Recently, a documentary series, “Through the Wormhole,” asked the question, can poverty be due to a person’s genetics? The host of the show, Morgan Freeman, explores the cultural belief that biology determines a person’s behavior, therefore, creating people who become wealthy and those who become poor.  Can we blame poverty on genetics? To hear all aspects of this argument, watch the full episode here.

What is the conclusion of Freeman and his panel of experts?  They suggest that poverty is not due to genetics. The forces that influence us in life are more complex than a single dimension (such as biology), and involve multiple factors.  

Although the argument about biology and poverty may seem absurd to some, it points to a popular issue frequently debated in psychology known as “nature vs. nurture.” This issue seeks to answer what makes us who we are: our biology or our experiences? Those who ascribe to the “nature” explanation see all human  behavior tied to our biological functions. If you ascribe to this view, you see genes determining many things including our emotional patterns. Thus, it may seem that depression, anxiety, addictions, or any emotional problem is due to a “chemical imbalance” that is inborn or inherited.  For those on the “nurture” side of the debate, our experiences shape behavior, emotions and overall personality.  Therefore, our environment molds us in profound ways over the life span.

Are my emotional problems genetic?

Around the turn of the century, there was a lot of optimism around mapping the human genome. Scientists made wild claims that we would be able to trace our behaviors to traits controlled by genes. Ultimately, proof of this claim has never materialized.  

Despite, the fact that there is no proof in the genetic cause of human emotion and behavior, many still place faith in this theory. This is part of the ongoing classic debate of nature vs. nurture. What matters more, our genes, or the environment in which we are raised?  Today, studies show both work together in complex ways.

The view that emotional problems are due to genetics is popular in our culture.  However, this view often leads to a faulty one-dimensional view of how a person functions.  In addition, this belief influences us to see medical interventions as the best solution to mental health problems.  Statistics show that psychiatric drugs are becoming increasingly popular to manage emotional problems.  According to the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which gathers information on cost and use of health care in the U.S., one in six adults reported using psychiatric drugs (Miller, 2016).  Antidepressants were the most common, followed by anxiety relievers and antipsychotics.  In 2007, $25 billion was spent on antidepressants and antipsychotics (Whitaker, 2011).   Unfortunately, as psychiatric use has dramatically increased in the United States, the problem of mental health issues has only statistically increased (Whitaker, 2011).  Is it possible that believing emotional disorders are genetic, is just a faulty as the argument that poverty is inborn?

Is it time to re-evaluate your medication?  

At Christian Counseling Associates, we acknowledge that psychiatric medication can be of help to individuals who are seeking relief from psychological disorders.  However, we recognize many research studies that demonstrate that medical intervention is not the ultimate solution to achieving mental health or emotional stability.  

People are created as multidimensional beings.  We are not purely biological (in a one-dimensional sense).  The human condition is complex and so are the factors that influence emotional problems.  There is much evidence that  psychological, social and spiritual dimensions profoundly impact our emotional health.  Therefore, it is wise not to rely solely on a medical intervention to achieve recovery from chronic depression, anxiety or other types of psychological problems.

Are you attempting to treat your emotional problems through medication alone?  Do you continue to experience significant symptoms despite medical treatment?  Maybe it is time to re-evaluate your treatment approach.  At Christian Counseling Associates, we help people resolve emotional issues by developing comprehensive treatment strategies.  If you are seeking to heal from the pain of depression, anxiety or any life challenge, we are available to help.  Call us today at 724-396-1510.

Bibliography

Miller, S. G. (2016, December 13). 1 in 6 Americans Takes a Psychiatric Drug. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/1-in-6-americans-takes-a-psychiatric-drug/

Whitaker, R. (2011). Anatomy of an epidemic: Magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America. New York: Broadway Books.

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