Facets Of The Environment That Make People More Vulnerable To Mental Illnesses
While many of the recent articles have focused on the growing opioid crisis, the incidence of mental health disorders has increased in recent years. Clinics have patients who have Major Depressive Disorder. Many have Generalized Anxiety Disorder or a combination of depression and anxiety. Other patients have Panic Disorder, which is anxiety with panic attacks. Bipolar is an illness where the person fluctuates between depression and feeling good. But they feel so good that they can indulge in dangerous behaviors.Since there has been a lot of treatment for these disorders since the 1970’s one may wonder why the incidence has increased. There are various forms of therapy: Talk therapy is where you talk about your issues and learn coping techniques. Pharmacology is treated with medications. They develop new medications all the time.The main reason for the increase has been environmental factors. There are several facets of the environment that have made people more vulnerable to mental illnesses. In this article, I will take several categories and describe them. Categories include teratogens at birth, family influences, and influences of the community and world.
First, there are influences of birth defects. In November 1984 the first “Crack Babies” were born in the United States. They were restless, cried all the time, and when they grew they did not progress through the stages of development as the average baby. This is “Failure to Thrive”. This failure to thrive phenomenon is seen in babies where the mother drank so they had “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome”. These people had mental and physical issues. The baby is at risk if the mother used heroin while pregnant or any other substance.
Family influences are widespread. When a child had many caretakers, they are at risk for all types of attachment disorders. With parental divorce children often do not form an attachment to a prime caretaker, as they are unable to distinguish who the caretaker is. This leads to later problems in attaching themselves in relationships. It also leads to unhealthy friendships and romantic relationships later in life. Even if the child does have a main caretaker they can have problems if the caretaker leaves them for a period of time then returns. For example, if the child’s mother goes in the hospital or rehab for a month or more then returns. First, the child may reject and avoid them because they do not want to get close again and be rejected. Following the period of avoidance, the child clings to the mother because they do not want her to leave again. Separation anxiety occurs when the mother leaves for any length of time. The child worries. They want to come with the parent for fear that something will happen and the mother will leave them.If the parents’ divorce when the child is still in pre-puberty or if a parent dies at that time, the child tends to blame his or her self. This can lead to depression and low self-esteem later. When a child is a victim of incest the victim tends to blame her/himself, because they can’t destroy an adult since they need the care of by the same people who abused them. As more children, today are victims of divorce, have many caretakers, incest, having to raise themselves as both parents work this leads to more mental illness. Many of the first generation who experienced these social issues are now adults. They are in their 20’s to 40’s so they are in therapy trying to resolve the issues now.
Anyone who did not have parents or caretakers who took time for them is subject to mental illness even without genetic influences. Many of the mass murderers were victims of neglect and felt unloved and not cared about. It is no surprise that the frequency of mass shootings and street shootings. As more people did not receive the proper care they are more inclined to use extreme measures to take their anger out on society.
We can now look at environmental influences in the world at large. Technology has made our lives easier in many ways. But in some ways, it has hurt. Our younger generation, the millennials experience isolation. This is because many of them do not have conversation skills due to excessive reliance on computers and cell phones. They do not know how to talk face to face. The only saving feature of this is that now Face Time, Skype, and Google Hangouts encourages the users to have face-to-face conversations. Although the person is not physically there, they can see what you are doing and you can see them. I have talked to children who spend whole days on the computer playing games. They say that they often feel depressed at the end of the day when gaming was all that they did. It shows that computer games only entertain short term, but long term can lead to depression.
Another problem with technology is that everyone can have immediate access to all the problems in the world. North Korea, Iran, and all the threats to national security are more accessible now than they ever were. People hear about shootings, drugs, infanticides every day on the news and blogs. It is not that this did not always happen; it is just that these things are more accessible now.
The threat of nuclear annihilation has been around since after World War II. But people today hear more about the threat. This causes anxiety and depression in more people than before.While our world is more stressed than it ever was. There has been a response. Holistic health has become more popular. In many communities, you can go to an evening hot yoga class. Or you can take a mindfulness meditation session with a group of people, or download a meditation YouTube video. The counseling profession has emphasized the practice of mindfulness in recent years. Mindfulness is a practice where you keep your mind in the present moment. It might be a meditation or n exercise where you look around the therapist’s office and just take everything in. The idea is that when you look around and take in your present environment you don’t think of all the stressful things you need to do. It also stops you from thinking a lot about past regrets.
When television hit the mainstream, child psychologists worried that it would cause attention problems. The idea of watching a show then cutting to a commercial break then back would diminish the children’s ability to pay attention in school. They also feared that the children would get bored in school because it was not as much fun as television. Additionally, there were concerns that children should not watch Laugh-In. Not only due to the adult content but because it was too fast paced so the school would be boring. Even Sesame Street was under attack for the same reason.Compare that to the influences of video games, Conex, Facebook, and Instagram, children are more distracted than ever.It may sound political to say that the breakup of the family unit has caused more mental illness than ever before. But people have a natural need to feel cared about, to have a life that is orderly and predictable. There is not so much of that in the world now.
No discussion of environmental factors influence on mental illness would be complete without discussing nutrition’s influence. Younger people today eat fast food more than any previous generation. The chemical additives in fast food can have an addicting effect and limited nutritional value. This itself can cause stress and depression when the person is deprived. Some have predicted that the millennial generation. People born between 1983 and 2002 will be the first generation not to live as long as the previous generation due to the nutrition crisis. Whether the adults of that generation are making up for it with high ingestion of red wine is debatable. Poor nutrition can cause an inability to think. It can impair memory and cause chemical imbalances in the brain, which leads to depression and anxiety.
With all of these influences on the rise of mental illness, what can be done? Although the problem seems overwhelming, often simple solutions work. For the parenting crisis, I have found that if a child has at least one parent or adult who cares about them and serves as a good role model. The child has a good chance of faring well and being mentally healthy as an adult. Discourage your children from eating fast food too often and treat it as a special treat but not a regular diet. Avoid watching the news if it is too much anxiety. Have goals and ambitions which are a good anodyne for depression. For people who already suffer mental illness, there are many ways to get help. Counseling, 12 step meetings, partial programs, and psychiatry are all helpful if you already have a mental illness.
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