Causes of mental disorders

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The causes of mental disorders are complex, and interact and vary according to the particular disorder and individual. Genetics, early development, drugs, a loss of a family member, disease or injury, neurocognitive and psychological mechanisms, and life experiences, society and culture, can all contribute to the development or progression of different mental disorders.


General theories

There are a number of theories or models seeking to explain the causes (etiology) of mental disorders. They may be based on different foundations, including their basic classification of mental disorders.

The most common view is that disorders tend to result from genetic vulnerabilities and environmental stressors combining to cause patterns of dysfunction or trigger disorders (Diathesis-stress model). A practical mixture of models may often be used to explain particular issues and disorders[1], although there may be difficulty defining boundaries for indistinct psychiatric syndromes.[2]

The primary model of contemporary mainstream Western psychiatry is the biopsychosocial model (BPS), which merges together biological, psychological and social factors.[1] It may be commonly neglected or misapplied in practice due to being too broad or relativistic, however, and biopsychiatry has tended to follow a biomedical model focused on organic or "hardware" pathology of the brain.[1]

Psychoanalytic theories, focused on unresolved internal and relational conflicts, have been posited as overall explanations of mental disorder, although today most psychoanalytic groups are said to adhere to the biopsychosocial model and to accept an eclectic mix of subtypes of psychoanalysis.[1]

Evolutionary psychology (or more specifically evolutionary psychopathology or psychiatry) has also been proposed as an overall theory, positing that many mental disorders involve the dysfunctional operation of mental modules adapted to ancestral physical or social environments but not necessarily to modern ones.[3][4][5] Attachment theory is another kind of evolutionary-psychological approach sometimes applied in the context for mental disorders, which focuses on the role of early caregiver-child relationships, responses to danger, and the search for a satisfying reproductive relationship in adulthood.[6]

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