What Causes A Mental Disorder To Develop?

October 12, 2023

Mental disorders are conditions that affect the mind and, subsequently, your thoughts, feelings, mood, and behavior. These can take effect in a variety of manners, and they may be persistent throughout your entire life or occasional. Having a mental disorder is not uncommon, and it is becoming increasingly easier to treat psychiatric disorders so they do not affect your day-to-day activities. That said, mental disorders should be taken as seriously as physical disorders. As such, it is necessary to seek out professional medical help if you suspect you or someone you care about has a mental disorder. Several components of an individual can factor into whether or not they develop a mental disorder.

Inherited Genetics

Inherited genetics play a critical part of your development as a person in general. Many physical features, as well as certain health conditions, can be inherited from parents or grandparents. Cancer, for instance, is something commonly passed down through genetics, and individuals often opt for cancer screenings whenever possible to ensure they have not inherited their family's likelihood for cancer. Much like in the instance of cancer, particular mental disorders can be passed down through genes. While genetics are not a singular component, that is, they are frequently not the only reason a mental disorder develops, in determining a person's mental health, they do have a significant role.

Brain Chemistry

It can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around the fact mental disorders can be a result of the brain's chemistry. It is because of this that so many individuals misunderstand the use of medicine to treat mental disorders. However, mental disorders, like any physical disorder, can be helped by medicine. In the same way you may want to have medical treatment to treat the flu or to ease a headache, you can also use medicine to change your brain chemistry and overcome mental illness. An imbalance of the brain's chemistry can lead to many different kinds of mental disorders, including depression. While chemistry, like genetics, is typically not the sole source of mental disorder in a patient, it can be one of the largest contributors.

Environmental Factors

The environment we grow up in has a huge impact on every aspect of our lives. It can help to foster our personalities as well as determine our likes and dislikes. In this same fashion, environmental factors can also cause mental disorders. Sometimes this can be in an obvious manner, such as when someone grows up in a home filled with abuse,or it can manifest in a much subtler manner, such as a person who has just moved or started a new job. Many individuals do not realize just how profoundly their environment affects their mental development until they are diagnosed with a mental disorder and seek out the help of a mental health professional.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions can contribute to mental disorders. When someone struggles with a chronic condition, it can impact their mental health and create additional problems. Complications such as depression or anxiety are more common than many individuals are ready to admit. Even something like diabetes can lead to mental disorder. There are even certain infections, such as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, that can lead to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as other mental illnesses. In rare cases, individuals can develop mental disorders as a result of brain injury or brain damage. However, those are not the only sources. In fact, there is an array of substance abuse issues and complications that can lead to mental disorders over continued use.

Traumatic Life Events

A life event can have more of a lasting impact than most individuals realize. In fact, death and divorce are among the top most stressful events an individual can undergo, and it contributes to a cumulative stress level that can cause anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Individuals who are subject to incredibly traumatic life events such as war can develop a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, and new mothers can be victim to postpartum depression. Regardless of the change you may be experiencing, stress, and mental disorders as a result, can follow, and it is important to understand and acknowledge when a life event may be impacting your mental health.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury can sometimes lead to the development of mental health disorders. When an individual has suffered a traumatic brain injury, they might experience numerous symptoms related to their emotional health, cognition, and physical health. One study conducted by Danish scientists in 2013 found individuals with traumatic brain injuries had a four times higher likelihood of developing mental illnesses than those without. This included concussions, the mildest traumatic brain injury.

The study also showed individuals with a traumatic brain injury had a sixty-five percent increase in their chance of developing schizophrenia, a fifty-nine percent increase in their chance of developing depression, and a twenty-eight percent increase in their chance of developing bipolar disorder. The study was done by analyzing the records and responses of 1.4 million Danish individuals, making it one of the largest research projects of its kind in history. Another study indicated after suffering a traumatic brain injury, more than fifty percent of individuals developed depression.

Past Mental Illness

Past mental illness can have an impact on an individual's chances of developing mental illness in the future. A few different factors are at play here. One is that patients may be more predisposed toward certain chemical imbalances that lead to mental health symptoms. Certain mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, tend to be caused by ongoing chemical imbalances. They require lifelong treatment, typically with a combination of medication and therapy. If patients stop taking the medication, they might experience a recurrence in their symptoms that feels like a new mental illness.

Another factor is mental illness causes distorted patterns of thinking and cognition. If individuals have had trouble regulating their thoughts and emotions in the past, they might continue to experience those problems in the future. One of the most helpful things for individuals with emotional regulation issues is cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to help patients identify unhealthy patterns and break them. It's also possible individuals might experience mental health symptoms of a past disorder even after months or years in recovery.

Lack Of Healthy Relationships

A lack of healthy relationships can have a serious effect on the human psyche. As with other social and environmental factors, there are several layers to this. When dealing with normal stress, it's vital for individuals to have those in their life who can support them. A lack of a support system can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, and anger. Individuals need to be able to lean on others. For those who are already predisposed toward mental illness, lacking a support system can make symptoms much worse.

If individuals don't have healthy relationships in their life, one thing they can do is look for support groups or community events that will let them meet new people. Another factor influencing the development of mental illness is the negative effects toxic and abusive relationships can have. Living in an abusive or toxic environment can have serious, ongoing effects on an individual's self-esteem and perception of the world. It also leads to heightened stress, which in turn can cause mental illness.

Prenatal Brain Damage

There have been hundreds of studies on the different ways prenatal factors can influence a baby's development. Exposure to certain substances and circumstances can increase a child's chances of physical birth defects, disabilities, cognitive development issues, other neurological development problems, or multiple different types of illness. Prenatal brain damage has also been linked to the development of mental illness. There have been studies showing increased levels of inflammation and infections during pregnancy can increase a child's risk of neurological impairment. More definitive research is necessary regarding how these factors influence the development of different mental illnesses.

Over thirty years ago, the first study was published indicating children born to women who had the flu during pregnancy would have a higher chance of developing schizophrenia. Studies conducted since then have indicated prenatal inflammation and a variety of different infections increase a child's chances of developing depression or having autism spectrum disorder. Researchers believe this is because of subtle brain damage to the fetus, but it's difficult to quantify or measure the levels of damage.

Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition can increase an individual's chances of developing a mental illness. In some cases, this may be due to the stress of poverty and going hungry. However, some individuals might be malnourished and experience mental health symptoms even while having adequate access to food. A variety of vitamin imbalances can cause depression, fatigue, pain, anxiety, and even psychosis. On top of this, food is necessary for energy. If individuals don't eat enough, they'll be tired and unproductive. Hunger has been well documented as a factor in an individual's stress levels.

Research has indicated children, in particular, have a higher chance of developing mental illness if they don't have adequate access to food. Children who often go to bed or school hungry also have a higher rate of health complaints like sleeplessness, depression, irritability, anxiety, headaches, and stomachaches. Both the physical and emotional health of hungry children can be impacted by a lack of food.

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