RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER FOR TROUBLED TEENAGE BOYS

Are My Teens Mental Health Struggles Genetic?


If a specific mental health condition is already present in a family, it is more likely that kids in that family will develop mental health conditions. However, there’s no guarantee that children will inherit mental health struggles from their parents. Though they might be predisposed to certain mental health conditions, there’s a lot that families can do to increase a child’s likelihood of progressing to adulthood without issue.

If you see the signs of mental health problems in your teen son, you may need to consult a professional therapist to help him overcome those struggles. Troubled teens often see success in overcoming their mental health struggles when they attend therapeutic boarding schools. The positive environment and trained therapists at boarding schools for troubled boys help them learn to manage their mental health issues and lead productive lives.

Genetically linked mental health conditions

Mental health disorders are seen up to twice as frequently in kids whose family members also have those problems than in kids from families without mental health problems.

Common genetically linked mental health conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Addiction/substance abuse

If a child’s parent or other close relative has one or more of these conditions, the child is genetically predisposed to developing it. However, there are a lot of environmental factors that also contribute to a child’s mental wellbeing. Children with certain environmental factors are more likely, or less likely, to develop a mental health condition even if it runs in their family.

Environmental factors are things that occur in the child’s life apart from their genetics. If you think of “nature vs. nurture,” genetics are nature, and environmental factors are nurture. Children who are genetically predisposed to developing mental health problems AND experience negative environmental factors are more likely to develop mental health problems as they grow up.

Environmental factors that contribute to teen mental health struggles

Trauma. Kids who experience trauma as they grow up are more likely to develop residual mental health problems from that trauma. This trauma could include things like physical abuse, sexual abuse, death of a loved one, catastrophic weather events, and more. Think of trauma as anything that could make the child enter “fight or flight” mode and fear for their life or the life of someone else.

Neglect. When a parent has mental health problems of their own, they might not always be there for the child. If the child has been left to fend for themselves in the absence of a fit parent, they can grow up to develop mental health problems in their teen years.

Substance abuse. Households with substance abuse problems are more likely to experience financial insecurity, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and unstable emotional attachments. Children whose parents have addiction or substance abuse problems often develop mental health problems as they age.

Environmental factors that help prevent mental health struggles in teens

By purposefully shielding the child from the negative environmental factors that contribute to teen mental health struggles, you give the child a better chance to grow up without issue. You can also put some positive environmental factors in place to help prevent mental health struggles in teens who are genetically predisposed to them.

Provide a stable home. Children who live with dependable parents/guardians are more likely to grow up without mental health struggles. They are less likely to feel the side effects of neglect and are more likely to develop secure attachments to others.

Provide a positive role model. If you are battling your own mental health struggles, role model the right way to deal with them. Seek professional counseling if needed and let your kid see that it’s possible to overcome mental health problems. Teens who see a parent role model the proper treatment for mental health struggles are less likely to develop those struggles themselves.

Get professional help. If you notice that your teen is starting to show signs of mental health problems, get professional help for them. Early intervention gives the best opportunity for stopping mental health problems before they escalate.

If your teen son’s mental health struggles are beyond your control, he might see improvement by attending a therapeutic boarding school. Sundance Canyon Academy keeps qualified therapists on-site to help the students learn to overcome their mental health struggles. Remember, even if mental health struggles do run in your family, an intervention can help lessen their impact on your teen.

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