Are mental disorders just caused by something ‘in the head’ such as ‘an attitude problem?’
No. It is widely recognised that there are various influences on mental disorders which include genetic predispositions, psychological states, psychological factors and social and cultural circumstances (Myers, 2005). Having any mental illness is not caused by an attitude problem.
You have probably heard many people say or make inferences such as “pull yourself together”, or “you think you’ve got problems”, or “just snap out of it” and so on. With the good intentions of such ‘advice’ offered by others, it normally is just not as simple as that!
The most common contemporary view is that disorders tend to result from genetic dispositions and environmental stressors (Ref. Wiki). The bio-psycho-social model (BPS) is the primary model of contemporary mainstream Western psychiatry which merges biological, psychological and social factors together (Ref. Wiki).
Many mental disorders or illnesses are linked to abnormal balances of particular chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters which help nerve cells in the brain to ‘communicate’ with each one-another. So, when these chemicals are not in balance, messages may not actually make it through the brain properly which can lead to symptoms of specific mental disorders or illnesses. It is quite clear to see (particularly through means such as an electroencephalogram [or EEG]) that mental disorders have strong connections to factors such as biological elements. In fact, defects in, or injury to certain areas of the brain have also been linked to some mental conditions. As mentioned, an imbalance of neurotransmitters are often involved in the development of psychiatric conditions, but other biological factors can include genetics.
Some disorders/illnesses tend to run in families, and this suggests those affected by particular disorders often have family members with that particular disorder. Some disorders such as bipolar disorder tend to run in families far more than what other disorders or illnesses do, and genes play a part. A mental disorder such as bipolar which often has genetic influences is not caused by one gene, but several.
You have probably heard many times that people may inherit a susceptibility to developing a particular mental disorder or illness as per family genetics, but may not actually develop any disorder as to what their family heritage may have displayed through generations, and this is because many mental disorders are not caused by one gene alone, but several, and even if several predisposed genes ‘match-up’, there are often many other influences or contributing factors such as environmental factors (for example, a traumatic event) as to how a particular disorder or illness is developed. Other factors as to how a person may develop a particular mental disorder or illness are:
* Environmental factors (as mentioned above) such as traumatic events, stress and abuse.
* Infections. (Particular infections have been linked to some disorders, such as a group A beta hemolytic streptococcal infection (strep-throat) which is one possible causation of OCD. It attacks the basal ganglia (which is a ‘target area’ or a part of the brain that does not function properly with a person with OCD). The result is the development of pediatric autoimmune neurobiological disorders associated with streptococci (PANDAS), leading to some cases of OCD (Osborne, 1998, p. 184).
* Substance abuse (can be linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia).
* Brain injury or brain defects.
* Poor nutrition (a factor not to under-estimate).
* Prenatal damage (an example of prenatal damage being a factor is that in the development of Autism in some cases, the causation may be a lack of oxygen in the early stages of fetal brain development).
To summarize, mental disorders/illnesses are not a result of having a ‘bad’ attitude, or attitude problem, nor any personal ‘weakness’, but a result of factors such as genes and other biological elements, psychological traumas such as traumas suffered as a child, and environmental factors. As a result, the primary model of contemporary mainstream Western psychiatry is the bio-psycho-social model (biological, psychological, and social or environmental factors). All-in-all, mental disorders are a result of such factors, not the result of some ‘in your head attitude problem’.
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Wiki- Wikipedia http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Myers David G., 2005, Exploring Psychology, Sixth Edition, Worth Publishers, New York.
Osborne, I. (M.D.), 1998, Tormenting Thoughts And Secret Rituals, Pantheon Books, New York.
Recommended website for services and help around north Brisbane: www.mymentalhealth.org.au[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]