How a person’s biology can affect their mental health

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Humans as biologically different individuals

Despite having common physical features: two eyes, hands, legs, etc., no two persons are biologically the same. In fact, this biological difference is observed even among siblings and twins. Some studies have proven that a person’s biological makeup influences how they act and interact with their environment. Variations in personalities and intelligence among different individuals can also be attributed to their biology. It is no surprise that certain mental health disorders have a biological origin. The field of biological psychiatry has acknowledged several biological factors that are directly connected to mental disorders, as explained in this BetterHelp.com article.

Biological factors that affect a person’s mental health

A lot about mental health is still under study but certain factors have been found to largely affect the state of a person’s mental health. These factors could be environmental, physical, biological, social, etc.

Genetics

Scientific studies have proven that certain traits exhibited in family members are hereditary. Research also does suggest that mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be passed down through family members. It is also suggested that some people’s genetic makeup could make them more susceptible to mental health issues in the face of certain triggers like a traumatic incidence, stress, or sustained abuse. In other words, there are genes that could predispose a person to a mental health condition.

Substance Abuse

Constant abuse of substances like illegal drugs, pain medications, tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, etc., can over time start to affect one’s mental health. Marijuana, for instance, can lead to impaired memory, euphoria, hallucinations, and an altered state of mind. Similarly, the consumption of caffeine for an extended period has been linked to increased incidences of insomnia, anxiety, depression, and stomach problems. Alcohol has also been known as a root cause of depression. Depression, if not properly treated, can lead to severe consequences, including suicide.

Brain Damage

Brain damage leads to the destruction or deterioration of brain cells which ultimately interferes with normal brain function. Brain damage can be caused by a number of factors such as traumatic injuries, certain infections and diseases, poisoning or exposure to toxins, etc. Brain damage and injury has been linked to several mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, paranoia and sleep disorders.

Prenatal Damage

This is damage that occurs during the developmental stage of a baby. Most times, prenatal damage happens when the pregnant woman uses alcohol, drugs, or is exposed to certain toxins and infections. It can also be caused by psychological stress or trauma during pregnancy. Damage like this can affect the mental health of the unborn child. Damage can also occur at the time of birth. For instance, loss of oxygen to the brain at the time of birth can lead to fatal brain damage, which will in turn result in a mental disorder.

The field of Biological Psychiatry

Biological psychiatry is an aspect of psychiatry which maintains the theory that mental disorders emanate from the brain. Biological psychiatrists are of the belief that mental disorders have a biological origin. This group of experts frequently explore the intricate connection between brain function and human behaviour.

In relating to mental health, biological psychiatry has developed germane methods to assist mentally ill patients. Some of the ways which biological psychiatry can help mental health patients include educating people on the causes and risk factors of some mental health conditions.

Biological psychiatry also opens the door for early diagnoses and better preventive measures for mental health disorders. In addition, biological psychiatry offers various treatment options which have been proven to be efficient in managing certain mental health disorders.  

The relationship between genetics and mental health

Several studies have explored the close link between mental health and genetics. It is now known that genes actually do affect mental health. A new study titled “A structural brain network of genetic vulnerability to psychiatric illness” uncovered “surprising similarities” in the brains of people whose genes predispose them to mental health problems. A 2011 study also estimated the heritability of two mental disorders – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – at 70%.

However, it is safe to say that all is not fully known yet. More research is still being done to help us better understand all the possible ways genetics can influence a person’s mental health.

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