Most people are aware of the numerous
mental disorders identified over the years, but many don’t know as much about
them as they should. The term mental illnesses refer to a wide range of mental
health conditions such as depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders, PTSD, eating
disorders, schizophrenia, etc. In his book, What
is Mental Illness?, Richard J. McNally stated, “Nearly 50 percent of
Americans have been mentally ill at some point in their lives (1).” Mental
illnesses are more common than one would think, although they are not stressed
as much as physical illnesses are. We should be aware of how mental
illnesses occur and who are most prone to them, especially since the majority
of them develop while a person is young.
Similar to physical illnesses, it is
highly important to recognize and identify the symptoms of mental illnesses’
early onset. One article by Mayo Clinic read, “Signs and symptoms vary
depending on the disorder. These symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts, and
behaviors” (“Mental Illness”). Some of these results affect
lives in minor and resolvable ways and others in drastic and permanent ways.
These disorders often strike earlier in life than expected and symptoms can become
overlooked; this results in people receiving treatment too late or none
whatsoever (McNally). Although they tend to vary, some symptoms for the more
common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are
mood swings, excessive fear, insomnia, and loss of interest for at least two
weeks (“Mental Disorders”). Symptoms of more advanced mental
illnesses such as dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia are auditory
or visual hallucinations, a false sense of reality, and disorganized behavior
or speech (“Mental Disorders”). In order to control these disorders
before they become irrepressible, we must address a problem when we see
More than any other factor, genetics plays
a huge role in the development of the mental disorders. “Certain factors
may increase the risk of developing mental health problems such as having a
blood relative with a mental illness” (“Mental Illness”). This
goes to show that not only do we need to have a better understanding and awareness
of mental disorders but also our family history to determine just how prone we
are to these diseases. The risk of developing anxiety will increase by 30-40%
(McNally). The risk of becoming bipolar is now 65% higher than the normal
person (McNally). Autism is raised up to 90% heritability rate (McNally). And
the schizophrenia development is increased by 10 times (McNally). “80% of
the variance in risk among people is attributable to differences in genes”
(McNally). Therefore, since mental health disorders are most likely inherited,
there are really no ways to prevent them.
One’s environment and traumas play a role
in the development of mental disorders where genetics may not be a factor.
Environmental exposures before birth and the way it affects one’s brain
chemistry are a cause while another one is stressful life experiences
(“Mental Illness”). Studies have shown that schizophrenia is one
illness, in particular, that seems to oddly occur through non-traumatic
environmental factors. Charles W. Schmidt discusses this in his article,
“Environmental Connections: A Deeper Look into Mental Illness,”
“Studies that found high rates of the disease among children born in
inner-city Chicago. Those same findings have since been replicated numerous
times in several countries, such that researchers now routinely assume that
urban birth raises the baseline risk of schizophrenia by roughly 50%.”
Traumatic stress is a more common non-genetic factor that has been known to
cause lasting and sometimes permanent damages in areas of the brain.
Antidepressants and therapy are known to have the ability to counteract these
effects and help maintain stability.
Mental illnesses are just as, if not more,
important to recognize, identify, and control because it affects ones day to
day life and who they are as a person. One-fifth of American adults are
diagnosed with some sort of mental illness each year; it can begin at any age,
but most start showing signs earlier in life (“Mental Illness”).
These disorders have the tendency to affect people’s lives drastically and are
often left ignored or unnoticed. That’s why we should be more conscious of
mental disorders. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Richards J. What is Mental Illness?
Harvard University Press, 2011. EBSCOhost, db08.linccweb.org/login?
Disorders.” Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration. 27 October 2015.
samhsa.gov/disorders/mental. Accessed 23 January 2018.
Illness.” Mayo Clinic. 13
October 2015. mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968.
Accessed 23 January 2018.
Charles W. “Environmental Connections: A Deeper Look into Mental
Illness.” Environmental Health
Perspectives, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Aug. 2007,