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The Psychology Behind Mental Illnesses

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The Psychology Behind Mental Illnesses

The psychology of mental illnesses is often not obvious; the Gaucho Gazette inspects the science behind mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

The psychology of mental illnesses is often not obvious; the Gaucho Gazette inspects the science behind mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

Photo by Grace Yarrow

The psychology of mental illnesses is often not obvious; the Gaucho Gazette inspects the science behind mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

Photo by Grace Yarrow

Photo by Grace Yarrow

The psychology of mental illnesses is often not obvious; the Gaucho Gazette inspects the science behind mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

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The psychological science behind mental illnesses is still less than common knowledge.

Mental illness is not a feeling or choice: according to some psychiatrists and even psychologists such as Syracuse graduate and psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz, there is no blood test or other biological tests to ascertain the presence or a sense of a mental illness and on human rights. Regardless, The Lancet, comprised of scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute, has found evidence of saying otherwise: five different psychological disorders (ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and autism) have multiple genomes in common. Chromosomal pairings (all related to the base of an organism) are practically the entire base of any living thing and related to the biochemical makeup (Griffin, Catherine).

Thanks to these findings, the future of mental illnesses may also hold new treatments, and allow for expansion of the research and “scientists to better understand how these disorders occur” (Griffin). Senior Lily Gmeiner shares her thoughts on whether or not mental illnesses are psychology, biology, or a myth.

“Mental illness is definitely a combination of biological and psychological issues. I’ve been learning about it in my Psychology class, and essentially there are different hormones all throughout your body and if the levels aren’t where they are supposed to be, then it can affect your mood. For example, depression gives you anxiety. There are also illnesses like schizophrenia where people hallucinate, pull away from their loved ones, and are very impulsive. This can be genetic but also stems from bipolar disorder,” said Gmeiner. “Essentially the combination of your biology and your everyday mental health (the psychological side of it) and environment affect any illness you might develop or genetically have.”

Eric Kandel, MD, a Nobel Prize laureate and professor of brain science at Columbia University, believes mental illness is entirely rooted in biology.

“All mental processes are brain processes, and therefore all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases,” said Kandel according to the article “The Roots of Mental Illness,” published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Unlike many illnesses out there, the treatment for mental illness is not a “one size fits all”; instead, symptoms of mental illness are unique for each and every person, meaning treatment must be curated equally for each person. The APA explains how some illnesses lean toward being “purely psychological in nature,” while others are found to be more “nebulous,” and rooted in the biological makeup of a person. Because of this, it is noted time and time again that “mental illnesses are likely to have multiple causes, including genetic, biological and environmental factors” — making them so versatile and individualistic. Kandel emphasizes how it will take time to translate all of the incoming research and what is yet to come into carefully created treatments, but holds hope, time after time relaying the fact that the answers are currently rooted in the brain itself: “We have a good beginning of understanding of the brain,” said Kandel, “but boy, have we got a long way to go.” “The more we understand about our brain and behavior, the better,” says the APA.

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The Psychology Behind Mental Illnesses