Biological Causes of Mental Illness

Exact Cause Unknown

When a family member or friend becomes mentally ill, it's only natural to wonder why. A satisfactory answer is hard to find, since the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known. Still, research is turning up new discoveries in this field all the time and it's becoming clear that mental illnesses are caused by a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors. In this article, we look at the biological causes of mental illness.

Chemical Imbalance

Certain mental illnesses are linked to an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters serve as a communications system between nerve cells in the brain. If these chemicals are out of whack, or working in a substandard manner, there will be an interruption in the brain as it attempts to process incoming messages. The result is a display of the symptoms of mental illness. There are also certain defects or brain injuries that have been linked to some mental illnesses.

Other biological factors which may contribute to the development of mental illness include:

*Infections—A link has been found between certain infections to brain damage and the subsequent development of mental illness or the worsening of symptoms in mental illness. One such condition is pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, or PANDA. PANDA is linked to the streptococcus bacteria and has been found to cause obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as well as other mental ailments in children.

*Brain injuries or defects—Injury to or defects in specific areas of the brain have been found to cause certain mental conditions.

*Early damage—Trauma or a loss of oxygen to the brain at the time of birth or the disruption of early fetal brain development can lead to certain conditions such as autism.

*Poor nutrition or exposure to toxins sometimes plays a role in the development of a mental illness. Lead poisoning is one condition that can lead to mental illness and B12 deficiency is another.

*Heredity—Long considered controversial, it has now been seen that many mental illnesses do run in families. That means that if you have a family member with a mental illness, you have a greater risk of developing a mental condition. It is believed that the susceptibility to contract mental illness is passed on through the genes. Experts hypothesize that many mental illnesses can be linked to multiple genetic abnormalities. Though one may have inherited a susceptibility to mental illness, without the necessary interplay of multiple genetic defects along with other contributory factors that trigger mental illness, such as stress, trauma, or abuse, a person may well remain protected from ill mental health.

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