Healthy Living

Here's Proof Mental Illness Is Not Someone's Fault

Let's set the record straight, shall we?
03/21/2016 05:01am ET

You wouldn't tell someone with cancer to just "get over" their illness, so why aren't people with mental health disorders afforded the same courtesy?

A common plague of mental health stigma is the idea that the disorders are a fallacy that's "all in a person's head." In reality, mental illness is far from a person's control, and only 25 percent of people with a mental illness feel like others are understanding or compassionate about their condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, emerging research is starting to shatter the longtime misconception that mental illness is the sufferer's own fault. Below are several scientific studies that suggest mental illnesses are a biological, physical condition.

Lasse Kristensen via Getty Images

Depression may be caused by inflammation.

Some research suggests that depression and brain inflammation may be linked. The connection may lie in the production of cytokines, the proteins that result from inflammation to protect the body from overexertion, Discover magazine reported. In essence, a little inflammation (and the resulting cytokines) is fine and happens naturally in the body, but an overproduction of cykotine may lead to health issues, one of which may be depression.

Moreover, experts are starting to see this as a reasonable theory. A separate study found that brain inflammation may also be correlated with clinical depression.

It may also occur at a molecular level.

In a meta-analysis of nearly 30 studies, researchers from the University of Granada looked at how depression can happen biologically. The data found that depression may be linked with oxidative stress, a cellular process in the body that occurs when there aren't enough antioxidants to clear out dangerous free radicals that can lead to illness.

This suggests that depression could be a systemic, total-body illness, according to the study's authors. It may also explain why people with depression are also more susceptible to health issues like heart conditions.

Mental illness could be hereditary.

Studies suggest mental health conditions like schizophrenia and anxiety could be inherited. The key lies in genetic relationships. The likelihood of having the disorder may increase if a first or second-degree relative (like a parent or an aunt) also had the condition.

People with anxiety may perceive the world differently.

A recent study found that people with anxiety may view the world in a fundamentally different way thanks to a variance in their brains. It all comes down to the brain's plasticity, or its ability to change and reorganize itself by forming new connections.

Individuals with anxiety experienced lasting plasticity long after an emotional event ended, meaning the brain was unable to distinguish new, irrelevant situations from something that's familiar or non-threatening. Their brains essentially "overgeneralized" a situation, which then led them to feel anxious. Most importantly, this reaction was not something that an anxious individual controlled, because it stemmed from a fundamental brain difference.

Schizophrenia may be caused by genetic mutations.

The mental health condition may develop before a person is even born. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows that rare genetic mutations -- changes that may happen during initial human development -- appear more often in people with schizophrenia. The genes affected when this occurs may play a large factor in fetal brain development, according to the findings. This suggests that schizophrenia is "a disorder that may originate during the early stages of brain development," according to the study's authors.

Phobias may occur because of an incontrollable brain response.

People with paralyzing phobias, like a fear of flying or even a fear of social interactions, may have them due to an overactive amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for emotional responses. Individuals with an overactive amygdala also experience a heightened fear response, which can lead to increased anxiety in particular situations, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Social anxiety may be a result of high serotonin levels.

A 2015 study found that individuals with social anxiety disorder may overproduce serotonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain that helps send messages from one area of the brain to another. Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden observed brain scans of people with social phobia and found that the more the amygdala produced the chemical, the more anxious those individuals felt in social situations.

No one asks to have a mental illness.

When it comes down to it, mental health conditions are not something most people willingly bring upon themselves. Do you think anyone wants to experience a mental illness? Answer: No.

If you're experiencing a mental health issue, there are very real ways to manage your condition through treatment. Talk to your physician about the best method that will work for you. You may not be able to "control" the fact that you have a mental illness -- but you can control how you handle it. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

11 Quotes That Perfectly Sum Up The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness