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Mental Illness

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Mental Illness is a term used for a group of disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating. They result in substantially diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. (Mental Illness Defined) There are some different perspectives on the causes of mental illness. The perspectives include the biological, psychodynamic, humanistic and existential, behavioral, cognitive, and sociocultural. Advances in brain imaging techniques have helped scientists study the role of brain structure in mental illness. Some studies have shown brain abnormalities in certain mental illnesses. Some people with schizophrenia have enlarged brain ventricles. In addition, a variety of medical conditions may cause mental illness. Brain damage and strokes can cause loss of memory, impaired concentration and speech, and unusual changes in behavior. Brain tumors, imbalance of hormones, deficiencies in diet, and infections from viruses are other factors. Freud believes that mental illness is caused by unconscious and unresolved conflicts in the mind. Both the humanistic and existential perspectives view abnormal behavior as resulting from a person's failure to find meaning in life and fulfill his or her potential. The behavioral perspective explains mental illness, as well as all of human behavior, as a learned response to stimuli. Despite all of these different theories, most modern day psychologists agree that mental illness is caused by a combination of these things. (Mental Illness)

Schizophrenia results not from a single cause, but from a variety of factors. Most scientists believe that it is a biological disease caused by genetic factors, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, structural brain abnormalities, or abnormalities in the prenatal environment. In addition, stressful life events may contribute to the development of schizophrenia in those who are predisposed to the illness.

Approximately 1 percent of people develop schizophrenia at some time during their lives. It is estimated that about 1.8 million people in the United States alone have schizophrenia. (Schizophrenia) The prevalence of schizophrenia is the same regardless of gender, race, and culture.

For many schizophrenic patients the symptoms gradually become less severe as they grow older. About 25 percent of people with schizophrenia become symptom-free later in their lives.

A variety of symptoms characterize schizophrenia.

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