What Causes Mental Illness? 2 Big Contributors

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There are internal and external factors that contribute to the cause of mental illness. See a list of them on HealthyPlace.

What Causes Mental Illness? 2 Big Contributors

What causes mental illness? It’s an important question and one researchers are working to answer. While much of mental illness and its causes remain a mystery, scientists are learning enough to develop plausible theories about factors that might underlie mental illness.

One way to understand elements that can contribute to the development of mental illness is to arrange those elements into two groups: factors from within, and factors from the outside.

Things on the Inside That Might Cause or Contribute to Mental Illness:

While mental illness isn’t a character trait or flaw, there are certain biological factors that can lead to the development of mental illness. These include:

  • Abnormalities in the nerve cell pathways between regions of the brain
  • Imbalances in brain chemistry (neurotransmitters)
  • Genetics
  • Infections
  • Poor nutrition

Other causes lie outside of us, significant stressors that can lead to mental illness, especially in people with some of the internal contributors. Some possible environmental influencers include:

  • Brain injury
  • Trauma or abuse
  • Significant loss, such as a child losing a parent
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Prenatal or delivery problems that impact the developing brain

If you’re wondering why you or a loved one lives with mental illness, understanding factors in both your internal and external worlds can help you use your knowledge in treatment.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Mental illness: Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2019

WebMD Medical Reference. (2018). Causes of mental illness. Retrieved January 2019 from

Weir, Kristen. (2012). The roots of mental illness. American Psychological Association, 43(6), 30.
Retrieved January 2019 from

Related Articles Dealing with the Causes of Mental Illness

Your Thoughts

Today's Question: Do you think it’s important to know the cause of your (or a loved one’s) mental illness? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

From the HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

On all our blogs, your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.


From HealthyPlace YouTube Channel

I'm Hannah. I Have Bipolar 2

Bipolar and Sex: Hypersexuality & Sexual Promiscuity

Bipolar and sex is a fascinating topic to be sure. Today, I want to focus on hypersexuality and sexual promiscuity. (Watch Hannah and subscribe to the HealthyPlace YouTube channel for more great mental health videos.)


Most Popular HealthyPlace Articles Shared by Facebook Fans

Here are the top 3 mental health articles HealthyPlace Facebook fans are recommending you read:

  1. Control Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks Using This Checklist
  2. Comparing Ourselves to Others Usually Worsens Depression
  3. What is it Like Waking Up with Bipolar Disorder?

If you're not already, I hope you'll join us/like us on Facebook too. There are a lot of wonderful, supportive people there.


Mental Health Quote

"Behind my smile is a breaking heart, behind my laugh I'm falling apart, behind my eyes are tears at night, behind my body is a soul trying to fight."

Read more mental health quotes.


That's it for now. If you know of anyone who can benefit from this newsletter or the site, I hope you'll pass this onto them. You can also share the newsletter on any social network (like facebook, stumbleupon, or google+) you belong to by clicking the links below. For updates throughout the week, circle HealthyPlace on Google+, follow HealthyPlace on Twitter or become a fan of HealthyPlace on Facebook. Also, check out HealthyPlace on Pinterest and share your mental health pins on our Share Your Mental Health Experiences board.

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, January 28). What Causes Mental Illness? 2 Big Contributors, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Last Updated: January 29, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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