment. Like, that's how you've been brought up to act and feel and deal with your problems. They need to do a study of someone whose parents suffer from depression, but the child was adopted by parents who weren't. That way, the kid would grow up in a 'normal' happy household, but still have the depression gene. Anyone know of a study like this? It would be rather hard to do...

Make any sense?
Probably not.

But, I was just wondering what you guys thought. I'm leaving a few things out cause I desperately need to finish reading chapter 1 for, guess what, Psychology class. Then bed cause I'm soo tired.

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Last edited by TheBabyEater; February 23rd 2010 at 07:08 PM. Reason: Sorry for the typo in the title! I totally didn't notice it.
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Re: Mentail Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 23rd 2010, 01:38 AM

It's a mix of both, that's how it's understood now in the psychological community (and will probably be explained later in your class). Yes, there are biological influences on mental illness (my mother has bipolar and I have bipolar), but at the same time there are environmental factors. I like to think of the environment as a catalyst. If you have the genes for a certain mental illness, like depression, it could mean you're more likely to suffer from that illness, it doesn't mean you will at some point in your life though. Lets say something happens like you fail a test, this might make a different person disappointed in themself but they'll move on with life and learn from their mistakes, but for the person who has the gene for depression they might become suicidal and depressed for months or years.

I think the real question though is if you can become mentally ill without any biological factors. Could something in life be so stressful that a person could become schizophrenic, depressed, or bipolar and not have the gene? If this were to happen would their future children be at risk?
If a gene based diagnostic tool were developed would these individuals be left out of insurance claims simply because of that?
Those are the questions that roll around in my head when I think of nature vs. nurture in terms of psychology.

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Re: Mentail Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 23rd 2010, 02:03 AM

It is already understood in the scientific community that it is a combination of both. I am sure you were just discussing whether it not it was, just to help make things clear on why both are considered important parts when it comes to someone developing a mental disorder.

And just as a side note, I really hope this isn’t an intro to psych class or a general psych class, because if you are starting with abnormal disorders for a general psych course, it might not be the most thought-out lesson plan for the semester.

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Re: Mentail Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 23rd 2010, 04:38 AM

It is definitely a combination of both (in most cases, at least). The strength of each factor likely varies from person to person and between different disorders, but almost every disorder has components of both.
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Re: Mentail Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 23rd 2010, 05:31 AM

I agree with everything stated, it's both. Like, usually, how someone handles environmental things has to do with their family's mental health history too.

For example, there could be 2 people who get abused as children. If there are mental health issues in Person A's family history, they'd be more prone to becoming mentally ill than Person B's clean family history.
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Re: Mentail Health problems: Biological, or Environmental? - February 25th 2010, 04:21 AM

In research, the debate over whether it's biological or psychosocial is over because it's concluded to be both. Instead, the debate is how and what do each contribute, and possibly to what degree. I'm assuming you have not learned of recursive cycles so I'll briefly explain them as how they relate here. There are 3 main steps to this cycle:
1) Current behavior
2) Trajectory of how the physiological processes are influenced or changed by the behavior to continue the behavior.
3) Exhibition of behavior in society that has social consequences (especially for abnormal behaviors)

After the third step, it loops back to the first for both abnormal and normal behaviors. That is essentially the most basic and simplest way to see how both biological and psychosocial elements affect behavior.

As a result, this can complicate matters because when a person exhibits abnormal behavior, tracing the origins of it to environmental or biological really is not feasible. For your example of someone growing up with a parent(s) who have mental illnesses, if the child has a mental illness, it's hard to rule out any biological factor as not being the cause while saying the psychosocial set of behaviors by the parents is the cause. It's not possible to show with reliability and validity.

As for the study you're mentioning, yes there are many and they're for studies of monozygotic twins (identical twins having 100% same genes) separated and reared by different families.

However, if I were you, I wouldn't dive right into this because you're brand new to the field, so you need to learn just the basics. Throughout second-year university courses, I was and still am learning the basics of many things despite there being more content and detail.
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