Causes of Mental Illness

When trying to discern the cause of a mental illness in a patient, medical professionals will look at a number of different factors that may be contributing to the problem. The differing factors are often intertwined and combine to cause the symptoms from which one is suffering. The factors that can affect a patient’s mental health are categorised into biological or social and environmental; all of which are important when trying to determine the causes and treatment of a mental illness.

Biological Factors

These are the physical causes that can affect a person’s mental health. They can include genetic and hereditary dispositions that could lead to an increased risk of mental health issues, physical injuries (such as head wounds), trauma suffered during pregnancy, problems with diet or vitamin deficiencies, certain infection or diseases that have symptoms which manifest as mental illnesses as well as substance abuse by the patient.

Genetic susceptibility is passed through families and can lead to many members of the same family contracting the same illness. Research is beginning to show that problems are caused by defects in different genes at the same time, as opposed to there being one gene responsible for the symptoms. Sometimes the genetic make-up of a person only makes them more vulnerable to a certain mental illness and it takes a traumatic event or injury to trigger its onset. If you know of any family history of mental illness in your family you must tell your medical professional so they can factor this information into their diagnosis.

Injuries, especially head injuries, can bring about or even cause mental health problems by themselves. If certain areas of the brain are damaged physically then the characteristic of the person they control can be changed or stopped completely. There have been famous cases in history where a person’s whole personality has changed after suffering an injury, or their ability to perform certain functions has been impaired.

Trauma during pregnancy can happen when the patient’s mother had an illness, abused substances or suffered from poor diet during pregnancy. If there was a lack of oxygen or other complications during birth then this could also lead to mental health problems in later life.

A poor diet can also contribute to mental health problems. While it is unlikely that diet alone can cause a mental illness it could trigger the onset of illness if there are other factors contributing to the problem as a whole.

Diseases and infections can have symptoms which manifest as mental illnesses. It is important to be diagnosed by a medical professional as sometimes the mental symptoms can mask the disease.

Substance abuse has been linked to increasing the risk, or causing the onset of, mental illnesses. Long-term abuse of drugs or alcohol is a common trait amongst people who suffer from mental illnesses.

Social and Environmental Factors

These are the factors caused by a person’s surroundings or events which happen to them. Stress caused by work, neighbours, financial trouble or the loss of a loved one can all contribute to mental health problems as well as trauma suffered as a child. Unlike physical factors, environmental factors are more psychologically based and are usually treated through psychotherapy and counselling. By asking your G.P. you should be able to find out about local support groups that may be able to help with finding more suitable accommodation, financial planning or a change of job or school, as well as helping you find people to talk to who are in a similar situation.