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What Causes Mental Illness?

Hi There! This blog will help you understand the primary causes of mental illness. But, before we get there, we need to know the meaning of mental illness. So, mental health disorder (or illness) refers to a wide range of issues that somehow affects your mood, thinking, and behavior.

The most common mental illness include depression, panic disordersanxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and addictive behaviors. Several people have health concerns from time to time. But sooner or later, a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs cause frequent stress and affect your ability to perform even daily life functions.

A mental illness can make your life miserable and obstruct you from performing regular life functions.

Symptoms of mental illness can vary from individual to individual, depending upon the circumstances, disorder, and other factors.

Although the exact cause of most mental health conditions is still unknown, some studies have made it clear that these illnesses are caused by a combination of psychological, biological, and other environmental factors.

What biological factors can cause mental illness?

Some mental health conditions have been associated with abnormal functioning of the nerve cell circuits that connect specific brain regions. Nerve cells within brain circuits communicate through chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
Treating the neurotransmitters through drugs, psychotherapy, or other medical procedures can aid brain circuits to run more efficiently. Also, defects or injuries in specific brain areas have been closely linked to some mental health conditions.


Mental illnesses sometimes occur due to heredity factors running in families, suggesting that an individual who has a family member with mental illness may be somehow more likely to develop one themselves.
Susceptibility is passed through families due to genes. Experts believe several mental health conditions are linked to abnormalities in genes rather than just a few. And, how the genes interact with the environment is unique for each individual (even identical twins). This is why an individual may inherit a susceptibility to a mental illness and does not necessarily develop the mental condition.
Mental illness may also occur from the interaction of multiple genes and several other factors such as stress, traumatic event, or abuse. These factors can trigger or influence an mental illness in a person who already has an inherited susceptibility to it.


Specific infections have been associated with brain damage and the development of mental health conditions or worsening of its symptoms. For example, a condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDAS) linked with the Streptococcus bacteria has been associated with the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mental illnesses in children.

Prenatal damage

Some evidence indicates that a disruption of early fetal development of the brain or trauma that occurs during birth can result in mental illness. For example, lack of oxygen supply to the brain may become a factor in developing specific conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (or ASD).

Substance abuse and other factors

For an extended period, if you are into substance abuse, it can connect you to depressionanxiety, and paranoia. Other biological factors responsible for mental illness can be poor nutrition to the body, and exposure to toxins, including lead, may play a significant role in developing such conditions.

What environmental factors can lead to mental illness?

Environmental causes are external, but they may trigger problems concerning mental health. A list of some environmental factors influencing mental illness may include:
• chronic stressors, such as inability to adjust to society, or economic hardships
• trauma, being exposed to child abuse
• low quality of life, a feeling of dissatisfaction due to any reason
• problems concerning family or relationships
• exposure to toxins, especially during specific developmental stages
• lifestyle choices such as substance use and risk-taking behavior
Extreme adversity in the environment can cause or contribute to mental illness. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops when someone experiences trauma, either directly or vicariously, and the individual must be genetically predisposed to developing PTSD.

What risk factors contribute to mental illness?

Generally, risk factors make people more prone to developing mental illness. Since they are similar to the mental illness cause, it is tough to differentiate between factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing mental illness and things that cause mental health condition development.
Specific stressors and disturbances in regular life functioning can trigger an illness in an individual who is susceptible to mental illness. These stressors may include death or divorce, changing jobs or schools, a dysfunctional family life. Substance abuse due to stress by the person or the person’s parents can also cause mental illness development.
Other risk factors may include feelings of inadequacyanxietylow self-esteemloneliness. Social or cultural expectations can also cause mental illness; for example, a society that links beauty with body size can be a risk factor in developing eating disorders.


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