Well, are you familiar with the nature vs. nurture debate?
One of the oldest arguments in the field of psychology, is the nature vs. nurture argument.
The nature side of the argument make claims that who we become is determined by our biological makeup.
The nurture side of the argument claims that who we become is determined by the experiences we have in life.
I am here to tell you, that both sides are correct.
No matter what type of experiences we encounter, we will always have a pre-determined eye-color. The only way to change it is through surgery. Just like with eye color, we may come pre-packed with a mental illness or two.
Even if we are born healthy and go through the majority of our lives with no mental instability, we can still become subject to a mental disorder.
I’ll use my own case an example.
I was an extremely happy child growing up. I had parents that loved me more than anything, siblings that I loved more than anything, and always got awesome presents when I made good grades in school. Life was great! However, my father died when I was 12 years old. As you can guess this sent me on a downward spiral mentally. Life from then on, changed for me.
I was never officially diagnosed, but I don’t think it would have taken a PhD for others to see I had chronic major depressive disorder (MDD). This wasn’t something I was born with. It happened because of an experience in my life.
So, if mental disorders can come from both nature and nurture, then can both fix them as well?
Surprisingly, the answer is another yes.
You can out grown mental disorders. However, the likelihood of this happening is low.
The body is always changing itself as we grow. We are constantly developing by turning on and off genes. This is called gene expression.
I am no biologist so I invite you to watch this video to learn more about gene expression.
For our purposes, all you need to know is that we are constantly changing. From this, we actually have the ability to grow out of, or into, mental illnesses.
However, not only can we grow out of disorders, we can work to overcome them through experience as well. Take therapy for example. In therapy, psychologists help a client work through a mental disorder that they are suffering from. If it was not possible to overcome mental disorders through therapy, then there would not be a need for most therapy practices.
We will use a specific type of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as an example. There are two parts to a CBT treatment.
First, is the cognitive aspect of the treatment. This portion of the treatment focuses on cognitive skills that help prevent episodes of mental instability. Essentially, it stops the instability before it becomes an overwhelming problem that leaves you functionally impaired. One example of the techniques that can be taught, is mindfulness.
Second, is the behavioral aspect of the treatment. This portion of the treatment focuses on replacing detrimental behaviors with beneficial ones. For example, the behavior of eat ice cream when depressed, might be replaced with a run when depressed. These actions are what will typically pull us out of our funk when suffering from a mental disorder.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s ask the question again.
Will my children carry my mental illness?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends.
Sure, your child may be pre-determined to suffer from a mental illness, but that does not mean that they will suffer from it. As their parent, you can greatly minimize the effects that a mental illness can have on your child. You can do so by teaching the skills found in treatments such as CBT, addressing the needs of your child, and by simply showing them that you care about them.
If you believe your child has a mental illness, I would encourage you to learn everything you can about the illness. Learn how it works and the different treatments for it. The technique to helping your child overcome a mental illness may be as simple as just talking to them.
If you find you’re not equipped to handle a mental disorder correctly, then I urge you to take your child to see a professional. There is nothing wrong in doing this. It won’t mean you’re incapable as a parent or that you’ve failed your child. Sometimes, children simply need to speak to an unbiased person that will care about what they have to say.
If you believe your child suffers from a mental disorder, do not sit and do nothing. A child’s mental well-being is incredibly important and it needs to be taken seriously.
To learn more about mental disorders, I invite you to visit this site.