Isn’t it all about our biology and genes?

From evil spirits to brain abnormalities, and from our genes to chemical imbalances in our bodies, many explanations have been put forward to why we experience mental health problems, only to be disproved or found to be lacking and partial. 

Chemical imbalance in the brain

Traditionally, there has been a focus towards the biomedical model of mental health. This means that many theories sought to prove that mental health problems were caused solely by a chemical imbalance in the brain, irrespective of context or events.  

Based on this, experts classified (and many still do) mental health problems as a brain disorder resulting from faulty genes or a problem with the way a brain develops and functions.  

Forty years and millions of pounds of investment later, we have been unable to find consistent patterns in our genes or a single biomedical test specific for any mental health problem.  

Our genes do not set our destiny

We now know that our genes do not set our destiny. Poor mental health is also not a case of being born with a ‘deficiency’.  

Our biology is important, as it shapes the way our bodies respond to what happens to us. However, having a purely biomedical approach does not consider the effect of the environment on our mental health. 

And we know that, although some mental health problems are partly influenced by genetics, genes play a much smaller role in shaping our health than our social circumstances.  

In almost all cases, our genes do nothing more than carry a slight risk. What is more important to look at is the wide range of social, economic, family and emotional factors that interact with our genes and our biology.  

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