The debate on nature vs. nurture has been ongoing for many years now. There are many questions asked in the cultural, scientific, philosophical, and mental health fields. Are behavior, personality, or mental health, nature, or a nurture thing? 

Nature is defined as genetics, hormones, and traits that affect human behavior, physical appearance, and even diseases. Nurture is defined as environmental factors, childhood experiences, social relationships, upbringing, culture, and experience that influence a person. In this article, you will learn if mental health is influenced by nature or nurture. 

Nature Vs. Nurture Debate In Mental Health

First things first, here’s a fact about nature or versus nurture debate: Twin studies and research show that human traits, personality, and diseases are accounted to be influenced by nature for 49%. While 51% is accounted for nurture upbringing. 


One of the debates on nature or nurture is personality. How do children develop their personalities? How did you develop your personality? Does genetics solely influence personality, or is it a learned trait through environmental factors? Children act the way their parents do because of the influence. Personality is learned through what a child witnesses in their parent’s actions. That’s why parents are deemed as role models. Personality is learned, not genetically passed; thus, it is nurtured. 

Sexual Orientation

Another most debated topic in nature or nurture issue is homosexuality. A poll was conducted in Washington DC on homosexuals on the reason why they have chosen their sexual orientation if it is nature or nurture. The poll has gathered these data:

  • 50% of homosexual adults say that nature has to do with their sexual orientation. 
  • 30% of homosexual adults attest that their sexual orientation is attributed to their upbringing and environmental influences.
  • 10% says both nature and nurture influence this. 
  • 6% say they are unsure.
  • 4% say homosexuality is caused by something else.

So which is which? Some studies show that homosexuality is largely attributed to nature. With the poll results shown above, the debate still continues. 

Mental Disorders

For mental health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, nature plays a big role in the development. However, genetics is not solely responsible for this. Mental disorders are a result of both genetic and environment-related elements. 

There is no genetic switch that can flip the development of a mental disorder, but there is an influence. However, childhood experiences or traumatic events can flip on a switch for mental disorders. Like anxiety, a person can experience anxiety, even without a family member has one. 

How Nature (Genes) Affects The Mental Wellness

The big question is: how does genetics affect mental health? Nature is an important factor in the development of mental conditions. Scientists have proven that psychiatric disorders run in families and suggest potential roots. That is why doctors ask patients of a family history of mental health conditions to help in the diagnosis. Proven studies show the association of biological factors that affect the development of mental health disorders:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), major depressive disorder are 20-45% inherited.
  • Anorexia nervosa and alcohol dependence are 50-60% inherited.
  • Autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are 75% inherited. 

As you can see, all mental conditions are not 100%. It’s safe to say that mental health is influenced by both natures vs. nurture. 

How Nurture (Upbringing) Affects The Mental Health

Nurture: upbringing, environment-related influences, experiences, and relationships play a big part too in a person’s mental health. For instance, why does a person drink so much? Probably to cover up painful experiences which lead to substance abuse. How can a person develop depressive disorders? It can be an accumulation of many problems and a lack of coping skills. Why does a person develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Probably because of a traumatic experience like a car accident or witnessing a crime. 

The family history of mental health disorders is only the second strongest link to its development. The strongest like will always remain as life events and experiences. These include domestic violence, abuse, childhood bullying, traumatic events, and many more. 

Nature And Nurture: Is There A Correlation?

Nature vs. nurture are inseparable; they always go together. In mental health, nature affects nurture, while nurture cannot affect nature. What’s born in us through genetics cannot be changed. Our DNA and genetics, all of it could not be changed, and it is a given fact. Nurture, however, are factors that can be changed. 

Even if you had a family member with depression, this does not mean you can develop depression too. This will all depend on your life experiences or how you cope with them. You can’t change your DNA; however, you can take control of the circumstances. For instance, hereditary genes that cause mental disorders will not be activated without triggering environment-related factors. 

Is Mental Illness Nature Versus Nurture?

As mentioned earlier, mental illness can be triggered majorly by environment-related (nurture) and the second major factor, genetic (nature). In simple terms: nature vs. nurture plays both roles in the development of mental disorders. The causes of mental disorders are complicated, and the explanation behind the risk factors is complex. Researchers suggest that there is an interaction between genetics and environment-related, not only with a person’s mental health. 

Nurture: Risk Factors Of Mental Health Problems

There are many reasons why a person may experience mental health issues, and nurture is a significant contributor. Anyone bombarded with life difficulties can experience a breaking point. Who wouldn’t? The nurture part of environmental factors that may lead to mental health problems are:

  • Trauma: Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during childhood that may lead to an increased chance of developing a mental illness. 
  • Stressful home environments: Such as parents fighting all the time, divorced parents, or unhealthy home relationships. 
  • Emotional disturbance: Bullying experiences when during youth, peer pressure, having no friends, or emotional support growing up can be detrimental to a person’s mental well-being. 
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol or substance abuse during the teenage or adult years can lead to mental health issues. 
  • Traumatic life experiences: Death of a loved one, financial constraints, unemployment issues, accidents, or war. 

Nature: Risk Factors Of Mental Health Problems

The genetic factors or nature part that can contribute to mental illness are: 

  • Epigenetic regulation: Epigenetics regulation can affect how a person can react to environment-related factors that may or may not influence the development of a mental disorder. Epigenetics may be ON or OFF; with the combination of environment-related influences and epigenetic regulation, mental disorders may develop. 
  • Genetic polymorphisms: The changes in the DNA in an individual make us all unique; that’s what makes up our individual differences. Genetic polymorphism alone cannot lead to the development of a mental disorder. The combination of genetic polymorphism and environmental influences can lead to the development of a mental disorder. 

Nature Vs. Nurture In Therapy

In therapy, there may be two approaches used by therapists, nature-based or nurture-based. For instance, the nature-based approach is to seek answers to address mental problems on a genetic or biological level. At the same time, the nurture-based approach will address a person’s beliefs, behaviors, and experiences. In most cases, therapy combines both nature and nurture-based approaches. 

Medications to treat mental health issues are considered a nature-based approach. Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications are meant to deal with chemical imbalances that cause a mental illness. The chemicals inside the brain are nature, it’s inside the body, and it has been implanted there. 

For the nurture part, Talk Therapy is used to address a person’s emotions related to one’s upbringing and experiences. While during a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), both nature and nurture approach is used, together with many considerable factors. 

Are You Having Questions?

If you have any more questions and you are concerned if your mental wellness problem is nature or nurture-based, you can talk to a therapist about this. There is no one better who can give you a professional insight than a licensed mental health practitioner. If you’re from Kentucky or Ohio and want someone to talk to, the therapists and counselors of Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can help you talk through it.

Included in the services of Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) are:

  • Anxiety Counseling
  • Depression Counseling
  • Adult Counseling 
  • Family Counseling 
  • Teen Counseling 
  • Individual counseling 
  • Adolescent counseling 
  • LGBTQ counseling 
  • Couples counseling 
  • Group counseling 

KCC offers Online Telehealth Counseling Services via online appointments. Now you can easily access counseling or therapy online using your mobile phone, desktop, or tablet. Each member of KCC are highly trained, professional, certified and experienced, in providing optimal mental health care for Kentucky and Ohio residents. Whether you’re having questions about your mental health, experiencing depression or anxiety, get in contact with Kentucky Counseling Center now. You can schedule an appointment now with KCC DIrect Services

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.