There is so much we still have to learn about how factors like brain biochemistry, life style, genetics and psychological
factors influence brain chemistry and their role in causing psychological health problems but one theory is that clinical
anxiety and clinical depression are in part caused by a disturbance in certain chemicals within the brain that are involved
in regulating mood and anxiety reduction, such as dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, and GABA.
There are differing
views among psychological health professionals concerning the causes of anxiety and clinical depression; some believe that
psychological health problems are caused by biological problems, others believe they are due to psychological factors. Its
probably more accurate to say that biological, psychological, genetic and lifestyle factors are all involved in the causes
of psychological health problems. But what is certain is that psychological health problems are not caused by supposed moral
weakness. These health problems are not all in people's minds. They are medical illnesses just as much as diabetes is a
Genetic predisposition can be a factor involved in some of these health problems because
they are prevalent in certain families. But just because one relative suffers with a psychological problem that does not
automatically mean other family members will also suffer because although you may have a genetic susceptibility to the health
problem, it may not be activated unless other factors in combination with genetics, trigger it. As we have said these health
problems are probably caused by many interacting factors.
Dr Anthony Clare in his book, "Depression and
How to Survive it", co-authored with Spike Milligan goes into detail about the causes of depression. He says depression
has probably more than one cause, and that its too simplistic to blame it just on low levels of certain brain chemicals.
The problem in trying to understand the causes of psychological health problems is that we view them like we view
physical disease in which there is usually a single cause causing a single disease, with psychological health problems that
view is too simplistic.
There are people who, when exposed to alot of stress, don't become ill straight away,
where as others exposed to small amounts of stress may develop illness more quickly. Not everybody who is brought up in an
unsupportive, abusive environment will automatically suffer psychological health problems; just as there are people who are
brought up in happy, warm, loving and supportive homes that may develop psycholgical health problems. So it's a difficult
picture when trying to work out the causes of chronic stress and anxiety. In his book "Mind Sculpture", Ian Robertson
talks of difficult upbringing causing physical changes in the brain, causing us to react more negatively to stress as an adult.
Our modern society is faster, more changing, more complex, more demanding, more fragmented today. People are
having to move homes to different areas of the country leaving behind the social support structures of friends, and family
who help reduce the risk of developing psychological health problems.
What is certain is that suffering a psychological
health problem is not a punishment because of some perceived wrong doing. If that were the case 100% of the population would
be afflicted. Just as a person with asthma isn't being punished because of some perceived wrong doing.
has shown that psychological and in certain cases pharmacological treatments can be of immense therapeutic help. There is
a great deal that can be done to treat depression and/or anxiety - medication and especially the talking therapies like cognitive
behavioural therapy are effective.
1. Health and Stress: The Newsletter of the American
Institute of Stress, No 4, 1999.
2. McConville B. (1996) Beating the Blues, Self Help for Depression. Headline
3. Milligan S, Clare A (1994) Depression and How to Survive it, Arrow.
R, (1999) Undoing Depression: What therapy doesn't teach you and what medication can't give you, Berkley Books.
Robertson I (1999) Mind Sculpture, Bantam Press.
6. Sachs J. (1998) Natures Prozac, Simon and Schuster.
7. Sarafino E.P. (1998) Health Psychology, John Wiley, 3rd Edition.