About 25% of the population has a mental health condition. Even without an official diagnosis, we all have varying levels of mental health, and your mental health can fluctuate throughout your lifetime much like physical health. While many people are aware that mental health is a crucial aspect of a person’s overall well-being, some of us struggle to recognize mental health problems and find the support we need.

At Plus by APN, we aim to break down stigmas surrounding mental health disorders to better help people understand and manage their mental wellness. By exploring the biological, environmental, and psychological elements that play a role in shaping a person’s mental well-being, we can begin to uncover the vast causes of mental illness while working to overcome them.

Influences on Mental Health


While scientists have yet to discover a specific gene that can predict a mental health disorder, researchers have found a link between a person’s genetics and their likelihood of developing mental issues in their lifetime. A good place to start when trying to understand your mental health disorder is to learn more about your family history and different conditions your family members may have.

Brain Imbalances

In addition to our genes, our brains play a significant role in our mental well-being. Our brains, made up of an array of intricate neurotransmitters (also known as chemical messengers), are so complex that scientists are still working to understand them today. One thing we do know, however, is that different neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, are responsible for nervous system regulation.

Research indicates that imbalances in the chemical messengers of the brain can contribute to a multitude of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar, and more. These imbalances may be caused by traumatic brain injuries, genetic abnormalities, nutrition, medication, hormonal changes, chronic illness, age-related changes, environmental factors, stress, and other factors.

Gut Microbiome Imbalances

The brain isn’t the only organ that needs to remain in balance in order to support our overall mental well-being. Emerging research is finding a crucial link between the gut and the brain and their collaborative role in a person’s mental state.

The “gut-brain axis” refers to the communication channels between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, playing an important role in maintaining equilibrium in the body. An unbalanced gut has been shown to cause inflammation, which can lead to depression and other mental health diseases. The most likely culprits of gut disharmony include a poor diet and long-term use of certain medications.


Inflammation in the gut isn’t the only way to cause nervous system disturbances. Multiple studies on inflammation throughout the body have shown certain inflammatory markers being linked to depression. Inflammation is often the consequence of:

  • Exposure to toxins
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Infection or injury
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • High body-mass-index (BMI)
  • High levels of stress
  • Too much or too little exercise

These findings emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to mental health – one that considers the mind-body connection.

Environmental Toxins

As we begin to look at things more holistically, it’s important to think about factors in our physical environment that might be affecting our mental well-being. While more evidence is needed, a growing body of research suggests a relationship between environmental toxins and psychological functioning. Environmental exposures such as heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides are widely recognized as neurotoxins. These exposures have been speculated as factors in changing moods, affect, and personality.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The physical environment around us isn’t the only thing that influences our mental health. Studies have shown that the environment in which we live, grow, and develop has a profound impact on our mental well-being.

Childhood experiences, for example, have been known to shape our emotional well-being into adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as trauma, abuse, or neglect, have been linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders.

Traumatic Experiences

Trauma, whether physical or psychological, can have lasting effects on a person’s mental state. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a well-known consequence of severe trauma, but even seemingly less severe experiences are known to contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. That is why trauma-informed care and therapies are so essential.


It doesn’t take a scientist to know that stress is bad for you. However, science is now finding a direct link between the role that stress plays in causing or fueling various mental health conditions.

While everyone experiences stress sometimes, chronic stress can cause a variety of complex responses in the body that are capable of causing mental and/or physical disability. Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, like big life changes, experiencing physical or mental pain, concerns about meeting basic needs, and more.

Physical Health Conditions

Having a physical health condition is likely extremely stressful, as well. Studies have shown that having a physical disability can increase a person’s risk for depression. According to the CDC, more than 30% of people who have a physical disability report feelings of mental distress. Medical institutions are now beginning to realize the profound impact that physical issues have on a person’s mental well-being, with many professionals urging for further psychological evaluation on sick populations.

Social Determinants

Social determinants, which refer to the environment where people grow up, live their lives, work, play, and socialize, is another significant factor that may contribute to a person’s mental well-being. Studies have shown how social determinants can play a role in mental wellness, highlighting the link between poor mental health and challenging social determinants.

Diet & Nutrition

Social determinants aren’t the only factors challenging our mental well-being. While often unexamined, diet and nutrition plays a crucial role in our mental state. Ongoing research in the field of nutritional psychiatry is shedding light on the impact that diet has on various psychiatric conditions. Generally speaking, a balanced and nutritious diet is required for optimal mental wellness.

Other Causes and Considerations

There are so many different factors that contribute to the state of our overall mental well-being, many of which are still being uncovered today. Additional causes of mental health disorders may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Hormonal changes
  • Substance abuse
  • Psychological factors

Because there are so many potential reasons for mental distress, it’s important to educate ourselves to safeguard our mental well-being. Humans are vastly unique and different. So, too, are their mental states. The more information we have, the easier it will be to work towards overcoming mental health challenges in the future.

How to Deal With Mental Health Issues

Given there are so many possible causes of mental disease, it’s extremely important to consider holistic approaches when treating mental health disorders. Traditional treatments alone, such as medication and psychotherapy, are not enough to help most people successfully manage their mood. That is likely because these methods don’t address the root cause of disease.

That is not to say that traditional approaches should not be utilized. Research shows that about 75% of people who participate in psychotherapy report some form of benefit. While psychotherapy alone may not cure a person, those odds are enough of a reason to give it a try. Medications are also shown to be more effective when a person combines it with psychotherapy interventions.

While the combination of both psychotherapy and medication may be enough for some to curb or cure their mental health challenges, many are left longing for relief.

Alternative Mental Health Treatments

Luckily, the field of mental health has come a long way over the years, with lots of alternative therapies available for patients suffering from mental illness. The following are just a few treatments that have shown great success in addressing traditional treatment-resistant mental health conditions.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

Ketamine-assisted therapy involves the controlled administration of low-dose ketamine under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. Ketamine-assisted therapy is known to rapidly improve mental health symptoms, leading to positive changes in neurochemistry, increased neuroplasticity, and enhanced mood regulation.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) is a non-invasive technique employing magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells within the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Studies suggest that dTMS has the potential to improve mood regulation, resulting in lasting improvements in depressive symptoms.


Neurofeedback is the real-time monitoring of brain activity measured using electrodes positioned on various parts of the scalp. Studies show that neurofeedback can help relieve depression by training participants to self-regulate their brain waves and enhance patterns associated with emotional regulation.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen within a pressurized room or chamber. Studies have revealed HBOT’s ability to address depression, as well as the neuroprotective effects it has on brain function.

Stellate Ganglion Blocks

Stellate ganglion blocks (SGB) is a unique therapy that requires an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a bundle of nerves located at the back of the neck. SBG has displayed potential in addressing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and research indicates SGB’s ability to influence the sympathetic nervous system, offering relief from trauma-related symptoms and depressive manifestations.

Holistic Approaches

Of course, there are many other alternative mental health therapies to try. Techniques range from mindfulness and meditation to yoga and acupuncture, as well as animal therapy and homeopathy. The important thing is to find what’s right for you.

Find Mental Health Support With Plus by APN

One thing is clear – the causes of mental health problems are about as diverse as the individuals who experience them. Biological, environmental, and psychological factors all contribute to the intricate web of a person’s mental well-being. Acknowledging and understanding this complexity is an essential first step to developing effective prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies.

As we continue to advance our understanding of mental health, a holistic and multidimensional approach that considers the interconnectedness of these factors will help to pave the way for a more compassionate and effective mental health care landscape. If you’re interested in learning more about some of Plus by APN’s alternative therapies mentioned above, call us or complete the online contact form today.


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