Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Illness

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Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Illness


According to statistics, 20.6% of adults in the United States have suffered a mental health illness accounting for 51.5 million people and 1 in every five adults. In 2017, 16.5% of youths between 6 and 17 years had a mental health disorder. Mental illness or disorders refers to various mental health issues that affect a person’s mood, behavior, and thinking. Mental health issues range from anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and addictive behaviors. While many people tend to encounter mental health issues occasionally, they tend to be of concern when ongoing symptoms lead to frequent stress and interfere with one’s ability to function. This essay discusses the signs and symptoms, causes, and diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of mental illnesses tend to vary depending on the disorder and circumstance. The symptoms associated with mental illnesses affect thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Some of the symptoms associated with depression include feeling down or sad, having suicidal thoughts, and reduced concentration. People with mental health disorders display excessive hostility, anger, and extreme feelings of guilt (Mannarini & Rossi, 2019). Further, they have high sex drive changes and show extreme shifts in moods. Additionally, they show significant extremes in their eating habits and withdraw from the company of friends and keep to themselves. Moreover, they have struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. They show low energy, significant tiredness or problems sleeping. People with mental health issues struggle relating to and understanding other people’s situations. Other common symptom of mental illness is delusions, paranoia, and detachment from reality. Also, people with mental health issues are incapable of coping with stress and daily problems.


Mental health issues are caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Inherited traits are one of the known causes of mental illness. Mental illness is common among blood relatives that have mental illness. Some genes exacerbate people’s risk of developing mental health issues. At the same time, a person’s life situation has the ability to trigger an illness. Another cause of mental illness is brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters tend to be brain occurring chemicals that transmit signals to the brain and other parts of the brain. When the networks that carry these signals gets impaired, the function of nerve systems and nerve receptors change triggering emotional disorders such as depression. Another common cause of mental illness is environmental exposures that take place before birth. Sometimes when a fetus is exposed to inflammatory conditions, environmental sensors, toxins, drugs and alcohol while still in the womb, it becomes a probable cause for mental illness in the future (Chiles, Stefanovics, & Rosenheck, 2017). Worth noting, there are various risk factors that increase the probability of developing a mental illness, such as a previous mental illness, a proven history of a blood relative that suffers mental illness, and traumatic encounters. Other risk factors include having few friends and healthy relationships, financial problems, a stressful life, and a history of abuse or neglect in childhood. Ongoing illnesses like diabetes, brain damage, and recreational drugs and alcohol use are also possible risk factors for mental illnesses. While mental illness can affect a person at any age in their life, majority of the cases start during early life.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When it comes to diagnosing mental illness there are three main types of diagnosis. A doctor may perform a physical exam on the patient where they rule out physical issues that cause their symptoms. Laboratory tests can also be carried out. An example would be screening for drugs and alcohol and checking the thyroid function. The third diagnosis is a carrying out the physical evaluation. Here, the patient talks with a mental health professional or doctor concerning their feelings, thoughts, symptoms, and behavior patterns. The patient may be requested to fill a questionnaire that will help get answers to all the doctor’s questions. Worth noting, while determining the exact mental illness that one may be having, taking the effort and time to do so is important as it helps decide an appropriate treatment for the illness. Treatment of mental health illness always depends on the specific illness that a patient is suffering from, its severity and what works best for them. The patient is only suffering from mild mental illness, and the symptoms are well controlled, then primary care treatment should be sufficient. However, team approach is always important as it ensures the patients social, medical, and psychiatric needs are met. This is true for mental health illnesses that tend to be very severe, like schizophrenia. Some people who make part of the treatment team include a family doctor, physician, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, social worker, psychotherapist, or family members. Although they do not cure the illness, medications have proved to significantly reduce the symptoms of mental illness (Salifu Yendork, Brew, Sarfo, & Kpobi, 2018). Common medications include antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications. Additionally, psychotherapy, residential treatment programs, and substance use treatments have also proved helpful in treating mental illness.


In closing, mental illnesses are diseases that affect a person’s mood and behavior. Mental illness can affect a person at any point in their life, but they primarily affect a person in an early ages. Some of the common cause of mental illness includes brain chemistry, inherited traits, and environmental exposures that occur before birth. Common symptoms of mental health problems include chronic anxiety, impulsive actions, changes in mood, erratic thinking, and an exaggerated sense of self-worth. If a person experiences any signs and symptoms of mental illness, they should talk to a doctor or primary care practitioner as soon as possible.


Chiles, C., Stefanovics, E., & Rosenheck, R. (2017). Attitudes of students at a US medical school toward mental illness and its causes. Academic Psychiatry, 41(3), 320-325.

Mannarini, S., & Rossi, A. (2019). Assessing mental illness stigma: a complex issue. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 2722.

Salifu Yendork, J., Brew, G. B., Sarfo, E. A., & Kpobi, L. (2018). Mental illness has multiple causes: beliefs on causes of mental illness by congregants of selected neo-prophetic churches in Ghana. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 21(7), 647-666.

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