9 Mental Disorders and their Biological Basis

by Komal Sharma and Ridhi Murari, Freelance Writers

Mental disorders is an extremely sensitive topic, at the same, professionals have to maintain a critical and logical approach. It is of sheer importance that we consider people going though it as one of our own. Even when you might not know how to approach it, some understanding and manifesting inclusiveness will do a lot good to it than you can ever imagine. Most of the mental disorders are not 100% curable, but with proper and early diagnoses one can socially function well. Such people are prone to stress, it is imperative to maintain a healthy environment around them to make their lives a little, just a little better.
1) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-

It is not a learning disability as many assume it to be, but it can still impact learning capabilities. It is a neurobehavioral disorder first diagnosed in childhood. It is caused by low-levels of chemicals: Dopamine and Norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are associated with attention, thought-organization and emotional-management.



2) Anxiety Disorder-

Anxiety disorders are symptomatically shown in a person by long periods of unnecessary mental stimulation in the form of overthinking, worry without apparent cause and sudden seizes of panic. The biological root of this illness lies in an overactive neurotransmitter called G.A.B.A (gamma aminobutyric acid). The anxiety circuitry begins in the amygdala (typically the portion of the brain responsible for the fight or flight syndrome) activating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis which forms our emotional memory. This explains the trigger of one incident and the entire circuit to replay the painful habits formed in memory.

3) Eating Disorder-

Eating Disorder is a lifestyle choice- a popular myth. It is nothing but a fatal illness of eating habits in people who obsess over their weight and food they eat. The chance for recovery increases the earlier an eating disorder is detected but the causes are unclear. However, scientists believe that dopamine and serotonin are two neurotransmitters that can be researched upon more as they are associated with appetite and impulses.

4) Depression-

Depression is a mental disorder with symptoms of long durations of endured loss of appetite, low mood, and an imbalance of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine which give the brain ‘pleasure’ in any form. Most people are unable to find pleasure in mundane activities and over a period of time their nerves and brain start responding in accordance with their thoughts. Thus, depression can be summarized as a biological underactivity of serotonin largely that was once active at an optimum level, ranging below baseline levels resulting in an inhibited functioning of the individual.

5) Schizophrenia-

It is a severe and chronic mental disorder characterized by disturbances in thought, perception and behavior, usually occurs first at 16-30 years of age. It is caused by genetics, chemical imbalances and environmental factors (stress due to family, job or any crisis). According to hitherto studies, people with schizophrenia have brain chemical imbalance, namely: dopamine, glutamate and serotonin. These are also called neurotransmitters; nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other in a dysfunctional fashion due to the imbalance.

6) Bipolar Disorder-
Bipolar is NOT a general MOOD SWING. It is a mental state where one is either in a depressively low state or in an elevated manic state (not necessarily happy). Chemical evidence suggests that mania may set in when levels of noradrenaline are rocketing high, and episodes of depression may be the result of noradrenaline levels becoming abysmally low. Genetics, environment and brain-chemicals together play a role in causing Bipolar Disorder

7) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is ruled by an obsession over small details or tiny things that become enlarged in an individual’s mind. It is centred around distressing actions or repetitive thoughts. For example, some people are obsessed with washing hands because of a cleanliness obsession. This can results in extra stress in a person’s life inhibiting them from day to day actions. The biological roots of this disorder lies in an inflammation and dysfunction in the basal ganglia of the brain along with imbalances or deficits in serotonin and glutamate levels which result in anatomical changes in the brain structure of such a person.

8) Substance Abuse Disorder-

This one’s quite an old one. Since time immemorial we’ve seen, heard or noticed substance abuse in different forms around us. From drinking alcohol, taking drugs to other forms of substances in disguised forms. This illness turns into one with prolonged addiction to one or more of these substances impairing our normal mental functioning. The roots of this lies in the excess of dopamine secreted in our brain which draws pleasure from these substances and over time created habituated patterns which even changes our cerebral cortex-the front of the brain responsible for proper thinking and so reduces us to more animalistic instincts.

9) Dementia-

Dementia is one of the few mental illnesses that are purely biologically caused. It usually occurs in old age where dying brain cells cause permanent and progressive damage to a person’s mind. A person’s ability to speak, remember, reason and perceive are damaged and worsen with time. Usually such adults are unable to recognize their own families and surroundings while also not being able to take care of themselves. Symptoms can be managed and treated holistically, however, medical science hasn’t been able to come up with a permanent cure to the problem at hand.


So, we’d like to conclude by reminding everyone of the preciousness of a well-functioning mind and body. It’s imperative to maintain lifestyle factors in a way that we can ensure living well without compromising on our mental capacities for our own selves and others around us.

Komal is a post-graduate in Psychology, an alumnus of Delhi University, with a number of academic research papers published. Her core interests lie in psychoanalysis, social psychology and understanding gender roles. She values the importance of an overall emphasis on the holistic fitness of mind and body. In her alternate world, she reads for profession and her passion. She is young, intense and aware of the gravity of the work she does. Mail:
Ridhi is a Postgraduate alumnus of Delhi University and a multi faceted psychology practitioner. She is a career coach, a counseling therapist and lays a deep emphasis on overall well being of individuals of all age groups. She is passionate, warm and sensitively empathetic to person, place and context. Mail:

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