Mental Health

How risky behaviour affects mental health

Taking risks is closely related to the image of a person. People who are robust, energetic, and athletic are believed to engage in more risky activities. However, the whole debate revolves around taking risks, and the image of a person is quite subjective. For example, someone who bungee jumps or dives is usually careful with his health, regardless of the risks he might later take while indulging in the adventure sport. On the other hand, a person who sits on the couch and smokes weed while browsing TV channels is not participating in any activity associated with excitement, adventure, or danger.

A risk-taker’s label would ideally not apply to them. However, they could see themselves very differently. Considering that many who use drugs or regularly consume alcohol or smoke may have started the habit when they were young, although aware of the risks involved, they could be right.

A new study that examined genetic data has produced surprising findings. During the UK Biobank survey, participants were asked to rate themselves based on the question, “Would you describe yourself as someone who takes risks?”

  • The study led to the identification of two genome-wide significant loci. One was observed within CADM2 and the other was located in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region of the chromosome.
  • The study also found genetic correlations between individuals’ risk-taking and schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity, and smoking.

More about the findings

Those who identified themselves as risk-takers were mostly men and had a higher BMI. It was also observed that compared with those who rated themselves as non-risk takers, they were more likely to smoke or baptise than their peers. Women who identified themselves as risk-takers had a child at a younger age than others. The study also noted that there was a positive association between risk-taking and major depressive disorder.

Some other conclusions of the study published in Communications Biology are:

  • There are 26 variants in regions of the human genome associated with risk-taking.
  • Four brain regions are associated with risk-taking behavior, namely the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, anterior cingulate cortex, and hippocampus. Previous studies have shown that the hippocampus plays an important role in behavioural inhibition, the hypothalamus is responsible for fear, including the fear of pain, predators, etc., and the anterior cingulate cortex plays a vital role in exerting control when performing actions. a task.
  • The immune system plays a key role in the onset of mood and behavioral disorders such as depression.

Rebellious Mind or Serious Mental Problem?

Since early childhood, children have been taught to distinguish between things that are good and bad for them. As they get older, they instinctively follow what they have learned or what they have picked up from their environment and act accordingly. They are no longer guided by the identification responsible for unstructured or uncoordinated impulses. Instead, ego or superego plays a huge role in the way they act or behave. They learn to reason: instead of smoking a readily available joint or driving a car at lightning speed, they practise restraint.

In people with mental illness, however, the tendency to act impulsively persists even after they are no longer children. They find it difficult to hold back and act impulsively. Impulsivity is seen in people with a wide variety of mental disorders such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. For example, teens who have lived with major depressive disorder are more likely to engage in risky activities such as having sex with more than one partner, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.

The Return to Health

Since the implications of risky behaviour go beyond the standard refusal to adapt and a rebellious spirit, it is necessary to identify the reasons behind one’s risky activities. Screening for mental illness and substance abuse is just as important.