Are We The Victims Of Our Genes

Why do you struggle to resist a sugary snack or struggle with anxiety?

The answer lies in our genes. Our genetic makeup plays an important role in shaping who we are and how we behave. Could it be possible that our genes are responsible for our circumstances?


Genes are the segments of DNA that provide instructions for the development and functioning of our bodies. They determine our physical attributes, such as eye colour, height, and hair texture. However, genes also influence our behaviour and predispose us to certain conditions or tendencies.

Studies at the world-leading Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research suggest that many of our traits are more than 50% inherited, and that specific genes influence risk-taking behaviour. If you have inherited these genes, you may be more likely to engage in adventurous activities or take risks in your personal or professional life.

Similarly, genes can influence our susceptibility to addiction, religion and politics, and our choices are much more determined by our genes than we think. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism or substance abuse, making it harder for them to resist the allure of these substances.

Even our mental health is influenced by our genes.  

Conditions like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia have been linked to specific genetic variations. While genes alone do not determine whether we will develop these disorders, they can make us more vulnerable to their onset. This vulnerability and environmental factors can ultimately shape our mental health outcomes.

However, it is essential to note that genes are not the sole determinants of our behaviour or health. They interact with our environment and lifestyle choices to shape who we become. Genes provide the foundation, but our choices and experiences ultimately determine our destiny.

Understanding the role of genes in our lives can be empowering 

It allows us to recognise that certain traits or tendencies are not entirely within our control. It also emphasises the importance of self-awareness and self-care. Understanding our genetic predispositions enables us to make informed decisions that promote our well-being.

Moreover, the field of epigenetics has shed light on how our lifestyle choices can influence the activity of our genes. While we may inherit specific genes, their expression can be modified through diet, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle factors. This means that we have the power to alter the impact of our genes on our health and behaviour.

So, are we victims of our gene expression?

The belief that we are mere victims of our genes has long been a prevalent notion in our society. It suggests that our inherent genetic makeup fully determines our destiny, leaving us powerless to change or improve ourselves. However, recent scientific research has shed new light on this topic, challenging the idea of genetic determinism. 

While it is true that our genetic code plays a significant role in shaping who we are, it is not the sole dictator of our lives. Environmental factors, such as upbringing and experiences, also exert a powerful influence on our development. Our genes pencil in various options, and our life experiences determine which get linked.

Moreover, the emerging field of epigenetics has revealed that various external stimuli can turn many inherited traits on and off, further debunking the notion of genetic predestination. 

This newfound understanding empowers us to take control of our own lives and make choices that can positively impact us and future generations. We are not simply victims of our genes; we can actively shape our destiny.

Exploring the Effects of Genetics and Stress on Mental Health

The impact of genetics and stress on mental health is significant. Genetics is crucial in determining an individual’s susceptibility to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. 

Some individuals may inherit genes that make them more vulnerable to these conditions, while others may have genes that protect against them. However, genetics alone is not the sole determinant of mental health. 

Stress also plays a significant role. 

High levels of stress can exacerbate existing mental health conditions or even trigger the onset of new ones. Chronic stress can disrupt the brain’s chemistry and affect its ability to regulate emotions, leading to mental health problems.

Recognising the interaction between genetics and stress is essential when understanding and addressing mental health issues.

We have control over our destinies and are not at the mercy of our genetic makeup.

You may appreciate why we preach about healthy or good lifestyle choices. Contrary to the prevailing belief that we are helpless victims of our genes, recent scientific research has challenged this notion and provided us with a new perspective on genetic determinism. 

While it is undeniable that our genetic makeup plays a significant role in shaping who we are, it is crucial to recognise that other factors also contribute to our development. Environmental influences, such as our upbringing and experiences, exert a powerful impact on our lives.

The emerging field of epigenetics has revealed that external stimuli can turn genes on or off, further debunking the idea of genetic predestination. This newfound understanding empowers us to take control of our own lives and make choices that can positively impact us and future generations.

By acknowledging our active participation in shaping our destinies, we break free from the shackles of genetic fatalism and become masters of our fate.

Can you explain how genes play a role in determining one’s mental health?

In the realm of mental health, the determination of our genes is a complex and multifaceted process. While it is true that genetics can influence our susceptibility to certain mental disorders, it is crucial to understand that genes alone do not dictate our mental well-being.

Instead, a combination of genetic factors, environmental influences, and individual experiences contribute to developing mental health conditions. Genetic studies have identified specific gene variants associated with an increased risk of various mental disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia. There probably are genetic influences on almost all facets of human behaviour.

However, it is essential to note that having these gene variants does not guarantee the development of a mental illness. Environmental factors, such as childhood trauma or chronic stress, can interact with genetic predispositions to increase the likelihood of developing a disorder in later life. 

Therefore, it is essential to adopt a holistic approach when considering the role of genetics in mental health and recognise that both nature and nurture play a significant role in shaping our psychological well-being.

Identical twins show us that in the nature-versus-nurture debate, there is no winner. Both have their role to play in shaping who we become.

For example, In 2005, Stephen Mobley tried to avoid execution by claiming that his murder of a Domino’s pizza store manager resulted from a gene mutation. The judge turned down the appeal, saying that the law was not ready to accept such evidence.

Even though that gene is a major contributing cause of violence, it has become widely accepted, and it is now commonly called the “warrior gene”.

What part do hereditary traits play in mental health?

When it comes to mental health, hereditary characteristics play a significant role. However, it is important to note that they are just one piece of the puzzle. Genetic factors can predispose individuals to certain mental disorders, but do not determine their mental well-being.

Once again, environmental influences also come into play. The idea of taking after your parents is an almost universal cultural constant. Factors such as early life experiences, social support systems, and exposure to stressors all contribute to the development of mental illness.

Sandra Scarr, a former University of Virginia professor, believes that if a child’s basic needs are met, genes control how far the child will go in life.

It’s like a delicate dance between nature and nurture. For example, someone with a genetic predisposition for depression may not experience symptoms if they are raised in a nurturing and supportive environment.

Conversely, an individual without any genetic risk factors may develop a mental disorder due to chronic exposure to adverse conditions or a traumatic event. 

Therefore, understanding the intricate relationship between our genetic makeup and environmental circumstances allows us to take a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating mental illness, addressing biological vulnerabilities and environmental factors that impact our well-being.

Mental Health and Chromosomal Abnormalities

Chromosomal abnormalities refer to changes or errors in the structure or number of chromosomes in a person’s cells. These abnormalities can result in various genetic disorders and predispose individuals to mental health conditions.

For example, Down, Turner, and Klinefelter syndrome are caused by specific chromosomal abnormalities associated with Intellectual disabilities and behavioural issues.  In addition, specific chromosomal abnormalities have been linked to an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. 

These abnormalities can disrupt the normal functioning of genes involved in brain development and neurotransmitter regulation, leading to behavioural and mental health disturbances.

However, it is important to note that while chromosomal abnormalities can influence behaviour, mental health is a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and social factors, and the presence of a chromosomal abnormality does not necessarily guarantee the development of a mental health disorder.

In conclusion

We make choices based on our conscious deliberations. But isn’t all that thinking things over irrelevant if our final decision was already written in our genetic code?

We may be victims of our genes to some extent, but we are not powerless. 

Understanding our genetic makeup can help us navigate our lives more effectively, making choices that align with our predispositions and promoting our overall well-being.

Just consider the controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve, whose conservative authors argued that little could be done to help people experiencing poverty because they suffered from low IQs that were fixed, for the most part, by their genes.

We can clearly shape our fates, even in the face of genetic predispositions, so let’s embrace our uniqueness and make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt.