Eli5: Why is mental illness/disorder a thing ?


Like, why do mental conditions exist?
And is there anything else besides physical and mental conditions?

In: 0

It’s malfunction or damage. It doesn’t have a purpose, it’s just a consequence of being a complex system. In fact, any system can malfunction or fail.

The exact origins of mental illness can vary. The brain is an incredibly complex system, so complex that we don’t even fully understand it yet.

Some disorders, such as autism, are developmental, meaning the brain is structured differently from the get go (which is also why autism isn’t curable, despite a certain company’s attempts to do so. Not gonna say the name, but it starts with A and ends with utismSpeaks)

Others, such as Alzheimers, occur as a result of brain damage. Specifically, Alzheimers occurs as a result of neural degeneration. Alzheimers, too, is not curable under current medical knowledge, though it might, at the very least, be possible to prevent the degeneration that it causes, and there is some research being done on the matter, though reversing the damage done is probably impossible.

Those are two of the big ones. There are also some, such as depression, that can develop over the course of your life, but can be cured. The causes for these vary depending on which one you are talking about. For instance, i’ve read that there is some debate within the scientific community about wether depression might be the result of a reaction to a nonexistant inflammation, as depression and inflammation share a surprising number of physical symptoms (Don’t quote me on that one though, i’m not an expert on any field that is remotely relevant to depression)

There are going to be lots of causes. Some may be genetic in nature. Some may relate to the environment, things like lead have lots of negative impacts on the brain. The brain is a learning machine so traumatic experiences and lead to mental health issues later in life. Some may be a perfectly functioning brain that doesn’t match up to the modern world.

Some causes are going to be more physical in nature, you brain need good, sleep, diet and exercise to work properly. So there is lots of evidence linking them to mental health.

Well, part is constructed. Part is biological differences in an immense system. Part is because of things akin to scars from really bad experiences. The DSM, a very large encyclopedia basically, lists and describes systems of all mental illnesses/exceptionalities. That said, to have mental disorder there has to be mental order. So some mental illness can be described as deviations from what a society generally agrees is the norm. We can also observe chemical differences or other biological reasons. Some brains don’t make as much dopamine as others, for example. However? This can also be caused by things like using substance for coping with trauma or childhood traumatic experiences. Or other traumatic events like war. So the answer is a complex set of reasons. Our bodies and brains are all imperfect and beautiful things that don’t all work the same and don’t work the same their entire lifespan. So the result is mental deviations and illnesses in a variety of forms.

Every organ in the body goes wrong sometimes.

We aren’t surprised when someone has heart problems or their lungs don’t work right or their liver fails or whatever else. We know the body isn’t a perfect machine and that things go wrong for no particular reason.

But for some reason when the brain doesn’t work right we’re surprised, or we assume it’s somehow that person’s fault. We shouldn’t be. The brain is by far the most complicated organ we have, so of course a lot of things can go wrong. It’s a mess of electrical signals and chemicals and of course signals can misfire or chemicals can end up unbalanced or they interact with the environment in a weird way.

We should stop thinking of mental conditions as entirely separate from physical, they’re not.