Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are mental problems hereditary?"
My mother gets a lot of anxiety attacks and is taking anti-depressants for her mood. Since she has some mental problems, does it mean that I'm more like to as well?
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are very common problems. While we do not know exactly what causes them, we do know that levels of certain brain chemicals (namely serotonin and norepinephrine) are altered in people with depression. This fact is the basis for why many of the anti-depressant medications we use (such as Zoloft, Celexa, and Prozac) work so well. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly why some people develop this problem and other don't. There is probably a role of genetics and family history. That is to say that your genes won't cause you to be depressed, but they may make you more or less likely to get depression than the next person. Since your mother had this illness, you are probably more likely than the average person to suffer from depression or anxiety at some point in your life. This does not necessarily mean that this will happen. The best physician for you to initially talk to about this is your primary care physician (PCP). PCPs typically screen for depression at annual visits especially in people that they think are susceptible to getting depressed. If you think that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule your appointment sooner than later.
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