Will My Children Inherit My Mental Illness?

Photo by Lisa Brewster - http://flic.kr/p/5cMg94 - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

I have a mental illness (schizoaffective disorder), and I’m a single 26-year-old male. I’m thinking about getting married to someone on the same level because other girls won’t accept me for who I am. But if I do, what if she wants to have kids with me? What should I do? What if the kids have a mental illness too?

What should I do, then? I don’t want to whip them, and I don’t know how to discipline them. How would my family respond to that? What happens if I pass away or something happens to me?

I don’t want to my kids to go through the same thing I’ve been through when I die, being stigmatized by their illness, emotionally and physically abused forever. Plus, I’m about to win the Publishers Clearing House $5,000/week for life and $10 million soon, and I have a sister in New Jersey who also has a mental illness but is a writer (wrote 28 books). So if I win, should I move back? Because that’s where I’m from, but my cousins don’t want have anything to do with me because of my behavior in the past, and they are afraid of me. (I wrote an angry letter to them about my drug-addicted father in 2002, and he died in 2003.)

I’ve been living in Georgia now for eight years and hate it. Should I move somewhere else, like New York City or Miami? I’m afraid I might not be safe in Miami because of wild animals, bugs, and hurricanes. Please help me with these questions. The second question about moving might not have anything do with mental illness, but I need help, bad!

Psychologist’s Reply

You seem to be in the midst of many big questions about yourself, your family, and what choices you would like to make in your life. I can provide a perspective here, which may or may not be helpful, as it is a one-time shot at understanding where you are with these things. I would say, though, that if you were to seek ongoing meetings with a therapist, you could explore these issues in all their depth and complexity. You may find that you have different ideas and opinions about these decisions every week! A therapist could help you consider all these important choices in light of your history, your relationships, and your goals and plans.

A relationship with a therapist could also help you sort through which thoughts and choices are productive and viable for you, and which thoughts and choices may be related to symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. As you know, people who live with schizoaffective disorder can experience mood problems, distorted thinking, and even psychosis, which is a loss of contact with reality. One of the symptoms is delusions, or false beliefs. You stated that you were going to win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes with such certainty that I wondered whether this thought may be a false belief. A therapist would have more context than I do and could help you evaluate this accurately. For example, you and your therapist could consider the likelihood of winning and given that likelihood, whether or not you would choose to move.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched
(Please read our important explanation below.)

Finally, although moving sounds like a more immediate concern than marriage and children, I would like to address your question about whether your future children would suffer as you have. Heritability, or the likelihood that a disease or disorder will be passed on from parent to child, varies from disorder to disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the cause of schizoaffective disorder is unknown, but may be related to changes in neurotransmitters or genes. So, it is impossible to know for sure whether or not your children will have schizoaffective disorder, or any mental disorder. Although this is not within your control, some of the other aspects of how to raise children certainly are. You shared that you have many questions about how to parent effectively and set your children up for a life free of abuse. Many people have the same concerns as they consider whether to have children and the parenting choices they will make. The good news is that there is a wealth of information available to you regarding parenting and discipline. There are books, Internet resources, and professionals who can guide you with regard to how to create a happy home for your family. When you are ready to take these steps, I imagine you will be able to find help and figure out how to be the best parent you can be within the parameters of what you can control.

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2022.