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Mental Disorder Among Teenagers

Mental disorder can affect any of us. It does not just affect adults. It happens in adolescents too.  In Malaysia, mental disorder is among the top 10 causes of illness amongst adults and some of these problems started in adolescence period. It also affects about 1 out of 10 children and adolescent worldwide.

What is mental disorder?

It is a disorder or difficulties of thought, personality or emotion that seriously harm the normal psychological functioning of a person. We do daily activities like going to school or work, meeting friends and families without much thought. However for a person with mental illness these ordinary activities are very difficult to execute.

Why do we get mental disorder?

This is a difficult question to answer as the exact reason for mental disorders is not known. There are many reasons why this condition occurs. Through research over the years, it is discovered that many mental disorders are not caused by a single factor but a combination of many factors mainly biological, psychological and environmental factors.

What are the biological factors that may cause mental disorder?

Some mental disorders have been associated with the imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain that involved in receiving and transmitting informations. If these chemicals are not working properly, or not in balance, the brain is unable to function properly leading to symptoms of mental disorder.

Some biological factors include :

  1. Heredity or Genetics :

    • Some mental illness runs in families and it is not linked to just one gene but multiple genes. Even though someone is vulnerable to the malady because of his family history, it does not mean that he will develop the problem. This is because for the disorder to take place, there will be interactions of these genes with other factors like abuse, stress or other illness.

  1. Infections :

    • A few infections have been associated to brain damage and development of mental disorder or worsening of the symptoms. An example is infection by streptococcus bacteria that may be associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in children known as paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA).

      1. Brain defects or injury :

        • Some mental illness may occur due to injuries or defects in certain areas of the brain. 

      1. Damage occurring during prenatal period :

        • Events that happen during pregnancy can affect the baby’s brain development. If there is a reduction in oxygen supply on the brain or trauma that happens at birth, certain mental disorders like depression, anxiety, autism, mood disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may occur.

      1. Substance abuse :

        • Some mental disorders may be related to substance abuse for example anxiety, depression, and paranoia. 

      1. Other factors :

        • Some other factors that may be linked to mental disorder including poor nutrition and toxins exposure.

What are the psychological factors that may cause mental disorder?

Our psychological status can influence our mental and emotional health especially if we are experiencing or had experienced traumatic or abusive events. Some psychological factors include :

  1. Severe psychological trauma like emotional, physical or sexual abuse

  2. Suffered from early loss of important persons like loss of parents

  3. Suffered from negligence

  4. Has poor ability to develop and sustain relationship with others

What are the environmental factors that may cause mental disorder?

Things that happen around us can have an impact on our mental health. Some stressors can set-off an illness in a susceptible person. Some of these stressors in the environment include :

  1. Death

  2. Dysfunctional family

  3. Changing jobs or schools

  4. Substance abuse by the individual or the parents

  5. Social or cultural expectations e.g. beauty equates to thinness that may cause eating disorder in susceptible individuals

  6. Feelings of anxiety, anger, loneliness or low self- esteem 

What are the types of mental disorder?

There are many types of mental disorder. Such as :

  1. Anxiety Disorders

    • Specific Phobias

    • General Anxiety Disorders

    • Social Anxiety Disorders

    • Panic Disorder

    • Agoraphobia

    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. Mood Disorders

    • Major Depressive Disorder

    • Bipolar Disorder

  1. Psychotic Disorders : Disturbance in thinking, perception and behaviour

    • Schizophrenia

    • Disorder

  1. Personality Disorders

    • Eccentric : Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal

    • Dramatic/Emotional : Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic

    • Fear-Related : Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

  1. Eating Disorders :

    • Anorexia Nervosa

    • Bulimia Nervosa

    • Binge Eating disorder

  1. Developmental Disorders Disturbances in the early development of the brain

    • Autism spectrum disorder

    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    • Learning Disorder

Heath Advice

If you think you or someone you know have a mental disorder, please see your doctor. Early identification and treatment is important to successfully treat the condition and prevent disability.

Last Reviewed : 26 February 2014
Writer : Dr. Nazrila bt. Hairizan
Accreditor : Dr. Norharlina bte. Bahar