• Question: how do you develop a mental illness?

    Asked by anon-221247 on 28 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 28 Jun 2019:

      It can be a lot of things. Traumatic events and environmental factors combined with maybe a genetic predisposition can cause mental illnesses. Depression, bipolar and schizophrenia all have genetic links. If you have a relative with one of these illnesses it can mean you’re also more likely to get it too, but this isn’t necessarily a certainty.

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 28 Jun 2019:

      Mental illnesses are a very difficult group of conditions because they can affect anyone and it is sometimes difficult to know when someone is suffering with a mental illness. There are a number of risk factors that put someone’s risk of having a mental illness up such as having a family history of mental illness, childhood abuse, loneliness, homelessness and unemployment especially in men. Sometimes it is very unclear what the exact cause of the mental illness is, but that is where psychologists and psychiatrists come in- they aim to go through the person’s history with them and unravel some of the things for example from childhood, that might be unresolved in their minds leading to problems. Science has showed us that a lot of mental illness is linked to an imbalance of types of hormone in the brain that are associated with feeling good and feeling low, but whether this the consequence or the cause- I am not entirely sure.
      There are charities like Mind which try to spread the word and get people talking more: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/mental-health-problems-introduction/causes/#.XRYCZHt7nq0

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 28 Jun 2019:

      We think a combination of genetics, neurodevelopmental issues, and environmental exposure (including lifestyle) – but much more research is needed. There is good evidence now that, alongside many other things, poor sleep can seriously impact on mental health, so if there is one thing I would advise it’s making sure you get enough of it! One reason that sleep is so good for our wellbeing is because dreams nurture our emotional and mental health. During REM sleep dreaming, key emotion and memory-related regions of the brain are reactivated, whilst a key stress chemical (noradrenaline) is shut down within our brain. This allows us to almost ‘re-live’ and therefore learn from important life events without being crippled by the emotional baggage that came with them the first time. In this way, REM sleep dreaming acts as a kind of therapy to ‘heal’ emotional wounds. This disconnection of useful information from extreme emotion fails in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where the levels of noradrenaline apparently remain abnormally high.
      Recommend reading ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker to learn more about this