Discoveries in genetics have helped change the way society looks at mental illnesses such as manic depression and schizophrenia. A generation ago, the leading theory about schizophrenia was that this devastating emotional and mental disorder was caused by cold and distant mothering, itself the result of the mother’s unconscious wish that her child had never been born. A nation-wide lobbying effort was launched to combat such unfounded mother blaming, and 20 years later that artifact of the Freudian era is entirely discredited. It’s widely accepted today that psychotic disorders are brain disorders, probably with genetic roots (Herbert 72).
Just like every other topic in the genetics debates there are a few sides to the debate on the causes of mental disorders.
One side feels mental illnesses are caused purely by genetic inheritance and another feels they are caused by environmental factors. A different side feels that it is a combination of the two.
The problem is that most people take a side that supports either genetics or environment when most cases are not only genetic, but also environment. Take this situation for example. I have a thirteen year old friend who has been depressed a lot for the past few months, maybe even a year. Her mother recently decided to get her screened for depression.
Well, they decided that she has a “chemical imbalance” in her brain that causes her to be depressed. In other words, she’s depressed because genetically she’s abnormal and that abnormality keeps her brain from making a certain chemical she needs to keep from being depressed. The thing is that’s not the only reason she’s depressed. She’s not very happy at home. Her parents won’t let her do anything, which includes seeing her friends outside of school most of the time. They made her work all summer in her stepfather’s shop and almost didn’t let her quit when school started.
She’s only allowed one phone call a day and it is limited to five to ten minutes.
Now, as far as I am concerned, that is reason to be depressed. With circumstances like this, maybe her depression isn’t all just the chemical imbalance caused by her genes, and maybe it has something to do with her environment. This situation illustrates the idea that mental illnesses are not only genetic, but are also environmentally caused. As Leonard Darwin says in “The Need for Eugenic Reform”, “In studying cases of insanity both factors must always be taken into account, and the only logical course to adopt is to entirely discard all such phrases as due to heredity and due to environment.”
This does not mean that genetics does not sometimes cause the depression.
For example, David Rosenthal summarized dozens of studies reporting that schizophrenia, a mental illness, clusters in families; that is, relatives of a schizophrenic are considerably more likely to become schizophrenic than are people without schizophrenic relatives” (Stark 134). David G. Myers says at one point, “Some people more than others seem genetically predisposed to particular fears and high anxiety. Identical twins often develop similar phobias, in some cases even when raised separately” (Myers 464).
Many studies have been done on the subject of twins who develop the same mental illnesses. In one study it was found that “one pair of 35-year old identical female twins independently developed claustrophobia” (Myers 464).
Years of studies of families, adopted children, and twins separated at birth, suggest that both schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness run in families” (Herbert 77). These problems become more prominent in instances where the afflicted person is an identical twin (Myers 464). This means that the closer you are genetically, the more likely you are to be schizophrenic also. The risk of having the gene is 10-15% if you have an affected sibling, but only 2-3% if your parent is the afflicted relative (Wilson). It has been proven that “the 1-in-100 odds of any person’s being diagnosed with schizophrenia become 1 in 10 among those with an afflicted sibling or parent, and close to 1 in 2 among those who have an afflicted twin (Myers 478). This is true “whether the twins are reared together or apart” (Myers 478).
Thus it is obvious that .