Mental illness can be devastating in
someone’s life. It’s very complex, and for hundreds of years, no one truly knew
what the real cause was. However, over time, psychologists and psychiatrists
challenged the information of the time. There is much to take into consideration
when studying psychology and psychological disorders, but the research that has
been done strongly benefits everyone, especially those living and dealing with
a mental illness. Through extensive research that continues to this day, people
have discovered multiple reasons for what may cause the everlasting problem
that is psychological illness. These reasons include chemical imbalances,
environmental factors, physical illness and much more.
Chemical imbalances in the brain is
one of the most commonly suspected reasons for mental illness. Though not all
mental illnesses have sufficient enough evidence to support the hypothesis of
the root cause being a chemical imbalance, multiple do. Newly found research
shows that not all cases of depression are caused by chemical imbalances,
however chronic or severe depression may be because of low serotonin levels.
Low serotonin levels can also cause other mood disorders such as anxiety and
OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Dopamine in the brain has been linked to
cases of schizophrenia, and glutamate has been known to play a key role in many
mood disorders as well. Bipolar disorder, while caused by serotonin and
dopamine imbalances, is also caused by a noradrenaline imbalance. Abnormally
high level of cortisol have been present in individuals with eating disorders.
Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today says, “GABA is an inhibitory
molecule that slows down the firing of neurons and creates a sense of
calmness”, which tells us that people with anxiety may have an
insufficient amount of GABA, or gamma-amino butyric acid, in the brain. Researchers
conducting studies on the brains of mentally ill people have noticed a
gray-matter loss in brains of those with schizophrenia and depression. Unlike
other causes for mental illness, irregular brain chemistry can be treated quite
easily. In circumstances where a chemical imbalance may be at fault for a
disorder, medication can be prescribed to correct the neurochemistry.
Environmental factors are also a
large cause for psychological illness. Just as exposure to germs can cause
physical illness, being in a long-term negative situation can cause mental
illness; permanently or temporarily. Stress from different areas of life can
have an immense impact on a person’s development of mental illness. Financial
worries can seriously affect someone and cause depression and/or anxiety from
the stress and pressure. Relationships can also put someone under great stress.
Strained friendships, romantic relationship problems, divorce and marital
issues can all cause depression in someone. School and work can also both have
a very serious impact on someone’s mental health. Dr. Gregg Henriques, a
licensed clinical psychologist, says that pressure to achieve high grades is a
very influential factor in a student’s mental health. In a post on Psychology
Today, he stated, ”Several have argued that the academic pressure to succeed
is also greater. There has been massive grade inflation, especially at the high
school level. That, combined with overprotective parenting, seems likely to
have the result of creating in students the expectation that they will continue
to get virtually all As. Yet doing so is difficult in college and the failure
to meet expectations, and to struggle relative to peers is experienced by many
students to be enormously stressful.” A history of abuse, or a traumatic
experience can trigger the development of an anxiety disorder. Even a person’s
upbringing can cause anxiety, depending on how their parent raised them.
Overprotecting a child can lead to them not knowing how to problem-solve, and
this leads to fear and anxiety surrounding possible problems. Environmental
causes are not uncommon in people with eating disorders. In some cases, it’s
not specifically about weight or food, but about control. Difficult
circumstances can make an individual feel as if they have lost control of their
life or surroundings, so some may turn to food as an attempt to regain their
sense of control in life. DID, or MPD, while not yet very understood by
psychiatrists and psychologists, has still been researched. This illness causes
the individual to obtain two or more separate identities. Studies conducted on
people with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), also commonly known as MPD
(Multiple Personality Disorder), have shown evidence of past experiences being
the cause of the illness. Many DID patients were found to have a history of
prolonged sexual, emotional, or physical childhood abuse. This is the same for
Depersonalization Disorder, which can cause the sufferer to feel disconnected
from oneself or detached from reality. Similarly, borderline personality
disorder can be triggered by abuse, as well as a disrupted family life and
abandonment in adolescence or childhood. These environmental factors can all
contribute to the development of disorders.
Like physical illness, mental
illnesses can be hereditary in families. Some people will be predisposed to a
higher risk of developing a disorder than others. Bipolar disorder, major
depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety are some of the most common mental
illnesses that can be passed down, which puts future generations of a family at
a higher risk of developing disorders. This does not mean that simply having
one or more relatives with a mental illness will cause future generations to
have one. It means that, if exposed to influential factors, there is a higher
risk of developing one.
Though it is not widely acknowledged
or known about as a possible reason, physical illness can have a severe
emotional impact on those who are ill. Chronic illness, which can last an
extended period of time or even be permanent, can be difficult to deal with. It
can make people feel as if their life has to be put on hold, and feel out of
control of their own lives. Having to forfeit things and build their life
around a physical illness can get stressful for someone. Not only this, but
many chronically ill people can sometimes feel like a burden on family and
friends when they need to ask for assistance. All of this and more
inconveniences that can come with physical illness can be extremely stressful.
This could lead to depression. Worrying about health and one’s illness can lead
to serious anxiety.
Drug abuse is yet another reason
that someone may have a mental illness. Hallucinogenic drugs can have permanent
damage on the brain. This damage is specifically done to the chemical balance
in the brain. This drug induced imbalance can lead to the development of
psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, later on. This risk is increased if
someone has a genetic predisposition to psychotic disorders already. Research
studies have found that heavy drug use in adolescent years can cause mental
illness in adulthood as well. This may be because the drug usage has inflicted
some brain damage, but not enough to present the signs of it immediately. Other
studies have found that mentally ill individuals are more likely to abuse drugs
as an attempt to avoid and/or self-medicate their psychological problems. In
these cases, the drug use can worsen problems with an existing mental illness`.
Simply having a mental illness can
put a person at risk of having another one. Though this is not always the case,
many psychological disorders can come in pairs. Anxiety and depression are two
of the most common illnesses, and they usually go hand in hand. Someone with
depression likely has anxiety, and someone with anxiety likely has depression.
Depression tends to be the most common illness that accompanies other mental
illnesses. It also often comes alongside eating disorders, and the reason for
this is very clear. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can take over a
person’s life. The constant obsession with food, as well as the difficult recovery,
can become stressful and lead a person into depression. Other illnesses that
can trigger depression include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
influence factors can affect a person greatly when it comes to mental illness.
The effects can have a grave impact on a person and their wellbeing. Chemical
imbalances, environmental factors, genetic predisposition, physical illness,
drug abuse, and other mental illnesses can all have serious effects on someone
who may be mentally ill. However, we have come a long way, and this is
definitely not the end of our research of psychological illness.