The Biopsychosocial Perspective to Mental Health and Illness

As we go through life and the environment changes, our brain and it functions also changes. Likewise, a person’s genetic makeup and the environment they interact with will have a profound effect on their mental health, biological health and their brain functions. In order to truly understand someone’s mental health, we must take into account all of the factors affecting them both positively and negatively in order to get a better picture of their overall health and well-being.

According to Drs. George Engel and John Romano, the biopsychosocial perspective is more appropriate when analyzing the causes of mental illness. This model introduces the idea that there are biological, psychological, and social determinants to mental health. This idea links the outside world to someone’s biology and psyche.  It also involves our consciousness, sentiments, and behaviors.

One reason why the biopsychosocial perspective is so useful is because it explains how some people who are seemingly “healthy” can get mental illnesses and why some are more prone to mental illness than others. Those who are mentally healthy most likely exercise, have positive energy and strong social bonds does not exempt them from mental illness. The biopsychosocial perspective gives evidence that although someone can be mentally healthy at some point in their life, they can still experience mental illness if their biopsychosocial balance is disturbed.

  • According to the biopsychosocial model, interactions between people’s genetic makeup (biology), mental health and personality (psychology), and sociocultural environment (social world) contribute to their experience of health or illness.
  • The biological influences on mental health and mental illness are varied, and include genetics, infections, physical trauma, nutrition, hormones, and toxins.
  • The psychological component looks for potential psychological explanations for a health problem, such as lack of self-control, emotional turmoil, or negative thinking.
  • Social and cultural factors are conceptualized as a particular set of stressful events (being laid off, for example) that can differentially impact mental health depending on the individual and his or her social context.
  • The biopsychosocial theory posits that each one of these factors is not sufficient to create health or mental illness, but the interaction between them determines the course of one’s development.
  • Despite its usefulness, there are issues with the biopsychosocial model, including the degree of influence that each factor has, the degree of interaction between factors, and variation across individuals and life spans (Boundless)

This perspective can give clinical workers many benefits when treating a mentally ill patient. They are now able to apply every aspect of the patient’s life to their illness.  Those with mental illness can now gain a sense of self-awareness. Mental illness sufferers can understand their health as a whole entity with several parts that function together. It also broadens the way we view a mental illness by no longer looking at it as a black or white issue. The biopsychosocial perspective also challenges the stigma on mental illness by enabling people to realize that anyone can suffer from a mental illness because we all have biological, psychological, and social influencers in our lives.

Listen to Episode 3 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings!

This episode will cover my thoughts on avoidance and a little introduction to agoraphobia and exposure therapy. We will hear from Phillip about his struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. This episode will conclude with me sharing how people’s perceptions can change after being exposed to mental illness.

Stand up Against the Stigma of Mental Illness: The New Normal

Social isolation, discrimination, and labeling are a part of the everyday struggles faced by the mentally ill. 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a mental illness. 1 in 17 people will have a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness ensures the majority of affected individuals will face negative consequences in recognizing and coping with their mental health needs.

anit-stigma-campaign-namesErving Goffman defined mental illness as a blemish of character and a way to deviate from social norms. However, many of the definitions of mental illness fail to grasp that there are many other aspects to mental health. The three most influential social factors to mental illness are family stability, the placement of neighborhoods and society’s relationship to mental health problems. Mental illness does not solely arise from one’s environment. There are also biological and genetic predispositions that contribute to one’s mental health. One thing that is certain, as a society, we can change the way mental illness is perceived.

Social isolation or exclusion has been one of the most detrimental affects of the stigma, which is brought upon by labeling. The labels placed on the mentally ill by society, which the media reinforces, are dangerous, crazy, and inadequate. Due to these labels, those with mental illness get isolated from the rest of society. The practice of socialization then inevitably creates an “us vs. them” mentality, those people, the sane and the insane. Confided by these labels and exclusions, mental illness sufferers also struggle with finding their place in society.

Stand up against the stigma of mental illness is what society needs to create a new normal. This new normal will accept the importance of mental illness and will recognize treatment as equally important with physical illness. This new normal will place mental and physical health on the same spectrum. The new normal will make talking about mental illness a part of everyday conversation, and it will allow people to no longer be ashamed.

Hopefully with  the acceptance of the new normal, it will bring about affordable mental health treatment, better counseling centers in high schools and colleges, and a society that is better educated on the issues of mental illness.  With a new normal, those with mental illnesses can finally feel like they are a part of society and live without fear of  isolation, discrimination, or labeling.

Listen to Episode 1 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:

Anxious Ramblings is a biweekly conversation about mental illness. This show will challenge society’s views on the mentally ill and help to fight against the stigma. Anxious Ramblings explores the good, the bad, and the ugly side of living with a mental illness. Here we speak about all the crazy thoughts in your head that you’re afraid to say out loud.

For this episode of Anxious Ramblings, I introduce my story with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and speak about the stigma regarding mental illnesses. The episode concludes with me sharing responses from people who want to tell the world about their mental illness.

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