Mental health refers to a person's psychological and emotional state. It involves the ability to handle daily demands and challenges, form healthy interpersonal relationships, and make constructive decisions. In contemporary society, the importance of mental health has gained recognition, highlighting the need to understand and address conditions such as anxiety. At the same time, greater awareness of how factors such as genetics, environment and lifestyle influence our mental health is being promoted.
Mental health is therefore a dynamic field that encompasses both the prevention and treatment of mental illness and the promotion of strategies for a healthy and fulfilling mental life, focusing in this article on mental health and genetics.
How much does genetics influence mental health?
Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, have been shown to have a strong genetic component.
These are multifactorial diseases, those whose development and manifestation are the result of the interaction of multiple factors, both genetic and environmental.
The "weight" of genetics in the development of a disease varies according to the disease. A small number of diseases are caused by mutations in a single gene (monogenic diseases such as cystic fibrosis). For other diseases, our genes can increase the probability of developing them or, on the contrary, offer us some protection (multifactorial diseases), which is possible to know thanks to genetic tests such as ADNTRO tests.
Within the latter group, the genetic "weight" varies and this is what is technically known as heritability. Heritability is a statistical concept that describes how much of the variation in a given trait can be attributed to variation in genetic factors, as opposed to variation in environmental factors.
Within the mental health diseases we are going to focus on anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorder and genetics
Anxiety disorder is a term that includes generalized anxiety, panic disorders, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias, among others. Anxiety disorder is defined as clinically significant anxiety that is not restricted to a particular environmental situation.
This disorder is characterized by chronic, excessive worry and anxiety about various events or activities. Symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and sleep problems.
In Spain, it is the mental health problem most frequently recorded in primary care clinical records and affects 6.7% of the population with a health card. Worldwide, prevalence decreases to 4.8%.
The heritability of anxiety disorder is around 50%, leaving the other 50% to environmental and lifestyle factors. The genetic component causes a physical alteration in the functioning of the brain or in the physiological response to stress.
To date, 26% can be explained genetically. This is possible thanks to the analysis of genetic variants that determine whether you have a greater or lesser probability of suffering from the disease. Among the associated variants we find variants in the genes:
- TMEM132D: This gene has been studied directly in relation to anxiety. It is believed to play a role in the regulation of emotional behavior, and certain variants of this gene have been associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders.
- PKD1L1: This gene is involved in the function of primary cilia and may be related to several cell signaling pathways. Abnormalities in signaling pathways may affect brain development and function, which could contribute to disorders such as anxiety.
Recommendations for managing anxiety
Managing anxiety is not easy, but there are some recommendations that may help:
- Incorporate mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and nori seaweed in your diet. They contain an amino acid (l-theanine) that increases brain levels of GABA. This compound acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, thus slowing down brain excitation.
- Make sure you get enough good quality proteins and fats.
- Avoid refined flours, sugar and stimulating drinks.
- Exercise to reduce stress and release happy hormones such as endorphins.
- Promote situations that stimulate the synthesis of oxytocin, also known as the hormone of love, calm and contact.
- Learn to relax using techniques such as meditation that directly impact the quality of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs.
Discover your genetic predisposition to suffer from anxiety disorder and much more with the DNA TEST ADNTRO.