We’re aware of several different forms of mental illnesses, right from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to compulsive disorders. How often we come across murders carried out by mentally unstable people! In fact, there are scores of famous people with bipolar disorders. Mental illnesses are especially common in the United States. Approximately 26.2 % Americans above 18 years of age are believed to suffer from mental disorders every year, thereby conducing to one of the leading causes of disabilities in the US and Canada. But what causes mental illness? Can we put a finger of the causative factors?
Mental illness is a condition affecting the brain, that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and relates to others around him or her. The symptoms of mental illness may range from mild depressive symptoms to severe behavioral problems. A person with a mental illness finds it difficult to live a normal life. The cause of mental illness cannot be pinned on any particular factor, but is the result of a combination of factors: Genetic factors, physical, social and environmental factors and psychological factors.
Depression and mental illnesses are often passed on from one generation to another through the genes. This means, a person with a family history of mental illness is more vulnerable to develop a mental illness. It is believed that mental illness is associated to various abnormalities in not just one, but several genes. This is the reason why the person inherits the vulnerability to develop this illness, but does not inherit the illness itself. When such people go through horrendous situations like abuse and other situations conducing to extreme stress, the balance of their mind tips and they get engulfed by mental illnesses.
People who have landed up injuring their head several times in accidents, are seen to damage certain areas of their brain and central nervous system, that lead to mental illnesses. Trauma occurring at the time of birth can also cause damage to the brain. Moreover, disruption of early fetal brain development can also lead to conditions like autism, etc. Some biological factors such as chemical imbalance in the brain, are also associated to mental illnesses. The chemicals called neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain to transfer impulses, thereby facilitating communication. However, when this balance tips, messages are not transferred correctly, leading to mental illness. Diseases affecting the brain such as Huntington’s chorea, multiple sclerosis and infections like Tuberculous meningitis, Encephalitis lethargica, etc. also result in mental illnesses.
People who have gone through harrowing experiences in their lives like emotional, physical, sexual abuse, domestic violence or bullying are often unable to cope with their traumatic past. Sometimes, the death of a loved one, betrayal or neglect during childhood years, also mars the person’s emotional state of mind. This influences the person’s psychological state and conduces to mental illness.
Social and Environmental Factors
Poverty, living in a difficult and unsafe environment like in war zones, residing in earthquake prone and other natural disaster-prone areas, living in neighborhoods plagued by gangsters, etc. can lead to mental illnesses. These people develop a constant fear that conduces to mental illness. Moreover, unhealthy environment factors at home, such as growing up in a dysfunctional family, with narcissistic parents or neglecting parents can cause the balance of the child’s brain to tip. The person’s appearance regarding height and weight also causes depression in certain people.
Mental illnesses should be not confused with mental retardation. People with mental illnesses do not exhibit limitations in mental, cognitive and social functions. Thus, causes of mental retardation and causes of mental illnesses are obviously different. The above mentioned causes cannot be viewed in isolation. It’s when two or three different factors come together, such as past abuse and present horrendous situation come together, that it often causes the mental balance of the person to topple.
It is important to not look upon people with mental illnesses with disdain and ostracize them. What they need is unconditional love. Espouse them and help them out of their pits of depression.