What mental health disorders are you born with compared to those that occur from life?

The following answer to the question in the title was posted on Quora:

There is no simple list of which mental health disorders a person is born with and which disorders occur from life. A person’s mental health is built or eroded day by day, and the process begins before conception and continues throughout life.

The vast majority of mental health disorders are caused by a blend of various different contributors that all lead to the person’s particular mental health situation. These contributors can occur before birth, after birth, or both.

However, the prenatal time of development is the most sensitive period of human development, and thus the time in the womb is one of the biggest contributors to a person’s mental health for the rest of their life. This is true of virtually all mental health disorders: depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, etc.

Additionally, the younger the person is, generally the more sensitive their psyche and biochemistry are to contributors to mental health disorders.

Some contributors to mental health disorders are present or developing when the person is born. These inborn contributors include:

  • Genetics
    • Most genetic contributors only contribute a tiny amount of propensity to mental health disorders.
    • A few rare genetic disorders are guaranteed to cause specific mental health disorders. But these are very rare.
  • Prenatal environment during growth in the womb
    • Prenatal nutrition- If mother is malnourished, starved, overfed empty calories, or deficient in nutrients such as iron, omega-3, zinc, iodine, protein, or other nutrients, the baby’s brain will develop less optimally and the child will be more prone to various mental health disorders
    • Prenatal infections- if mother gets infected during pregnancy with certain infections such as Toxoplasmosis, Lyme Disease, CMV, or other infections, the immune system is more likely to develop an autoimmune inflammatory mental health disorder such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, or depression. This starts in the womb but manifests after birth.
    • Prenatal toxic exposures – if mother is exposed to environmental toxins such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, phthalates, PCBs, BPA, alcohol, marijuana, or cigarette smoke, the baby is more likely to develop mental health disorders of all types.
    • Prenatal stress – if a pregnant mother is chronically stressed or traumatized, this will affect the stress reactivity programming of the child. This will affect the development of all sorts of mental health disorders in the person’s future because stress is a major contributor to all types of mental disorders.

All of the above factors – nutrition, infection, stress, toxin exposure, and genetics – continue throughout life to contribute to a person’s propensity to develop mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, etc.

Of course, stress and traumatic experiences during life erode mental health and become extremely important contributors to all types of mental health disorders. Each person’s life situation is unique and usually it requires professionals to help untangle an individual’s most important contributors to their situation.

This is why it is important to seek therapy as well as find ways to decrease inflammation, improve nutrition, and support your physical health. Unfortunately, modern life is so full of so many different contributors that it requires patience, support, and perseverance to overcome mental health struggles.

About Nicholas Hundley, MS, CNS

Nicholas Hundley is a nutritional biochemist and certified nutrition specialist. He is the main author here at MindWhale.com. He practices nutrition and can be found at NicholasHundley.com

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