Possible contributors to your mental health symptoms
Traditionally, mainstream medical practice has tended to claim that the exact causes of mental health issues are unknown, because we haven’t yet identified any physical or chemical indicators in our blood, urine, or stool – called ‘biomarkers’ – which would reliably identify issues such as depression, insomnia, or anxiety. However:
- While there may not be a test that identifies biomarkers for specific mental health disorders as they are classified in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) produced by the American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm, we agree with the integrative/functional medicine approach that there are many biochemical markers which point to imbalances in hormones, neurotransmitters, nutrition, and other imbalances in bodily systems
- We believe that these biomarkers, in conjunction with an assessment of our symptoms, our lifestyles, and various behavioural, psychological, and spiritual factors, can go a long way towards helping us to understand what is causing our mental health symptoms
MindHealth360 features a comprehensive list of the biochemical/physical, psycho-spiritual, and lifestyle/behavioural factors which, in their own unique combination, can cause a person’s mental health issues.
We call them “possible contributors” and each impacts on, and is inseparable from the other.
We have tried to organise them below for clarity and simplicity sake, but they must be considered as a whole — so for instance “stress” is under the “psycho-spiritual” section, but could also be under the “lifestyle/behavioural” and the “biochemical” sections. Nutrition is under “lifestyle/behavioural” but could also be under the “biochemical” section. This is because each can be caused by, and contribute to, mental health issues, depending on each person’s unique circumstances.
Without taking all these contributors into account and examining their impact on each other, the picture is incomplete, and can lead to treating mental health symptoms with generic prescription drugs and/or talk therapies, rather than a more targeted diagnosis and treatment of our individual situation.
This approach, we believe, is the only way to treat mental health symptoms sustainably and effectively.
Please bear in mind that many factors can play a role in determining mental health issues, and that unravelling and treating possible contributors requires time, effort, and perseverance. This approach requires customisation to each person’s unique profile: there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and no quick fixes.
It is therefore important to work with a qualified health practitioner who can help you unravel the factors contributing to your mental health issues, and implement a treatment program.
Poor breathing habits can be caused by a range of factors, including stress, overeating, sleep issues, and sedentary or urban lifestyles.
While often overlooked as a contributor to mental health issues, poor breathing habits can contribute to mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, panic, and depression.
Getting fewer than seven or eight hours of sleep per night can adversely affect your biochemistry, contributing to inflammation, gut issues, and hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, which in turn can contribute and exacerbate mental health issues.
Indeed, lack of sleep can contribute to mood swings, anxiety, poor concentration and attention, poor memory, depression, etc.
Economic difficulties and living in unhealthy environments can cause huge mental and physiological stress, which can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor attention, and more.
Difficult social circumstances, whether isolation and loneliness, lack of a supportive community, or toxic and conflictual relationships, can be a huge source of stress and unhappiness, which can cause imbalances in your biochemistry, such as hormone imbalances, nutritional imbalances, gut issues.
As we have seen, these imbalances can all lead to mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, poor concentration and attention, poor memory, etc…
Exercise is not just essential for physical health, but also for our mental health. However, for optimal mental health, we need to adapt our exercise levels to our physiological state – not too much, not too little.
Too little exercise can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, attention and memory issues, while too much can lead to exactly the same symptoms. This is because too little or too much exercise can contribute to imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters, and cause inflammation.
If you live in a city, or spend a lot of time indoors, you may be lacking in exposure to natural light and contact with nature. Many of us lack both, which can lead to symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, attention and memory issues, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Natural light is crucial to appetite regulation, sleep cycles, mood, and our hormonal and neurotransmitter balance, while contact with nature is generally calming, connecting, and healthy.
Our 24/7 connected, global societies provide constant stimulation and seem to require constant attention and action. It sometimes feels more and more difficult to switch off and get any downtime. And yet switching off and downtime are essential to our mental health, as we need time to repair and rejuvenate.
Too much technology and the pressures of modern life can cause mental health issues such as anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration and attention, poor memory, depression, mood swings, etc.
Addiction to substances and behaviours can contribute to mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, poor attention, and more.
It is a circular relationship however, as mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, etc. can also contribute to addiction.
Addiction can contribute to nutritional, hormonal, and neurotransmitter imbalances, as well as gut issues and toxicity, all of which can in turn be contributors to mental health problems.
The sense that our lives have meaning and purpose is essential to our mental health. Feeling that our lives lack meaning and purpose can lead to mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, lethargy, insomnia, and more.
We might not be able to control our circumstances, but we have some control over how we respond to them. And this often starts with how we think about them.
Negative thoughts can trigger a physiological response that can negatively affect the balance of our hormones and neurotransmitters. Repeatedly thinking negatively can contribute to mental health issues, such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Psychological trauma, whether in childhood or adulthood, can result from abuse, displacement, loss of attachment figures, divorce, and other factors.
It can lead to chronic stress, hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, and mental health symptoms such as sleep issues, anxiety, poor memory and poor concentration and attention.
In our view, the greatest contributing factor in mental health issues is our experience of chronic stress. Whether this stress is physiological or psychological (or both), it can lead to a variety of symptoms, from poor concentration and attention to insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Genetic variations can predispose individuals to certain biochemical imbalances, which can cause mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, poor memory, and more.
Recent progress in epigenetics has underlined the importance of our environment and lifestyle in turning these genes ‘on’ or ‘off’, to determine whether they manifest as mental health symptoms.
There is increasing scientific research showing the impact of gut health on mental health. Interestingly enough, the gut is known as our second brain.
Indeed, gut issues such as inflammation, leaky gut and imbalances in good and bad bacteria can contribute to mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
While the link between the gut and the brain is well established in scientific literature, it is often not taken into account by mainstream medicine when treating mental health.
Read more about how gut issues can impact your mental health by clicking on the links below.
An imbalance in our hormones, whether stress hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones or metabolic hormones, can cause mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and poor memory.
There is a link between hormones, neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals which are essential to mood, sleep, attention, etc.
Read more about how hormone imbalances can impact your mental health by clicking on the links below.
A theory of mental health suggests that imbalances in our key neurotransmitters can contribute to mental health symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. Many pharmaceutical mental health drugs target these neurotransmitters, especially serotonin.
Though it’s important to note that research into the bio-chemistry of mental health is ongoing, there is plenty of evidence that neurotransmitter levels can affect our moods, our sleep patterns, our anxiety levels, our ability to concentrate, and more, which, over time, can lead to significant mental health issues.
There is increasing evidence that inflammation can contribute substantially to mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
Inflammation can be caused by stress, poor diet, poor sleep, trauma, bacteria, viruses, etc. and it directly impacts the immune system, the gut, neurotransmitters and hormones, all of which can impact mental health.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology (the implication of the immune system and inflammation in psychiatry) is being examined with increasing interest by scientists and integrative doctors.
The toxins from our environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink, even the foods we eat, that we are exposed to daily in our offices and our homes, can cause chronic biochemical imbalances such as inflammation, hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances, gut issues, etc.
All of which can lead to mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, poor concentration and attention, poor memory, depression, etc.
Nutritional imbalances such as deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids, are one of the most significant contributors to mental health issues. This is because the nutrients we digest and absorb form the building blocks of our hormones, neurotransmitters and other chemicals which regulate our mental health.
Different types of nutritional imbalances can contribute to mental health issues. These include blood sugar imbalances, body mass issues, methylation issues, imbalances in fats, in minerals, in proteins, and in vitamins, and consuming problem foods and beverages. Read more about how each of these impact mental health by clicking on the links below.